No, not the historical Tamil novel by Kalki which appears to be on its way to being butchered on-screen with an adaptation (last I heard, Vijay was playing the lead role, let’s not even mention actresses. Hopefully this project breaks down before too much damage is done to this brilliant work…).
But I digress. Today’s topic is the completely unrelated Ponniyin Selvan by Radhamohan, the film he made prior to Mozhi which often seems to be forgotten by the media when describing his work. I suppose Radhamohan himself doesn’t like to bring it up, considering he’s made more compromises in this film for the sake of commercial appeal than he did in his future ones, such as the brief dream-fight sequence obviously meant to target the rowdy young males in the audience, love duets in garish clothing, and even something like an item number – although the main character apologizing to his mother profusely afterwards seems to be a window to Radhamohan apologizing to the other part of the audience.
However, since its a Radhamohan film, everything starts and ends with a nice, honest story in its core. The story focuses on Venu, played by a somewhat wooden Ravikrishna, and his mother Ponni. Venu is a friendly chap who helps everyone when needed and tries to maintain a good relationship with everyone around him, starting with his mother, Ponni, and ending with his “Guru”, a coworker. However, he has a bit of an inferiority complex due to a permanent scar on his face, and when he learns about the option of getting plastic surgery, this ambition takes over his mind. He begins to obsess over “fixing” himself by saving every cent possible, and in a quest to fix his flawed face, loses much of his formerly good character.
With regards to Ravikrishna, he certainly fits in the role – he has an awkwardness about him that works well – but his dialogue delivery is a bit stilted and his reactions (such as laughing) feel a bit unnatural at times. Gopika plays the close friend (you know where this is headed) and fits the role very well, as does Prakash Raj as the wisecracking mentor, a role he could probably do in his sleep by now. Revathy is natural though underused as the concerned Ponni. This is one of the few roles she’s done lately, as usually only throwaway roles are given to senior actresses, but she accepted this one based on the story I presume. Although the story drifts along with a slightly uneven quality, the climax is very well portrayed – emotional, dramatic, and hard-hitting. Ponniyin Selvan may not be one of Radhamohan’s best, but there is something worth seeing here, even if you’ll be shaking your head at some of the more blatant comprises.