Rajini, Kamal, Rahman and more: A star-studded launch for Ponniyin Selvan

Aishwarya Rai Bahchan, Chiyaan Vikram, Karthi, Trisha, Nassar, Jayam Ravi, Parthiban, Sarathkumar, and many others were present at the grand event at Chennai’s Nehru Indoor Stadium. Here are the highlights.
L to R: Rajinikanth, Mani Ratnam and Kamal Haasan on stage at PS - I trailer launch
L to R: Rajinikanth, Mani Ratnam and Kamal Haasan on stage at PS - I trailer launch
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Audience at the Ponniyin Selvan – Part 1 trailer and audio launch were treated to a rare Kollywood sight: ‘Superstar’ Rajinikanth and ‘Ullaganayagan’ Kamal Haasan sharing the stage as they launched the trailer to Mani Ratnam’s highly anticipated adaptation of Kalki’s literary magnum opus, the historical novel Ponniyin Selvan. “Mani sir’s Thalapathi and Nayakan are here together,” the announcement said, referring to two iconic films directed by Mani Ratnam that stars Rajini and Kamal. Since Ponniyin Selvan’s cast includes many popular actors including Aishwarya Rai Bahchan, Chiyaan Vikram, Karthi, Trisha, Nassar, Jayam Ravi, Parthiban, Sarathkumar and many others, the event at Chennai’s Nehru Indoor Stadium was a star-studded one. As PS-1 music is composed by AR Rahman, the music director himself put on a live performance of “Ponni Nadhi” to thunderous cheers. Audiences were also treated to performances by music director and singer Yuvan Shankar Raja and Drums Sivamani. Also, at the event, was Gowri Narayanan, the granddaughter of Kalki.

The highlight of the event, though, was Rajini and Kamal Hassan flanking director Mani Ratnam on stage. For fans of 90s Tamil cinema, Thalapathi (1991) starring Rajini and Nayakan (1987) starring Kamal, both directed by Mani Ratnam are iconic films. The veteran actors’ respective roles in both movies are still well-loved by their fans. A short film in memory on both actors’ careers with Mani Ratnam was played before the three of them took the stage, taking audiences down memory lane. The trailer that dropped after a near-hour’s delay (Lyca, the production company had initially announced a 9 pm release), opens to a surprise voice-over by Kamal Hassan himself, introducing the historical backdrop and main characters of Kalki’s fictionalised history of the Chola period in Tamil Nadu. The dynasty is celebrated still for its sea-faring expeditions, expansions and the building of the famed Thanjavur temple. In the trailer, Kamal’s sonorous voice-over takes viewers back to the height of the Chola power.

Both stars also shared how various Tamil cinema figures starting from MGR had wanted to adapt Ponniyin Selvan for the screen and that it had been a long-cherished dream in Kollywood that Mani Ratnam had finally made real. “In our time, taking movies with a ‘Part-I’, ‘Part-2’ in a serialised manner was not heard of. It is not possible to tell this story in any other way.” He also added that erstwhile Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa had once told a Tamil daily during an interview that Rajini would be the best fit for the character of Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan, was the novel ever to be adapted to the screen. “I usually avoid books longer than 250 pages,” Rajinikanth said, “The Ponniyin Selvan novel has five volumes! But what she said made me read the book, finally.” This role of Vandiyadevan in Mani Ratnam’s adaptation will be played by actor Karthi. 

Aishwarya Rai Bahchan (Queen Nandini) at the PS- I trailer launch

Jayam Ravi ( Arulmozhivarman) at the PS- I trailer launch

Aishwarya Lekshmi (Poonguzhali)

Actor and filmmaker Parthiban who plays the character of Chinna Pazhuvettarayar in PS-I and his co-star Jayaram (Azhwarkadiyan Nambi) entertained audiences with funny incidents that occurred during the shooting. As each of the cast members took the stage, they were quick to talk about the historical significance of the original novel as well as the important monuments of that time period, such as the Thanjavur temple. “This movie will take Tamil history and pride to the whole world,” said Vikram who will be playing the character of the Chola king himself, Aditya Karikalan. Actor Karthi, said, “We look with wonder at the pyramids in Egypt but there is a monument of equal architectural accomplishment here, which is the ‘Periya Kovil’.”

Nassar, who will be portraying Veerapandiyan, said, “The rehearsal and shooting process felt like I’d time-travelled 500 years back.” Regarding the anticipation around the movie, he added, “Whichever country I visit where Tamils live, the first question they ask me is — how has Ponniyin Selvan come out?”

Karthi (Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan)

AR Rahman, PS-1 music composer on the red carpet. Later at the event, Rahman also gave audiences a live performance of the song "Ponni Nadhi"

Nassar, who will be portraying Veerapandiyan, said at the event, “The rehearsal and shooting process felt like I’d time-travelled 500 years back.”

Another bit of 90s nostalgia for the audiences was an eight-minute medley performed live on stage —  AR Rahman’s greatest hits of that era from movies directed by Mani Ratnam. This segment was titled ‘Celebrating 30 Years of Musical Journey - ARR and Mani Ratnam’, a collaboration that started with Roja (1992) and has continued until Ponniyin Selvan – 1. The medley included memorable tracks like “Raasaathi” to “Chandralekha” to “Veerapandi Kottaiyile”. 

Other celebrities and well-known figures at the launch event were director Shankkar, music director Santhosh Narayanan, CPI(M) MP Su Venkatesan, and members of the Tamil Film Producers Council. 

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