Ponniyin Selvan 2 — Can It Break The Sequel Jinx In Kollywood?
Second part or sequels have not tasted great success in Tamil movie industry.
The 2010s in Kollywood was a strange decade. For, it saw close to 18 films coming out as sequels to big hits.
In itself 18 may not be a big number. But Kollywood has never had a tradition of second part or sequels.
The first official sequel may have been the 1985 film Japanil Kalyanaraman, a follow up to the hugely successful ghost comedy Kalayanaraman, starring Kamal Haasan.
Before this there was to be a second part to M G Ramachandran's famous 1973 blockbuster Ulagam Sutrum Valiban.
In fact, the second part, named Kizhakku Africavil Raju, was even mentioned in the end credits of Ulagam Sutrum Valiban. But the film never got made as MGR became entrenched in politics.
So, for long, Japanil Kalayanraman remained the only Tamil film that had a sequel.
And then the little known Krodham 2 arrived in 2000. Krodham, which starred the less heralded Prem Menon and released in 1982, was a surprise hit.
It should be said that both Japanil Kalyanaraman and Krodham were major failures and perhaps because of that the trend of sequels did not pick up steam in Kollywood.
And then Billa 2 in 2012 went against the mould, even though it wasn't a sequel in the true sense but merely a retooling of 1980 Billa with a new cast.
Billa 2 is classified a hit. And when in 2013 Singham 2 came out, the floodgates for sequels were well and truly opened.
As there was a dearth of new ideas, all manner of movies got a second avatar.
Some of the most well-known sequels in the last 10 years include Jai Hind 2 (2014), Chennai 600028 Second Innings (2016), Velaiilla Pattadhari 2 (2017), Chennaiyil Oru Naal 2 (2017), and Thiruttu Payale 2 (2017).
The year 2018 could very well be declared the year of sequels in Tamil. Just look at the numbers: Vishwaroopam 2, Enthiran 2.0, Tamizh Padam 2, SandaKozhi 2, Saamy Square, Rajathandhiram 2, Goli Soda 2, Kalakalappu 2 and Maari 2.
Besides these, we have had franchise assembly masala movies like Kanchana and Aranmana.
We also have Indian 2 in the making.
If it releases in 2023, to it would go the record of being the Tamil film with the longest gap between sequels — 27 years.
Of course, there is to be a second part to the recently released Viduthalai. But since it is a Vetrimaran film, time schedules can be a bit iffy.
Ponniyin Selvan 1, A Spectacular Success
For the record, none of the sequels has ever been a real hit in Tamil. It is into this scheme of things that Ponniyin Selvan 2 is scheduled to arrive in theatres on 28 April.
Technically, it is not a sequel but the second part of the immensely successful Ponniyin Selvan 1 that released world over on 30 September 2022.
Both parts of Ponniyin Selvan film are based on the 1955 eponymous book by ‘Kalki’ Krishnamurthy, a historical fiction on the Chola empire in the 10th century BC.
The book is the largest selling Tamil book ever, and when it was serialised in Kalki between 29 October 1950 and 16 May 1954, the Tamil magazine's circulation reached spectacular levels, unmatched since.
As it is well known, the success of the novel piqued the interest of many in Kollywood. And from time to time many had tried to make a film version of it.
From MGR to Kamal Haasan, a few made bold attempts to bring the palace intrigue in the times of Chola dynasty alive on celluloid. But none could succeed till Mani Ratnam took a stab at it.
He got down to work on the ambitious project, and despite Covid-19 putting a spoke on his production wheels, he gamely ventured forth and successfully released it last year.
The film, starring Vikram, Karthi, Jayam Ravi, Trisha, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Vikram Prabhu and Prabhu, among others, turned out to be a big box-office success.
With over Rs 450 crore in global receipts, Ponniyin Selvan 1 was the third biggest hit of 2022 beating Kamal Haasan's Vikram and Ranbir Kapoor's Brahmastra.
The two biggest Indian hits of 2022 were: RRR and KGF: Chapter 2.
Ponniyin Selvan's success was, in a sense, against the odds. For, everyone had something to nitpick against the film.
Those who had read the book felt that the film version seemed watered-down and many impactful moments missing.
Those who had not read the book felt that there were too many characters and the plot too Byzantine.
Those looking for spectacular visuals felt underwhelmed and opined that it was no patch on the likes of S S Rajamouli's two-part extravaganza Baahubali. And those who were looking for musical authenticity felt short-changed by the score of A R Rahman that had influences that were decidedly not ancient Tamil.
Those weaned on the historicals that starred the peerless Sivaji Ganesan were unimpressed by the show of Vikram, Karthi, Jeyam Ravi et al.
More than the acting, the fact that leading actors could not pronounce Tamil words properly stood out like a sore thumb.
The female actors were least Tamil both in their looks and portrayal. The screenplay and direction itself seemed a bit disjointed for some. The action sequences lacked fizz and excitement for a few others.
But these turned out to be mere quibbles as the film somehow satisfied the public and it saw excited and animated crowds in the theatres.
For example, this writer saw the movie in a small country in Scandinavian Europe which has no great tradition of screening Indian films. But the film got prime theatres — that in itself a rarity — and also managed to wow the non-Indian audience.
So what made the film actually tick? Maybe the sedulous sincerity of Mani Ratnam in porting a beloved book of fiction onto the screen.
The film, as the worn out cliche would have it, was indeed his labour of love.
The logistical efforts in putting together this film beggars belief. But he did not oversell it, and he was smart enough to offer the disclaimer that the book could have myriad interpretations and imaginations, but this film just happened to be his.
In retrospect, this asterisk seemed to have a good effect as everyone seemed to be in a mood to cut some slack for the director and the film.
Mani was also clear in conveying the idea that his film was not going to compete with, say, Baahubali in terms of grandeur and opulence on screen.
This helped to keep the expectations on an even keel. Mani, they say, is a master of marketing. But the thing is Mani is never guilty of (over)hyping his products.
His pre-movie spiels are tempered with huge scoops of realism. He doesn't talk art and leaves the interpretations to others.
Also, on screen itself, he doesn't get cute by filling it with easter eggs or characters from his previous film for the sake of extending some assumed 'universe'.
People often accuse Mani films of being filled with frippery and foam. But within the world of his creation there is a realism. Perhaps that came through in Ponniyin Selvan 1.
And also the film came at the right time to a world that was looking for some impetus to get back to crowds and theatres after being laid low by the social distancing of the pandemic for two years.
In a sense, coming back to the theatres was a cathartic exercise for many. So one can argue that both Ponniyin Selvan and Vikram in Tamil enjoyed the favourable tide outside that helped drive people to the cinema halls in droves.
The question now is can Ponniyin Selvan 2 pick up steam from where the first part left. If you know the story, you will now know what is in store.
The surprise element of how the characters will look and how the story will be dealt with is gone now. But on the plus side Ponniyin Selvan 1 is fresh in memory, and its ending, keeping a suspense, has had people looking for more.
The arrival of the second part is not delayed. Once again, Mani has got the timing right.
Now, it is to be hoped that the content is also right. The songs of the second part are already out. And despite the usual and typical criticism, they seem to be doing well.
Rahman, even if he has not shown too much imagination, has delivered on some hummable melodies.
So, if he pulls it off again, Mani would have broken the jinx surrounding the sequels in Kollywood.
For a man who broke the hoodoo around Ponniyin Selvan as a film in the first place, the odds of him repeating it is not high.
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