The legendary Tamil journalist and author, Kalki Krishnamurthy's celebrated 2400-word novel in five volumes, Ponniyin Selvan, will be made into an animated film. To be directed by P Saravanaraja and M Karthikeyan, the movie will tell the historical story of Emperor Raja Raja Cholan (of the Chola dynasty). Saravanaraja, an animation expert, told the media that pre-production work on the film had already begun.
Planned for a January 2017 opening, Ponniyin Selvan in an animated form will reach out more easily to the young, who hardly ever read these days - and hence have very little knowledge about India's rich political and cultural history.
Serialised by Krishnamurthy in his magazine, Kalki, the plot popped out of the pages week after week from 1950 to 1954, catapulting the circulation to dizzy numbers. In southern India, Krishnamurthy became synonymous with Ponniyin Selvan or The Son of Ponni, and the story and its macabre machinations haunted the dreams, the desires and the dread of just about every household. Such was the integrality of Selvan and his story.
The last one saw of Ponniyin Selvan was through a play, helmed by Pravin and organised by Magic Lantern. It was staged in Chennai and other southern Indian cities last June to packed houses. It also garnered rave reviews.
Whether in theatre or on screen, it is never easy to tackle Ponniyin Selvan, given its multitude of characters, each clearly etched and fascinatingly layered, and the plot itself is extraordinarily detailed - though sometimes confusing. There are intrigues and counter-intrigues, conspiracies and counter-conspiracies, and there are chameleon-like men and women who are out to wreck vengeance, create social havoc and destroy the Chola Dynasty. There is greed, there is valour, there is sacrifice. There is love, there is romance and there is sexual coyness.
Sometime ago, director Mani Ratnam toyed with the idea of making a movie out of Kalki's work, but did not pursue it. Ponniyin Selvan in animation is not going to be any easier to create.