Ponniyin Selvan 2 review: Aishwarya Rai is unbelievably good in Mani Ratnam's terrific epic

ByHaricharan Pudipeddi
Apr 28, 2023 01:42 PM IST

Ponniyin Selvan 2 review: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan speaks with her eyes and delivers her career best performance in this Mani Ratnam epic.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that no filmmaker would have achieved what Mani Ratnam did with his adaptation of Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan. What he masterfully achieves in just two-part film adaptations of the historical epic (originally written in five volumes) is nothing short of exemplary work by a filmmaker who’s successfully stayed relevant with his work for four decades. With Ponniyin Selvan 2 aka PS 2, Ratnam shows how one can still make historical films without relying too much on grand, over-the-top action sequences but purely on drama that keeps you pinned right till the end.

Ponniyin Selvan 2 review: Aishwarya Rai plays Nandini in the movie.
Ponniyin Selvan 2 review: Aishwarya Rai plays Nandini in the movie.

After a backstory about the beginning of the relationship between Aditha Karikalan and Nandini as teenagers, the story continues from where the first part ended. As Vandhiyathevan (Karthi) learns that plans are being laid out by princely state kings to bring down the Chola empire and Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) is the mastermind behind it, it is the return of Arunmozhi Varman (Jayam Ravi), who was presumed dead, that squanders all the plans. Aditha Karikalan (Vikram), on the other hand, prepares himself to face the might of Nandini, who has been instrumental in waging a war against the Cholas.

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For a lot of people, the first part of Ponniyin Selvan couldn’t recreate the magic of SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali series which mesmerized with its grand action set-pieces. This was one of the major complaints for a section of audiences who walked in expecting another grand, action-heavy period epic. However, if one has gotten used to Mani Ratnam’s style and enjoyed PS 1, they have every reason to be blown away by how the auteur just uses drama and politics to create tension throughout the second part. It’s unbelievable how Mani Ratnam actually keeps one engaged with so much drama. For instance, the face-off sequence between Aditya Karikalan and Nandini will go down as one of the best cinematic moments in Tamil cinema. It is the build-up and the mood setting that leads to the showdown makes it one of the best sequences of PS 2.

The second part allows each character to be further fleshed out. Arunmozhi Varman gets more screen time and it allows Jayam Ravi to deliver a satisfying performance. Karthi as Vandhiyathevan manages to leave the same impact he managed with his act in the first part. In PS 2, it’s Aishwarya Rai as Nandini and Vikram as Aditya Karikalan who really shine in parts they play so convincingly. Given this is Aishwarya Rai’s big comeback to Tamil cinema after many years, she’s unbelievably good and delivers what’s unarguably a career-best performance. Aishwarya’s character impact is so powerful and she’s so good in it, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in her shoes. Be it her rage-filled eyes or the long silences, Aishwarya brings so much life into the film. Apart from the gut-wrenching drama, it’s the exquisite visuals that really elevate PS 2 in terms of delivering a larger-than-life viewing experience. Watching it in IMAX makes it even more irresistible.

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