One of the most difficult jobs in movies is to adapt novels in to movies. If it’s relatively unknown book, you are safe but if it’s a master piece you will be compared and decimated. The only movie that surpassed the book in my opinion was Godfather with sheer brilliance in casting. In the Tamil movie world, adaptations are very less and usually crappy except for some brilliance like Onbathu Roobai Notu (Thangar Bachan).
Ponnar Shankar is a master piece by Kalaignar Mu. Karunanidhi and was written as a series in Kungumam. It’s the story of twin brothers who lived in the region of Kongu in Tamilnadu during the Chozha period. The story is complex to explain in a blog post but in short it’s about how the twin brothers (Ponnar & Shankar – Prashanth) reclaim their country from traitors who abduct it from their parents Thamarai (Khushboo) and Kundrudayan (Jayaram).
Although I appreciate the fact that Thiyagarajan has tried to bring back the grandeur of the ages, he could not sustain the good work done by some of the wonderful technicians. The art direction by Muthuraj blows you off complemented by the wonderful cinematography of Shaji Kumar. The lighting of the fort stays in your mind even after you leave the theater. The stunt choreography by Kanal Kannan and Ravi Dewan (Jodha Akbar fame) keeps you glued on to the screens in the two war sequences. In fact Prashanth has done a decent job as a Graphics supervisor. And the sequences would have been boring without Ilayaraja’s music. The orchestrations in the final sequence of “Pavani Varugirar” can’t be explained in words and “Kannai Padithen” melody stays with you. The symphonic orchestrations during the war sequences tell you why he is the best in the business.
With all these technical wizardry, can you still make a movie not so interesting? Yes, Thiagarajan did it. The screenplay (Kalaignar) is abrupt and the scenes unfold without any sequence. The editing (Don Max) has compromised on continuity for sleekness. In fact, I believe there have been cuts after the background score been done because I have never seen abrupt scores from Ilaiyaraja. The contemporary Tamil hurts the authenticity of the movie and sometimes it’s so funny when suddenly some characters switch to classical Tamil. First time ever, I see no zing or sting in Kalaignar’s words, who is known for it. Prashanth has stale expressions with zero emotions but has done exceedingly well in stunt sequences. Nobody except for the lead heroines identify the difference between the two brothers and the are even more funnier with their lip synchronization. The saving grace in the acting part is ensemble supporting cast of Khushboo, Jayaram, Nasser, Raj Kiran and Prakash Raj.
The director should have established the timelines and the experience would have been different if people were explained about the regional authenticity. The biggest advantage of any historical is that, it can have a narrator and a simple narration which establishes the story would have helped the viewers understand the movie better. Nobody complains if the historical movies are lengthy as long as you sustain the interest of the viewer. Compromising quality for sleekness is unbearable and the complex storyline doesn’t help too. If Thiagarajan had backed up the wonderful technical work with some level headed direction and control, the movie would have been one of the best historicals taken after a long time. He flatters to deceive.
Watch Ponnar Shankar if you can enjoy only the technical wizardry. A 2/5 for Ponnar Shankar with pain