Actors Karthi and Jayam Ravi on collaborating with Mani Ratnam for his magnum opus, working with co-stars reminiscent of Vikram and Jayaram, and why ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ will set the usual for grandeur in Indian cinema

Actors Karthi and Jayam Ravi on collaborating with Mani Ratnam for his magnum opus, working with co-stars reminiscent of Vikram and Jayaram, and why ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ will set the usual for grandeur in Indian cinema

If Mani Ratnam’s units had been a classroom, Karthi could be the star pupil. So say the forged of Ponniyin Selvan.

Seated comfortably on the director’s Madras Talkies’ workplace, the actor grins sheepishly once we point out this. ” Apdi lam kedaiyathu (It isn’t like that),” he says grinning, “The other actors pull my leg, saying that he never scolds me. I’m just sincere, that’s all.”

The Viruman star admits that working with the ace filmmaker nonetheless looks like “going to university”; Karthi was an assistant director to Ratnam in 2004 ( Aayutha Ezhuthu) and later starred in Kaatru Veliyidai (2017). “Nothing a lot has modified since then. So many selections in my profession have been influenced by Mani sir and the angle he offers me. With him, you may all the time ask questions and get insights. Being on the PS units was akin to peeking into a special lab every day, and discovering entire new worlds.”

Karthi, who was requested by the director to learn the script first earlier than ending the Ponniyin… novel, says that his character, Vanthiyathevan, has a number of shades to him. “When you are appearing majestic like a king, it’s straightforward, however my character, who undergoes a number of moods and feelings, was powerful to crack. There are 5 lakh variations of Vanthiyathevan within the minds of individuals who have learn the e book, and I wanted to stay as much as their expectations.”

Karthi and Vikram in ‘Ponniyin Selvan’

That stems from the truth that his character, who, in a narrative primarily about royalty, will get to be goofy and jovial. “In historical subjects in Tamil cinema, humour is rare; it was usually left to comedians and not heroes. Balaiyaa’s histrionics as Hemanatha Bhagavathar in Thiruvilayadal were extraordinary, for instance, with Sivaji Ganesan perfectly complementing his character. With Vanthiyathevan, the challenge was how we were going to present the rich material.”

He grudgingly agrees that some of his personal character comes throughout in Vanthiyathevan. “He smiles, flirts and cracks jokes.. We have not seen anyone like him since Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow in the Pirates (of the Caribbean) movies. Whereas Vikram’s Aditya Karikalan is a classic ‘man’s man’; the brave hero we traditionally see in epics. Could people still respect a character such as the one I portray? That was the biggest challenge for me, and I trusted Mani sir implicitly.”

For all of the vital sequences, Karthi says he would re-learn that part of the e book earlier than heading for the shot. He laughs, “Mani sir would say, ‘He’s asking too many questions. Did he read the book and come?'”

Galloping to glory

Karthi needed to discover ways to run, swim and even journey a horse in heavy armour. “My armour was my second skin. Generally, I have this raasi in my career of wearing the same costume throughout the film, and that came to haunt me here too,” he laughs.

It helped that he bought to spend so much of time with horses. “Ravi (Jayam Ravi) kept pulling my leg, saying that I spent more time talking to the horses than him. A horse is not like a Kinetic Honda; it does not move after you just hop on. You have to connect and vibe,” he says.

Karthi initially wished to spend time with one horse and perceive its behaviour earlier than heading for the shoot, however that was not attainable as a result of lockdown and pandemic restrictions. His adeptness at horse using due to an earlier movie ( Kaashmora) helped. “We shot Ponniyin Selvan in full gallop, which means that when I’m riding a horse, I am actually riding it for 50-60 kilometres. Anand (sound engineer Anand Krishnamoorthi) once recorded a track of its breath, and it was astonishing to hear how the horse’s breathing pattern matched my tense breathing.”

Karthi in a still from the film

Karthi in a nonetheless from the movie

Winning the favored vote

When the movie was first introduced, there have been a number of debates on its casting decisions, however virtually everybody agreed that Karthi was an important option to play Vanthiyathevan. “I was really scared initially, but what gave me confidence was that people accepted me in the role. I’ve done 25 films now, but here I was playing a character that people had imagined for so long in their minds. I spoke to a historian who told me that many people misrepresent Vanthiyathevan to be a spy or messenger — but no — he’s also a prince. He’s a royal trained in administration, politics and battle, which is why he’s Aditya Karikalan’s best friend and trusted by him. In short, he is an IAS officer without a department!”

Karthi describes his scenes with Jayaram (who performs Azhwarkadiyan Nambi) as some of probably the most particular moments on the units. “I’ve loved Jayaram since Chanakyan (1989), and later in his films with Kamal sir like Tenali and Panchathanthiram. Here, his character is supposed to be nosy and sarcastic; the way he acts even when he doesn’t have dialogues is fabulous. Azhwarkadiyan Nambi is supposed to be short and fat; Jayaram is not that in real life so, he had to change his body language and hunch. We rehearsed many times on our sequences and the time spent with a senior actor like him was a learning experience.”

Setting the usual for grandeur

The actor describes Kalki’s novel as “fascinating” and a wealthy historical past lesson, woven with tune and poetry. “Most intriguing to me were the power dynamics detailed in the book; in those times, a king was considered the supreme leader, equivalent to a God.”

With Ponniyin Selvan, he feels fortunate to have been half of a undertaking that many huge names of Tamil cinema, together with MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Kamal Haasan, dreamt of however didn’t execute.

“We have stayed as true to the writing as possible, but made creative choices in order to compress the extensive material into a film. How else do you present it to an audience, 90% of whom have not yet read the novel? Bringing all the story arcs together, streamlining them without confusion, and deciding which bits to enhance with visual grandeur… this is where Mani sir’s true genius lies. Also, unlike other historical fiction features, most of the film has been shot outdoors in real locations. Just like in Gladiator or the series Rome, Ponniyin Selvan will take you into the heart of the town and period it’s set in.”

Karthi concludes saying that his admiration for Mani Ratnam has solely elevated over time and repeated interactions. “He has set the standard for grandeur, aesthetics and colourin Tamil cinema,” he says excitedly, “Remember the Pachai Nirame track ( Alaipayuthe), which showed us how beautiful green could be? Or the classy white shirt and beige pants in Mouna Raagam; it was the same colour combination that a lot of us complained about in our school uniforms!”

Mani Ratnam and Jayam Ravi on the sets of the film

Mani Ratnam and Jayam Ravi on the units of the movie

Jayam Ravi sees the massive image

Dreams do come true. Ask Jayam Ravi, and he’ll inform you all about it.

He vividly remembers the day when he bought a name from Mani Ratnam’s workplace, searching for a gathering. “He said he was going to make Ponniyin… and as a fan of the book, I was thrilled. When he said he wanted me to do the title role (of Arunmozhi Varman, or Ponniyin Selvan), I was thrilled to bits.”

Unlike a number of different actors on this all-star forged, that is Ravi’s first collaboration with Mani Ratnam. Ravi says he retains asking why he was chosen for this magnum opus, then tells himself that it is the outcome of the onerous work he has put in since his debut in Jayam (2003). “When AR Rahman bagged an Oscar, it was not just for his work in that particular film alone, but recognition for his many years in films. Just like that, I see my selection as a reward for the work I’ve put in all these years. This project could have been done by any generation of actors, but that it was made now and that I am a big part of it is a huge blessing,” says Ravi, including that he additionally cherished the time he spent with actor Vikram, who’s a detailed pal.

Jayam Ravi on the sets of the film

Jayam Ravi on the units of the movie

Everything on the units was as actual as attainable, he provides. “The mise en scène, which indicates all the elements in a frame, was so apt. For instance, if there were potatoes kept in the marketplace during a scene, he (Mani Ratnam) would notice and remove them, stating that this wasn’t a vegetable that flourished during that period.”

Ponniyin Selvan is ready to launch in theatres on September 30