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Why Mani Ratnam’s ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ duology is better when seen as one singular movie

Watching the two ‘Ponniyin Selvan movies, one after the other gives you the big picture and the true magnum opus nature of Mani Ratnam’s latest

Here’s a secret. The trick to looking at the two parts of Ponniyin Selvan, to enjoy it as you were meant to, is to see them as one whole organic unit — one movie — with a few months as an interval. It gives you the big picture, the true magnum opus nature of Mani Ratnam’s latest. Of course, this was a revelation from a happy accident, a realization when you’ve watched Ponniyin Selvan: 1 (Download) for the first time less than 12 hours before watching Ponniyin Selvan: 2.

That’s when you realize and recognize the spirit with a certain vitality that powers through the entire film, linking its two halves, something impossible to perceive unless you watch the two parts together. As an organic whole, the movie contains in itself, in parts, humor, valor, war, gore, beauty, love, palace intrigue, an assassination, a complex plot, betrayal, a well-played cast (well-deserved credit to Vikram, Jayaram, and Karthi for sterling performances, but it could be agreed without much violence that nearly everyone did a good job), espionage, music like a trance, the cinematography of Ravi Varman, and breathtaking locales.

Ponniyin Selvan

Think of it this way: it is one impossibly long shot of a movie, literally, not a sequel in the sense we have come to understand it. Not something that need not have been made, not something the first part could have done without, not something that happens on another plane. But it is the completion of the film, the Yang to the Ying of Part One, and therefore, one glorious whole. Then the pluses of the first film compensate for the perceived minuses of the second (though the soundtrack is riveting and lends to the grandeur if you saw PS: 2 as a sequel, you’d be left thinking A.R. Rahman wasn’t given as much play as in the first.)

To see the two films, PS: 1 and PS: 2, one after the other, in that order, is the only way you can get the full picture, but also its expanse, the epic narration, enjoy the music, understand the plot line, the sub-plots, the history and context, which are all important.

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