Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ponniyin Selvan play - a labour of love

“Kalki” Krishnamurthy is a master story teller with none to surpass him. People used to wait with bated breath for his novels serialized in Tamil weeklies for several years, just like how we wait to catch an episode of our favourite soap now. His magnum opus “Ponniyin Selvan” is a family-favourite.

An historical marvel contained in 5 stonking volumes, reading it evokes an array of emotions ranging from romance to martyrdom and plays out in our minds better than any movie ever did, thanks to a God given gift to mankind called imagination.

One of the many incredible aspects of the book is the amount of painstaking research ‘Kalki’ had put in to write the 2400-pages-long-epic. He is said to have read every piece of Sangam literature available on the era (upon which the book is set) and had even visited Srilanka a number of times to gather facts. No wonder all the effort has paid off so well – a gem of a book that is every Tamil book lover’s delight.

It has been exactly 60 years since the book was first published. Several unsuccessful attempts had been made to bring Ponniyin Selvan to the big screen; the last one to try was ace director Mani Ratnam. What if the series has been marked off as a tale too grand and expensive to bring on celluloid? A talented, fiery team from Chennai based production company SS International and theatre group Magic Lantern have pulled off the incredible feat of bringing it to the Stage.  

After a successful run in Chennai and Madurai, the team had landed in Coimbatore and staged three houseful shows on 3rd, 4th and 5th of July in Corporation Kaliarangam. Some from my college were provided with free passes on the first day of the play. I'm quite grateful that I was one among them.
What an evening it was! Unforgettable in the truest sense. To see all my favourite characters on stage (enacted by a bunch of talented actors) with friends who were deeply involved as well, was something that I would cherish for a lifetime. We created the same ruckus that we would do in a theatre whenever a major character was introduced, be it Arulmozhivarman or Aditya Karikalan. The female leads in the play have done justice to their parts and they looked ravishing indeed!The swordfights, the lovely set by Thotta dharani, the humour interspersed dialogues – all deserve a special mention!

Vandhiyadevan’s character appeared a bit more flirtatious than it did in the book but the audience seemed to love him! Though I personally rue Manimegalai’s omission, the play is an astounding display of hardwork and creativity in little under four hours. The biggest “Ah” moment in the play was the entry of an elephant and yes, it sure had its share of screen space (and claps)!! 

I hope more people take to reading Kalki's works after seeing this one of a kind play!!



  1. It's good to see dramas are getting a rebirth in various forms. . They deserve more appreciation in the sheer amount of work they put across. .

  2. They really do! Their efforts must be lauded!!

  3. Good info. Nice to See samples of Old Dramas replayed in new stages. :-)

  4. A very nice observation on the play ... I had a few concerns on the play but still it was a really good effort ... Check out my thoughts here http://orukozhiyinkooval.blogspot.in/2014/06/ponniyin-selvan-play-by-magic-lantern.html