Music, soul of our cinema, leaves much to be desired in 'PS-2'
Deccan Chronicle.| L. Ravichander
Poster of 'Ponniyin Selvan-2' (Photo: Twitter)
If colour was the soul of ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’, the camera is the mainstay of ‘PS-2 (Ponniyin Selvan-2)’. Mani Ratnam has built for himself a niche as a modern filmmaker with an eye for detail. Considering how he introduced Manisha Koirala in ‘Dil Se’ or captured Srividya's Kunti moment in ‘Thalapathi’, the long list tells a tale of a filmmaker who speaks through the lens. ‘PS-2’ will be remembered by cineastes largely for the amazing grace of the camera by Ravi Varma. Top class.
Filmgoers have come to expect a lot from A.R. Rahman. His reputation precedes him. What is it with ‘PS-2?’ Is there a single song that will be remembered in the next decade? Sadly, no. While there are some fine pieces in the background score, ‘PS-2’, which has a great opportunity for grand music, fails to deliver. I cannot but wonder and imagine a Shanker Jaikishan or an R.D. Burman or Naushad's take on a magnum opus of such proportion. S-J's ‘Joker’, RD's ‘1942’ and Naushad's ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ are examples. Music, the quintessential feature of our cinema, leaves much to be desired in ‘PS-2’.
Pathak Roshan is credited with the casting. I would believe he has either shopped in a limited space or has just picked the available. In the long run, it would be interesting to note who were the ones who could not make the time. For instance, would it not have been a good idea to rope in Aditi Hydari Rao, Sanjay Dutt and a few more stars with value who would have pushed the envelope and eased the burden on Mani Ratnam?
Come to the costume and styling, that too leaves a lot to be desired. The most striking would be the hairdo of Trisha, which goes overboard. Perhaps, with time, we will find it less hurting. It is a paradox that La Tagore is making the rounds of her embarrassment of the bouffant and we have one with three of them. Traditional jewellery seems too obviously styled. Every royal person seems to have the same sense of dress. Sreekar Prasad has a huge job on hand to edit a story of such proportions. Once bitten, twice shy; after the confused layout in the first part, he gets his act together obviously with the assistance of the captain.
Of the performances, it is a chance of a lifetime for Jayam Ravi in a central role. A very ordinary performance from the assembly of characters and a great opportunity goes begging.
It is Vikram who leaves a marginal impression and Karthick is the perfect foil in the leading support role. There is an impish air that he punctuates with the valour that the role asks of him. Three ladies have script space. Shobita Dhulipala is artificial and looks straight into the camera. Trisha tries hard to move from social films to historic costume dramas and continues to be ill at ease. Aishwarya Rai, as a central character, too keeps staring through all the emotive requirements. While she may look gorgeous as Nandini and pale on demand as Mandakini, when it comes to acting, she may well defend herself saying she is woefully out of touch. Mention must be made of Jayaram in a comical role and Rahman as part-villain for leaving an impression in the crowded cast.
The film starts with the childhood romance between Nandini and Adita Karikalan. However, the royalty versus laity is too strong for the child lovers to make a life of it. The storyline keeps you guessing why Nandini lands up at the enemy camp of the Pandians and why she married Periya Pazhuvettaraiya (Sarath Kumar). The journey of the brothers (Jayaram Ravi), Aditha (Vikram) and their sisters Arunmozhi and Kundaval (Trisha- eternally scheming) and their warfare with the Pandians, sometimes in exile, sometimes in valiant defiance and sometimes guerrilla, is a reiteration that war is an old habit of man and being avaricious comes easy to homo sapiens.
At the work table, Mani Ratnam decides to divide his narration into war and fights at one level and palace intrigue and conspiracies at another. There is romance just lingering in the background. He had the choice of keeping the relationships straight in a costume drama based on palace intrigue. He very consciously makes a web of relationships, all of which are shrouded in mystery and the physical proximity of some characters throws up regular challenges on what it could be. Nandini seems to be in the mood to entice one and all or is shooting commands that lack punch, and you wonder what gives the strength to be accepted as a leader. Either the role is not properly defined or it is the problem in the translation of the actor in question. One can safely assume that the work — a celebrated Kalki creation — is not to blame and the fault must lie with Mani Ratnam or his choice of the central character. It is strange that the two main characters, the siblings, hardly share screen space or chemistry.
The clash of the groups does not come from the writing table to reality and this could well be the undoing of the film. Yes, it has a grandeur that is good enough for one to be in awe, more so when it is unprecedented in scale style and cost.
It is yet again clear that the filmmaker has chosen gloss over soul. This is one certain commonality with the prequel. This is surely a better part. Certainly, fluid and clear, but yet interruptive in narration, confused in focus and patchy in telling.
Larger than life and an indulgence to believe that our past was opulent. When that is the psyche of my viewing, it is worth my ticket and my popcorn. Otherwise, the fizz in my hand is far more than the drama on the screen.
The writer is a senior counsel of the Telangana high court