Ponnar Shankar – Tamil Movie Review

Cast: Prashanth, Pooja Chopra, Divya Parameshwaran, Prakash Raj, Sneha
Direction: Thyagarajan
Production: Thiagarajan
Music: Illayaraja

Prashanth’s boyish charm has always won over the gals and he was quite the rage in his various roles. Though he has donned many intense roles, it is his lover-boy image that remains in our mind. After a sabbatical, Prashanth is back with a double bang now! The actor has been working for the last four years on the magnificent magnum opus Ponnar Shankar. Newcomers Pooja Chopra and Divya Parameshwaran are the heroines. The movie has been adapted from a book written by Kalaignar Dr. M. Karunanidhi. Thiagarajan, who leaves no stone unturned when it comes to making movies for his son, has gone the extra mile for Ponnar Shankar, which he has also directed. The father and son have toiled for four long years preparing for making this historical magnum opus, studying historical archives, period paintings, museum artefacts and weapons, jewellery… The list is endless…

Historic Facts: Ponnar and Shankar, who became rulers of Ponni Valanadu in medieval Tamil Nadu, are credited with saving their people from an invasion. They were the twin sons of Nellian Kodan and his wife Thamarai. Their bravery has stood the test of time and they are revered and worshipped as guardian gods in several villages where their story forms an integral part of local folklore.

About Kalaignar’s novel: Kalaignar’s historical novel ‘Ponnar Sankar’ is about two brave brothers (Ponnar and Sankar) of Kong Ponnaru Nadu (present districts of Coimbatore, Erode, Karur and parts of Tiruchi and Madurai). The novel has a perfect storyline, fit to be made into a grand film. It narrates the bravery of these brothers and their camaraderie.

Ponnar Shankar has a huge star cast, which includes Sneha, Ponvannan, Jayaram, Khushbu, Prakashraj, Napoleon, Riaz Khan, Prabhu, Rajkiran and Vijayakumar. A two minute trailer of Ponnar Shankar has already taken Kollywood by storm, creating great anticipation among audiences and critics alike. After almost 40 years, Ponnar Shankar will possibly be the first historic film to be made in Tamil and interestingly, this is the second time Prashanth is playing the role of twins on screen (the first time being in Jeans).

Who is in it?

Prashanth and of course Prashanth, as the heroic Ponnar and Shankar: Well-trained courageous warriors, ready to take on any army single-handedly.

Khushbu as Thamarai Nachiar: Apart from being bold and hardworking, she is also the proud mother of Ponnar and Shankar.

Jayaram as Nellian Kodan, a not-so-courageous father/ husband, who always thinks and acts for the benefit of others.

Rajkiran as Raaki Annan (alias Aasaan), the brave guru of Ponnar and Shankar.

Prakashraj as the devious-minded Manthiappan, who seeks revenge against Thamarai’s family.

Napoleon as King Thalaiyoor Kaali, a clean-hearted person who falls into Manthiappan’s trap.

Sneha as the courageous Arakkani, only sister of Ponnar and Shankar.

Vijayakumar as Periyamalai Gounder, the king who is ready to sacrifice anything (even his family) to save his dignity.

Pooja Chopra and Divya Parameshwaran as Muthaagi and Pavalaagi, the gorgeous daughters of Chinnamalai Gounder (Ponvannan).

What is it about?

Ponnar Shankar has a very complex historical plot! Periyamalai Gounder arranges his daughter Thamarai’s wedding with his friend’s son Manthiappan. But Thamarai is in love with her childhood friend Nellaiyaan Gounder. Finally, after crossing many hurdles, Thamarai marries Nellian Kodan, against stiff opposition by her father and brother (Chinnamalai Gounder). This irks Manthiappan, who creates enmity between Periyamalai Gounder and his good friend Thalaiyoor Kaali. After marriage, Thamarai decides to leave the kingdom and start her new life elsewhere. But before leaving the kingdom, Thamarai takes an oath: to give birth to two brave sons and get them married to her brother’s daughters, thus ending the ill will between them.

Fast forward: After many years, the whole kingdom is all praise for Raaki Annan’s two brave disciples, Ponnar and Shankar. They are always ready to face their enemies or to fight against injustice. One day, while attending a special puja, Ponnar and Shankar (who do not know that Thamarai is their mother) rescue Chinnamalai Gounder’s daughters Muthaagi and Pavalaagi. At this point, Thalaiyoor Kaali, on the advice of Manthiappan, decides to kidnap Chinnamalai Gounder’s wife, son and daughters, and successfully carries out this nefarious plot. Again, Ponnar and Shankar turn up to save Gounder’s family. After a series of incidents, Chinnamalai Gounder decides to get his daughters married to Ponnar and Shankar. He also decides to meet his long-lost sister Thamarai. What happens when Thamarai learns that her sons are alive? Who is Raaki Annan? (Watch out for a great flashback sequence here!) What will be Manthiappan and Thalaiyoor Kaali’s next plan? To know all, watch Ponnar Shankar!!

The Performances

Prashanth looks great; he is credible in his warrior outfits and all pumped up for the super action blocks. His well-built physique and excellent archery skills are another major highlight of the film. Prashanth has put in much effort to make Ponnar and Shankar vibrant, which is quite evident on screen. His expressions and body language, especially when both the brothers come together on screen, look very convincing.

Khushbu and Jayaram have meaty roles which they have performed perfectly. Napoleon, Ponvannan, Prakashraj and Captain Raj have done their parts well. Rajkiran excels as Aasaan while Vijayakumar overacts. Sneha looks beautiful on screen but appears only in a few scenes. Newcomers Pooja Chopra and Divya Parameshwaran do not have substantial roles. Though Prabhu appears only in one scene (after the climax), he scores. Surprisingly, his diction and voice modulation are better than anyone else’s. Nasser plays a very interesting role (similar to Drona in Mahabaratham) and excels.

The Techniques

Firstly, kudos to Thiagarajan for his wonderful effort; we know that making a quality epic film is no easy task. The story has all the vital elements that make it interesting even in today’s context: an action-packed tale of revenge, a romantic part, themes of brotherly love, trickery and deceit, loyalty to one’s family and so much more. Interestingly, the film has two major battle sequences and the crew reportedly used around 30,000 people and 3,000 horses in these sequences.

Camera: Shaji Kumar’s breathtaking visuals are another major plus of the film. His camera angles, especially during the song sequence and climax battle, are pretty interesting. One song alone has 15,000 dancers and traditional artists from Tamizh Sangamam.

Isaignani’s music: Ilaiyaraaja’s majestic tunes make the visuals more attractive. ‘Annanmar Kathai’ and ‘Kannai Parithen’ stand out. Isaignani’s is in his element and in tune with Kalaignar’s story and theme.

Visual Effects: Even before he started making the film, producer-director Thiagarajan assured that Ponnar Shankar would be a visual treat and would be remembered as the best historical film ever made. Prashanth has personally supervised the visual effects and whenever Ponnar and Shankar appear on screen together, it’s perfect and seamless.

Dialogues: Naturally, this a historical plot, so there are plenty of long and thrilling dialogues on human emotions and patriotism! Prabhu shines in his brief role with his fantastic dialogue delivery.

The Verdict

Great action, good visuals and not much to complain about technically! Prashanth and Thiagarajan have done a great job in creating the pace and raciness of screenplay in this historical magnum opus which is well-packaged and will appeal to moviegoers across genres and regions.

If you are ready to overlook some minor loopholes (which you may hardly even find), Ponnar Shankar is a great film to watch (especially on the big screen)! In Galatta Cinema April issue, we had promised this should be a film worth watching and remembering for long, and we are happy that we have been proved right!

Three cheers for the makers and crew of Ponnar Shankar!

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