Readers Write In #520: PS1 review- Too many flaws to cover up

Posted on October 25, 2022


By ​S Vijaysagar

I waited for the buzz to settle down on PS1 and chose the evening show on Diwali eve to catch up on the movie. Hope people would still be interested in reading about the movie.

PS1 fell flat on many counts for me. I think the prime account was in lack of application in  the Screen play. In the guise of striving to be faithful to the novel, it has left huge gaps in bringing the novel to life. The audience is left gaping at these loopholes, wondering if they have to fill in the details from their readings of the novel. I wonder what could someone who has not read the novel feel about the movie, they probably had fewer unpalatable moments. I can only hope extraneous elements like ‘raatchasa mamaney’ sequences probably appealed to this ‘non reading’ audience more.

For someone who has read the book, the film reduces to a matter of ticking off scenes from the book. I am guessing, for someone who has not read the book, it would have meant a haphazard journey from one palace to another, from one battle field to another, from one sabotage to another.

Vandiyathevan and Aalwarkadiyan are the crucial connecting links that travel throughout the novel and through the different acts of the novel and stitch the novel together. Since the director has failed to present these two characters organically, the film would fail to make the kind of impression the book delivers. The screen play could have invested more on shaping these two characters convincingly, instead it has opted to show them in ‘as is, where is’ described in the novel.

Talking of big lacunas in the screen play, the screenplay fails to tell us why was Arunmozhi attacking Sri Lanka in the first place and what kind of agreement was reached between Arunmozhi and Mahinda in Sri Lanka after the war. on the other hand, while one can feel for Adithaya Karikalan who is tormented by his love for Nandini, and this pain is indeed what drives him crazy and the causes  suffering for everyone around him, the Screen play fails to elaborate enough on this crucial love in a convincing way.

It would be a surprise if the opening war scenes of Adithya Karikalan don’t remind one of Thalapathi song sequence. Vikram as AK seemed to carry himself with an air of arrogance and self-assuredness. Many of Vikram’s expressions appeared cliched and ego-centric. A song sequence featuring AK tapping to music, turns his fellow warriors and soldiers into side dancers, thereby simply taking the soul away from the warring ethos that was so carefully built into the sequence and pulls the film further down into the quagmire. it is a different thing to dance to celebrate the victory in a war.

Vandiyathevan is shown ambushing a queen’s entourage in broad day light and in open sight. This appeared so mindless and botched up on screen. Even literally sticking to Kalki’s elaborate description of this sequence could have easily saved the day for the director. 

The Pandya henchmen bite and spit Tamil in their dialogue delivery. They appear like fools not finishing Arunmozhi off, after trapping him inside a net. Instead, they make a comic show of themselves, going around him baring their teeth. A dagger could have easily pierced the net and finished him off in a split second. Did Mani and team think that they could lay the blame for such blaring loopholes in the Screen play on the writing of Kalki.

Most of the characters have been caricatured like specimens from their original glorious selves depicted in the novel, with a paucity of vision and a pair of pliers called ‘ limited sceen play’, constraining the experience of the novel in its avatar as the film. We are left to our own imaginations when it comes to elaborating on the relationship between the Pazhuvetaraiyars.

Speaking of missed chances, it would have been spectacular had Mani and team invested some creativity in re-creating the Golden Place that Aditha Karikalan is mentioned to have built for his parents. It is strange that we are not even treated to the glories of Kanchi, it should have been a glorious town even then. The only idea of grandeur the film tends to evoke is tall pillars. And except for the grand vessel that sails to Lanka to capture Arunmozhi , the art department has mostly let the film down.

Sembian Madhevi appears only in the passing and is shown attending some vedic ritual. She, along with her Husband, is famed for being a great benefactor of many Shaivite temples in the chola region. These facts could have been easily accommodated in the screenplay.

The casting fell flat when it came to presenting the chieftains. Some amount of the screen time should have been devoted to explaining the administrative units of the time and why these chieftains were important to the story. The same goes for Vandiyathevan’s country, a moment could have been spent to show his land and lineage. One can’t help but feel that a better actor could have been chosen to play Arunmozhi. Jayam Ravi’s performance in the all-important Buddhist Sanga scene leaves one wishing for more. Aishwarya Rai sizzles as Nandini, however there are times when u wished she were much younger and sharper in her performance.  The beautiful Vidya Subramaniam is wasted as the queen, pushed to a distant corner of the frame even when she is the speaker.

The Actress cast as Poonguzhali looked hot and stole the show on the screen with her performance. Trisha eases her way through with elan and grace in her performance as Kundavai. If there is one moment that struck a deep chord with me it was the concluding sequence where Arunmozhi’s perceived death is shared with the key players. The director managed to botch that build up too, by meaning to show us the Umai rani and ending up showing a not so grey-haired Aishwarya Rai.

The film could have been served better with some mindful editing and better shot selections. For instance, the shot capturing Lanka, with Arunmozhi’s back in the frame looked glaringly odd. It’s unbelievable that brand Mani has failed on technical grounds too. Has he started outsourcing operations?!

Others have written elsewhere about how the film fails to capture even the flat terrain of Tanjore and ends up selling a very fanciful terrain to the viewer. Just as the film is expected to stay true to the spirit of the novel, it was also expected to stay true to the land and people of Tanjore, Kanchi and Lanka. PS1 instead ends up building castles in the air and people lacking in soul. But even these half-hearted efforts seem to be good enough to rake in the money in the market, thanks to Kalki’s wonderful novel and the magnificent appeal of the Cholas.