Mani Ratnam's love for ancient epics continues with Chekka Chivantha Vaanam; is film inspired by Ponniyin Selvan?

Raja Sekar

Aug,30 2018 08:30:42 IST

Mani Ratnam's love for ancient epics is well-known. The maverick director brilliantly adapted the Mahabharata as a contemporary gangster story in his 1991 Tamil film Thalapathi, starring Rajinikanth, Mammootty and Arvind Swamy. In the film, Rajinikanth played Karna and Mammootty’s character was loosely based on Duryodhana. Interestingly, Arvind Swamy’s character name in Thalapathi is Arjun.

A poster of Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. Twitter

A poster of Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. Twitter

In 2010, Ratnam adapted the Ramayana into Raavan, as a clash between an upright cop (Prithviraj in Tamil, Vikram in Hindi) and an oppressed community leader (Vikram in Tamil and Abhishek Bachchan in Hindi). Aishwarya Rai Bachchan played Sita in both the Tamil and Hindi versions. Ratnam also has the penchant to make films based on real stories. For example, his Iruvar was based on the MGR-Karunanidhi relationship and Guru was based on business tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani’s life.

Ratnam also wanted to adapt Kalki’s epic Ponniyin Selvan which tells the story of Arulmozhivarman (Raja Raja Chola), who ascended the throne after his dad Sundara Chola passed away. Unlike the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, Ratnam intended to make Ponniyin Selvan as a historical film with Vijay, Vikram and Mahesh Babu, but because of budget constraints, the film was dropped.

The recent trailer of Mani Ratnam’s upcoming film Chekka Chivantha Vaanam hints that the film could be the inspired version of Ponniyin Selvan, but instead of a historical setup, we have a gangster backdrop.

 Ponniyin Selvan is all about who among the two sons of Sundara Chola — Aditya Karikalan or Arulmozhivarman — is crowned as a king after the demise of their dad. There is another fictional character called Madurantaka in the novel. He is the son of Sundara Chola’s love interest. But to everyone’s surprise, Senthan Amudhan(Uttama Chozha), uncle of Arulmozhivarman, ascends the throne in the climax.

In the novel, Aditya Karikalan is the elder son, who is known for his high volatile anger. As per the film's trailer, Arvind Swamy’s character has shades of Karikalan. STR, who lives in Serbia, says in the trailer that he will only return as a king, which is a quality of Arulmozhivarman. Arun Vijay’s character seems to be very calm and composed. He could be Senthan Amudhan but his role seems to have been tweaked for the film.

There is a dialogue in the trailer, mouthed by Swamy, which says, “If you have an old friend, don’t believe him”. Sethupathi plays Arvind’s pal. Interestingly, even in the novel, there is a friend (Vandhiyathevan) to Aditya Karikalan.

Another curious angle in the film is that Swamy seems to have an alleged relationship with Aditi Rao Hydari, who plays a journalist. Aditi’s character is looking for the right time to unmask the story of gangster Prakash Raj, the father of Arvind Swamy, STR, and Arun Vijay. Similarly, in the novel, there is a character named Nandhini, who is waiting for the right opportunity to collapse the Chola dynasty. Vandhiyathevan always felt guilty in the novel that he could not save his close friend Karikalan from a fateful incident. (revealing anything more would amount to a spoiler).

In an earlier interaction, STR said that the film does not have any dance numbers and it will be intense action drama on the lines of Ratnam's Thalapathi and Nayagan. The actor also added that despite the multi-starrer genre, ChekkaChivantha Vaanam has equal scope for all the characters.

I agree that it is too early to guess the story of Chekka Chivantha Vaanam from just the trailer but if Ratnam adapted Ponniyin Selvan in the contemporary backdrop, the film would definitely offer an epic movie-watching experience to the audiences.

Netizens are also discussing various other theories and source of inspiration, including The Godfather on the internet but we will get a clear picture only on 28 September, the release day of Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. Besides the Tamil version, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam will also release in Telugu as Nawab.

Updated Date: Aug 30, 2018 08:30 AM