Actor Jayam Ravi says he felt pressure stepping into the role of the Chola king Rajaraja I in Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus “Ponniyin Selvan-I” and relied heavily on the ace director’s vision. An official adaptation of author Kalki Krishnamurthy’s 1955 Tamil novel of the same name, the film made its debut in theatres on Friday to praise from both the audiences and the critics.
The story follows the early days of Arulmozhivarman (Ravi), one of the most powerful kings in the south who went on to become the great Chola emperor Rajaraja Chola I in the 10th century.
For Ravi, the star of Tamil movies “M. Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi”, “Unakkum Enakkum”, “Santhosh Subramaniam”, “Tik Tik Tik” and “Thani Oruvan”, it was a lifelong dream to work with Ratnam. “Before acting in his film, I studied and learned from him. Now after acting in his movie, I learned from him directly. So it’s a blessing for me,” the 42-year-old actor told PTI in an interview.
Rajaraja I, who ruled the Chola empire in the 10th century, remains close to people’s hearts, especially in the South, and playing such a popular figure made Ravi nervous.
“I was playing the great Rajaraja Chola and everybody in South India looked up to him. For all the Tamil-speaking people, he is their king. I’m just a lucky actor who gets to play this part.
“As a fan of Rajaraja Chola, when you look at the things that he has done, nobody’s ever done it in the last thousand years. So that pressure was obviously there, but Mani sir made me realise the importance of playing this character,” the actor said.
Ravi said the filmmaker made him understand the intricacies of the Chola king.
“He told me six months before the shoot that I should try to visualise and live like Rajaraja Chola. I did try that and it really helped,” he added.
While collaborating with Ratnam, the actor said he felt like a young boy on a journey with a mentor.
“The experience was always like he’s holding my hand as if I’m a young boy and he’s taking me on a journey. Whenever he felt I was deviating from the path, he would hold my hand strongly. And he would loosen the grip, I’m walking forward on the path. So it was a beautiful experience to work with him for the first time,” the actor said.
Ravi was the only one working for the first time with Ratnam as the cast is filled with the director’s past collaborators — Vikram, Karthi, Trisha Krishnan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
But the actor said he never felt like “an outsider”.
“Mani sir never makes you feel like an outsider. And while working on this movie, I met some of the sweetest people of my life. I’ve worked with Trisha before, and Vikram is like my brother. Karthi and I have become brothers now. That’s the bond we have,” he added.
An actor always loves a challenge and for Ravi, he is glad that it came in the form of “Ponniyin Selvan”.
“A historical film is one of the biggest challenges. You have no sense of how people lived and behaved in the past. And then you have CGI and you have to act as if you are seeing something wonderful and great in the frame.
“So I love challenges and this is the best challenge I ever got,” the actor said.
“Ponniyin Selvan” is backed by Ratnam’s production house Madras Talkies and Allirajah Subaskaran’s banner Lyca Productions. Music maestro AR Rahman has given the music with cinematography by Ravi Varman. The film has been released in five languages — Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi.