Ponnar Shankar is a hollow gold cylinder. It is sturdy, attractive but empty inside. Technically, it achieves wonders but the screenplay is deeply flawed. You can just keep poking holes in it. To make a decent film out of a stupid story isn't easy. Director Thiagarajan has done just that.
| Rohit Ramachandran
Unlike the title suggests, Ponnar and Shankar aren't subjects of the film, they're objects. They have no personalities. Their acts are heroic but you have no idea what propels them to do so. Princess Thamarai (Khushboo) is ordered out of the palace by her brother (Ponnavan) for marrying a 'Naadodi' (Jayaram). Not taking to it well, she challenges that she'd be bringing up two sons who're leonine enough for him to get his daughters married to. As soon as she says that, people in the crowd cheered. They knew who were the ones being referred to.
If you haven't guessed already, she gives birth to twin boys. A false prophet states that the two children will lead to the downfall of the kingdom. Hence, The King entrusts his servant with the work of kidnapping the babies. It just so happens that the servant has twins himself. He swaps the twins and gives his own to The King; for the sake of the kingdom. Puzzled? The screenplay has too many lose ends.
The film is a mirror image of itself. A lot happens in twos. Two sisters (Yes, you guessed right) are about to be attacked by wild animals- one by a snake, another by a crocodile. Another instance has the two of them trapped with fire closing in on them. Ponnar comes and saves one of them leaving the other to be rescued by Shankar. All of this seems so acted out and rehearsed it's like one of them wants to be saved only by Ponnar while the other wants to be saved by Shankar.
Ponnar Shankar is a hollow gold cylinder. It is sturdy, attractive but empty inside. The film has no soul. The story just has things happening. It travels in a PointA-PointB-PointC fashion. There's no characterization, the events lack logic and the story is predictable despite the on piling twists, every one of which you see coming.
The all-star cast is wasted. The characters provided for the actors to embody have as much personality as that of a rag doll. The actors do their best to conceal the inferiority of the screenplay by pretending to be subtle. But the screenplay is deeply flawed. You can just keep poking holes in it.
Technically, it's a wondrous achievement- Art director Muthuraj resurrects historical extravagance, Don Max's editing fortifies the film and Shaji Kumar's cinematography is enticing.
Prashanth succeeds in the visual effects department by providing realism to the film. The director does his best at giving the film an aesthetic, authentic atmosphere. The battle scenes are the film's saviors. When I recall the film, it's the battle scenes that resonate not to the innumerable flaws. You just cannot look away.
Ilaiyaraja's contribution isn't limited to nice sounding music numbers (Kannai Padithen). His score builds the atmosphere and infuses life into the battle scenes. Without his score, the film might just lose your interest. To make a decent film out of a stupid story isn't easy. Director Thiagarajan has done just that.
Critic: Rohit Ramachandran
2.5 out of 5 (Fairly Good)
WHAT THE RATINGS MEAN:
0.0 - 1.4 : Poor
1.5 - 1.7: Poor, A Few Good Parts
1.8 - 2.3: Okay
2.4 - 2.9: Fairly Good
3.0 - 3.4: Good
3.5 - 5.0: Very Good