About Ponnar Shankar
This movie is produced by my father Thiyagarajan for
the banner Lakshmi Shanthi movies. I can confidently
say that a historical subject of this big scale has
not been attempted in Tamil cinema in the past, say
40 years. I wanted to do a historical subject and when
we were contemplating over it, we realized that a historical
movie has to have a strong, well researched script.
Nobody other than the Chief Minister would have a similar
expertise. You can call him the Beeshmacharya since
he has written on a variety of subjects including social
or historical subjects. Another advantage in acting
in his subject is that actors who have had the opportunity
to work with him have accomplished so much; for example,
the veterans MGR and Sivaji Ganesan.
I approached the CM with this thought in mind and he
was very sweet to offer the story of his Ponnar Shankar.
That is how the movie was born. Ponnar Shankar was written
in 1987 by the CM and it created history. It was serialized
in a weekly magazine for 2 years. It was a page-turner
when it was published and it even made the magazine’s
readership soar. It’s a very tough task to adapt
the story for screen. A script can be made into a movie,
but there are challenges involved in making a book into
a movie. Books tend to be descriptive and to bring it
to visuals is the biggest challenge in front of a director.
My father Thiyagarajan is the director of the movie.
I have acted in about 3 movies in his direction and
every day is a learning experience for me with him.
He comes up with innovative ideas and ways of film making.
He mixes the old technology with new technology and
that’s something I learnt from him. Ponnar Shankar
was a challenging task for him. The way he went about
doing the entire project has been mind boggling; be
it screenplay or shots or direction. It’s a great
experience working with him.
How tough was it
to select actors for the movie?
All the characters in the movie are prominent. Everybody
has equal significance. We needed to be perfect in the
casting. I believe we have hired the best artists for
every single role. In a way, we have booked the entire
industry for the movie. For example the movie has names
like Prakashraj, Napoleon, Jayaram, Kushboo, Sneha,
Vijayakumar, Nassar, Ponvannan, Lakshmi and Seetha.
We have introduced a new villain called Bharat Dabolkar.
There are two female leads in the movie Pooja Chopra
and Divya Parameshwaran.
About the action
sequences in the movie
I have grown up watching MGR and Sivaji films in television
and always dreamt of sword fighting like every child.
And then the Jackie Chan films also made me long to
put my martial arts skills to use. Ponnar Shankar has
provided me with that opportunity. There are four major
wars in the film. I had to use all the lessons I learnt
in martial arts like horse riding, sword fighting for
the movie. It wasn’t particularly useful when
I learnt them during the initial days of my career but
they helped a lot in filming the scenes for Ponnar Shankar
now. Action scenes have come out really well.
Recently we shot a war scene with 30,000 soldiers and
horses. It was a very daunting and tiring task but when
we saw the rushes we felt it was stupendous. Whoever
saw the rushes had the same opinion about it. And we
are very happy with the way these war scenes have turned
out. Something really brilliant.
About the movie’s
Maestro Ilayaraja is scoring for the movie.
Tell us about the
visual effects used in the movie
I have been best buddies with computer since my childhood
days. I wanted to become a doctor, a neurosurgeon at
that. Since neurosurgery is surgery that demands precision,
I created a stimulator in my computer to get used to
the surgical procedures before attempting it on a patient.
That is where my introduction to graphics started. All
these years, I have been doing the visual effects for
my movies. For the first time, I had my name in the
title credits for the movie Mampatiyaan. Ponnar Shankar’s
visual effects are also handled by me. You will have
to watch the movie and tell me the results.
About the double
roles for the movie
To do a double role is an interesting aspect in an actor’s
career. It provides the actor with opportunities to
showcase versatility in his acting. It was a learning
experience for me in Jeans. Jeans had romance, comedy
and sentiment while Ponnar Shankar has another aspect
namely action. It was tough to do double roles and the
action sequences together but I managed to pull it off.