Interviewer : Inian | Camera : Balaji | Text : Prathap
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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 music

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.
Tags : Prashanth, Ponnar Shankar, Thiyagarajan, Ilayaraja
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