Friday, June 13, 2014
It took R. (Kalki) Krishnamurthy nearly three-and-a-half years to write it. It originally appeared as a serial in Kalki, the magazine that Krishnamurthy was the editor of. The first instalment was published in November 1950; with that, the popularity of the magazine went up. Readers waited eagerly for the next issue and the print run of the magazine needed to be increased, going on to touch 75,000 soon. Family members scrapped with each other to be the first to read the weekly and over about 200 weeks, the story of Arulmozhivarman, later Raja Raja Chozhan. Mixing fact and imagination, Ponniyin Selvan was a masterpiece, establishing historic fiction as a genre in Tamizh.
To celebrate the golden jubilee of the work, Magic Lantern came up with a stage adaptation of the epic. It had a hugely successful run, but it was limited - by design. For Magic Lantern, it was an ambitious production and one they carried off successfully. It was therefore only natural that when SS International Live wanted to create a landmark event, they turned to Ponniyin Selvan, and of course, to Magic Lantern.
It was an enthralling drama. Compressing 2,400 pages of the work into a near-4-hour show is not easy and there were enough in the audience feeling bad that many incidents had been left out. But for someone who has not yet read the work (yes, English translations are available), it was a grand introduction to a story so much part of the popular lore that it is treated as history itself!