CHENNAI: Who would be successful in adapting the sprawling 1955 Tamil novel "Ponniyin Selvan" to screen? It was a competition and Mani Ratnam won, says veteran star Kamal Haasan.
Ahead of the much discussed film's release later this month, Rajinikanth was also full of praise for the acclaimed director who he described as a perfectionist.
"I thought that a film like 'Ponniyin Selvan' will be made either by me or him. There was a competition among us in making this film," Haasan said.
Haasan said he had "tried" to make the film but Ratnam's determination paid off.
"He tried continuously and won. In the list of his successful films, this will be a very significant movie," he added.
Both stars were speaking at the lavish trailer and audio launch of "Ponniyin Selvan - 1", the first part of the epic period action movie, on Tuesday evening.
Those in attendance included composer A R Rahman and the cast, including Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jayam Ravi, Vikram and Karthi.
According to Rajinikanth, the upcoming historical drama feature has three heroes -- the novel's author Kalki Krishnamurthy, director Ratnam and producer A Subaskaran.
"Ponniyin Selvan - 1" chronicles the story of the early days of Arulmozhivarman, a powerful king of the south who went on to become the great Chola emperor Rajaraja Chola I.
Considered by many to be the greatest novel ever written in Tamil literature, many stalwarts had planned to adapt the five-volume "Ponniyin Selvan" for the screen.
These included the late iconic actor and former Tamil Nadu chief minister M G Ramachandran but things never materialised.
Until now.Ratnam, who has described the film as his passion project, is credited as co-writer on the screenplay along with Elango Kumaravel, while B Jeyamohan has penned the dialogues.]
Rajinikanth said he had a tough time working with the filmmaker on the 1991 Tamil film "Thalapathi".
"I used to have stock expressions for emotions like surprise, suspicion and so on. But he will not be satisfied with these. There used to be 10-12 takes in a single shot. He used to demand a 'feel' and 'more feel'. I used to wonder what this 'feel' was all about."
"I spoke to Kamal Haasan on the challenges involved in working with Mani Ratnam and he gave me an idea. He advised me to request Mani Ratnam to give a model performance. Haasan told me to just emulate Mani Ratnam during the shoot. I did that," he added.
Rajinikanth said he started reading the novel when the late former chief minister J Jayalalithaa said he would be the right choice to play Vanthiyathevan, a key character in "Ponniyin Selvan".
Actor Karthi plays Vanthiyathevan in "Ponniyin Selvan - 1".
When Ratnam announced the film in 2019, Rajinikanth said he requested him to let him have a special appearance as Periya Pazhavettayar.
R Sarathkumar eventually essayed the character who is described as the chancellor and treasurer of the Chola kingdom.
"Mani Ratnam asked me 'Do you want me to draw flak from your fans? I do not want to use you in this role'," Rajinikanth said.
According to Rahman, who has frequently collaborated with Ratnam, the film represents "our tradition and culture".
Rai Bachchan, who has collaborated with Ratnam for the fourth time with "Ponniyin Selvan - 1", described the film as a project to her heart and said, "It is an absolute honour and privilege for me to work with Mani Ratnam once again.
" Karthi said the characters portrayed in the film are a mix of reality and fiction.
All such roles are challenging and these have been wonderfully intertwined, he added.
Produced by Madras Talkies and Lyca Productions, "Ponniyin Selvan - 1" is slated to hit the screens on September 30 in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.