Tamil superstar Rajinikanth has disclosed that a reply by late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa to a reader of a publication is what got him interested in reading the Tamil classic, Kalki’s ‘Ponniyin Selvan’, which has now been made into a film by director Mani Ratnam.
Participating in the audio and trailer launch function of ‘Ponniyin Selvan: 1’, which was held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium on Tuesday night, Rajinikanth said: “‘Ponniyin Selvan’ has three heroes. The first is the late writer Kalki. The next is producer Subashkaran and the third is Mani Ratnam.
“Written 70 years ago, the epic novel was so popular that when it was published in small parts by a fortnightly vernacular magazine over a period of five years, people would wait for the magazine to hit stands to get their copies to follow the story. The demand for the magazine was on par with the demand for tickets for a hit film. Such was the impact of the novel.”
The actor then went on to disclose how he got into reading the novel.
“I read a lot of books. But I have a habit of asking how many pages a book contains. If they say the book is around 250-300 pages, I read it. So, when people told me about ‘Ponniyin Selvan’, I asked them about the size of the book. ‘What pages? It is a collection of five volumes, running into over 2,000 pages’, they said. I was shocked and said this was not for me,” he said, evoking laughter from the audience.
“However, back in those days, a popular vernacular magazine had a question and answer segment titled ‘Government answers’. In this section, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa would answer questions by the people. In one such edition, a reader had asked the late Chief Minister who she thought would be the best person to play the character of Vanthiyathevan in Kalki’s classic, ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ if it were made into a film.
“Jayalalithaa had replied, ‘Rajinikanth’. When I learnt this I was overjoyed. I wanted to know what this novel was about and asked for it to be brought to me. I began reading it. As I began to read more and more, I was overawed. By the time I finished, if the late writer Kalki had been alive, I would have gone to his place and prostrated before him for writing such a brilliant novel,” the actor said to a thunderous applause from the audience.