After making several films with contemporary themes but with elements of history or mythology, director Mani Ratnam is now set to embark on an ambitious venture of converting Kalki's epic novel ‘Ponniyin Selvan' into a film.

Sources involved in the project said it would be a big-budget film requiring over Rs. 200 crore and Kalanidhi Maran's Sun Pictures is likely to be the producer although the agreement is yet to be finalised.

Mr. Mani Ratnam is planning a full-fledged adaptation of the novel, instead of culling out a few episodes from the narrative. Industry sources say the director has roped in noted Tamil writer Jayamohan to pen the dialogues for the film.

Ponniyin Selvan, a fictionalised account of Chola King Raja Raja I, was serialised in the Tamil weekly ‘Kalki' by celebrated writer R. Krishnamurthy.

Later, the novel was published in five volumes.

A highly popular novel known for its colourful characters such as Vanthiyathevan, Alwarkadiyan, Pazhuvettaraiyar brothers and Nandini, the story has captivated generations of readers for the last six decades.

Though the title Ponniyin Selvan is a reference to the Chola prince Arulmozhi Varman who was later known as Raja Raja I, the novel depicts a cross-section of medieval Tamil society spread over Thondai Mandalam in the north, Chola Mandalam in the Cauvery delta region and Pandi Mandalam in the south, besides one impressive volume set in Sri Lanka.

Making the film has been the dream of many a director, even actor Kamal Haasan, as bringing to life the rich tapestry of characters, episodes and locales from 10th century presents a huge challenge. The events dealt with in the story are set in the years 940-970 AD, just before the heyday of the later Cholas. Its characters included ambitious kings, brave warriors, enigmatic women, wily spies and committed political assassins.