Opulent sets, mesmerising locations, rich costume, imposing cast … Ponnar Shankar's (U) positives are many. Yet they don't negate the loopholes in the line. Prashanth returns after a hiatus and proves that he is fighting fit and all set for another innings. His agility in stunts is appreciable and CG enhances the impact. Incidentally, Prashanth is also in charge of the special effects department of Ponnar Shankar. Interesting work!

Kalaignar's dialogue is a pleasant surprise — preference for chaste words has given way to the colloquial. If you can forget the one line where Ponnar suddenly switches over to a formal tongue (!), only Kali Mannan (Napoleon) and the Chola King (Prabhu) speak high-flown Tamil. Poetic interludes and alliterations lose out to natural utterances, and this makes quite an impact.

Another factor in Ponnar Shankar's favour is its tautness. It is so crisply scissored that it doesn't hang back at any point. But in the bargain, vital emotions and continuity are a casualty. The parents are killed but you don't see any of the three children grieving! Thamarai (Kushboo) is in love with Nellaiyan Kondan (Jayaram) but initially when the festivities for her wedding with Mandhiyappan (Prakash Raj) are on in full swing, she looks quite happy! You see no rationale in Periyamalai Gounder's (Vijayakumar) volte-face. His animus towards his daughter and her children isn't substantiated with any worthy reason. Hence the character irritates. Another vague role is Napoleon's. A ruler being as dim-witted as Kali Mannan is just unbelievable.

Underplay is fine, but Prashanth shows no reactions at all in the initial stages except the smirk he sports constantly! It is in the war zone that the actor is allowed to be expressive. And you don't find any distinguishing trait in the two Prashanths. So you aren't quite sure about the identity of the twins. Strangely, their brides have no problem on that score! Divya Parameswaran's homely face that has impressed viewers in many a commercial is one of the heroines. A solid debut for the slim, svelte and cheerful-looking actor! Pooja Chopra is the other leading lady. She's attractive too, but expressions need some honing. Rajkiran proves a right choice for the role of Rakki Annan — courage, conviction, sadness or joy, the actor scores with his spontaneity. A grand entry for Nasser, who helps take the story forward. But opportunities for performance are less. And what does his reference to Erode indicate? Isn't it anachronistic?

Ponnar Shankar has an array of seasoned performers parading on screen. But the logic of using actors of the calibre of Prabhu, Seetha, Sukumari and Delhi Ganesh for a single-scene appearance is baffling.

Ilaiyaraja rules in re-recording and the simple melody of the ‘Kannai Padithaen' number rings in your ears for long.

Technically brilliant, it is clear that every frame of Ponnar Shankar has been carved with care. An award-deserving effort from art director Muthuraj! And it's a brilliant showcase of the proceedings by cinematographer Shaji Kumar.

Ponnar and Shankar are revered as demigods in the Chola belt, you are told. The tale of heroes of such stature ought to have been more forceful.

Made on a mind-boggling scale, you can watch Ponnar Shankar for its sheer grandeur. But it has not been bolstered by a powerful story which such celluloid magnificence warrants! Screenplay and direction don't help much either.

Ponnar Shankar

Genre: Historical

Director: Thyagarajan

Cast: Prashanth, Divya Parameswran, Pooja Chopra and several more

Storyline: Twins separated from their parents at birth are assigned an important task by their guru and saviour …

Bottomline: Grandeur all the way … but a stronger story would have helped more.