With just a few days to go for Ponniyin Selvan - 2 (PS2), there is much excitement among fans to see how the tangled histories that Kalki Krishnamurthy wrote in his historical fiction series about the Cholas will be adapted to film. In the first part, Ponniyin Selvan - 1, director Mani Ratnam devoted most of his attention to world-building and establishing the relationships between various characters. The AR Rahman musical ended with the shipwreck at the end of the second book in the series, Whirlwind, and Sundara Chola (Prakash Raj), the emperor and patriarch receiving news that the prince Arunmozhi (Jayam Ravi) has died at sea.
Before this, a comet appears in the sky and this is read as a sign that there will soon be a death in the royal family. Sundara Chola has been ill for a long time and a tussle for power ensues with the appearance of the comet. His three children – crown prince Aditha Karikalan (Vikram), princess Kundavai (Trisha) and prince Arunmozhi Varman – have to navigate palace intrigue and face a formidable villain in the beauteous Pazhuvur Rani Nandini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). Once the beloved of Aditha Karikalan, she is now married to Periya Pazhuvettarayar (Sarath Kumar), the chancellor and treasurer of the Chola kingdom. Nandini’s origins are mysterious and even more intriguing is the detail that she looks exactly like the mysterious woman on an elephant whom we see at the end of PS-1. Here are some of the big questions that PS-2 will look to answer. Spoiler alert:
Who is the Oomai Arasi or Oomai Rani and what is her link with the Cholas?
The last visual from PS- 1 is that of the Oomai Arasi swimming in the sea, possibly in search of Arunmozhi who drowned following a battle with the Pandyas and a shipwreck. Earlier in the film, Arunmozhi reveals that she had saved him when he was a young boy and had fallen into the Ponni river. At the time, everyone believed that the river goddess herself had risen from the water and saved the young prince. He was thus given the name ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ which means ‘Son of Ponni’ or ‘Ponni’s darling’.
But Arunmozhi recognises her face when he encounters her again in Sri Lanka, where he has gone to wage war. He becomes curious and tries to find out more about her. He discovers that she is a mute woman, and that her face closely resembles someone the entire Chola family knows – Nandini. Could she be Nandini’s mother? If so, who is Nandini’s father? While Nandini has no love lost for the Cholas, the Oomai Arasi seems to be on their side. This leads Arunmozhi to wonder if there is a connection between the Oomai Arasi and his father, Sundara Chola. The trailer shows the Oomai Arasi meeting the emperor.
Is Arunmozhi Varman dead?
Despite the cliffhanger ending of the first film, it’s well known that Arunmozhi was later known as Raja Raja I, the greatest king of the Chola dynasty. Also, the PS-2 trailer shows Arunmozhi in action, so it’s no spoiler to say the prince is alive and well. It was under Raja Raja I that the Chola empire rapidly expanded its territory, conquering parts of Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The mighty Thanjavur temple, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was also built by Raja Raja I.
Why does Nandini hate Aditha Karikalan and the Chola clan so much?
Nandini was adopted by a priest’s family (which is why Vaishnavite spy Azhwarkadiyan says she’s his foster sister) and brought up in the Chola palace. This is where she met Aditha Karikalan, Kundavai and Arulmozhi Varman. When Karikalan and Nandini grew close, the Chola family sent Nandini away. As we were shown in PS-1, Karikalan finds her many years later, when hunting down the Pandya King Veerapandiyan, whom he beheads when he discovers has Nandini by his side. Later, Nandini marries Periya Pazhuvettarayar in a bid to gain influence in the Chola kingdom.
If the Oomai Arasi is Nandini's mother, who is the father?
Considering they’re the splitting image of one another, the Oomai Arasi and Nandini are clearly related in some way. If the Oomai Arasi is the mother, who is Nandini’s father? The novel presents three possibilities – Sundara Chola, Veerapandiyan or Karuthiruman. If Sundara Chola was her father, that makes Nandini a half-sister to the Chola siblings. If Veerapandiyan was her father, then her relationship with him is incestuous (he also fathers her child). Karuthiruman is shown as the boatman who takes the Pandyas to Sri Lanka to capture Arunmozhi Varman. In the novel, he’s locked up in a dungeon for being a Pandya aide and referred to as a “madman”.
The truth about Nandini’s real father is left ambiguous in the novel, but most fans would agree that it is Veerapandiyan.
Does Nandini kill Aditha Karikalan?
The trailer shows Nandini pointing a sword at Aditha Karikalan. The crown prince’s assassination is a matter of historical fact, but there are various theories about why and how Aditha Karikalan was killed. In the novel, Kalki leaves this as an unsolved mystery. It remains to be seen what Ratnam does with the ambiguity.
Why does Madurantakan/Uttama Chola side with the Pandyas?
Madurantakan is Nandini’s twin brother who was raised as King Gandaraditya and Queen Sembiyan Madevi’s son. In the novel, the connection between Nandini and Madurantakan is made obvious by their close physical resemblance (Madurantakan is often mistaken for Nandini). In the film, Madurantakan travels in Nandini’s palanquin as in the book, but the two actors – Rahman and Aishwarya – don’t resemble one other.
Who is the boy who is hailed by the Pandyas?
Though the identity of Nandini's father is a secret, there is no doubt that she becomes Veerapandiyan's lover. There is ambiguity in the novel about the parentage of the son - if he belongs to Nandini and Veerapandiyan or was born to Veerapandiyan and his queen but raised by Nandini or if he is a child who is adopted for the Pandyas to recognise a successor.
Do Kundavai and Vandiyathevan marry each other?
Vandiyathevan’s (Karthi) “Uyir ungaludayathu, Devi! (My life is yours, Queen!)” line quickly became meme material after PS - 1’s success. The romance between Karthi and Trisha was among the highlights of the film. The historical Kundavai was indeed married to Vandiyathevan, a Vana prince. He was a commander of the Chola army, and a trusted chieftain. There isn’t much information about him otherwise, and Kalki took plenty of creative liberties with the character, turning him into a picaresque hero through whose eyes we see the story of this Chola family.
Ponniyin Selvan - 2 is expected to release on April 28th.