SPOILER AHEAD FOR PS1 and PS2.
The first part of Ponniyin Selvan 1 ended with a major cliffhanger. As Arulmozhi Varman (Jayam Ravi) fights with Pandyas to save Vallavarayan Vanthiyathevan (Karthi), the ship sinks drowning both our heroes. However, it is obvious that the titular character, Ponniyin Selvan, will be saved at the end of the day. So, the cliffhanger was not about whether or not Raja Raja Chola made it out alive, it was about the person who jumps into the sea to rescue him.
People who haven’t read the book were intrigued to find an older version of Aishwarya Rai. Even before the climax scene, the character saves the young prince and Vallavarayan from the Pandyas by making a heroic entrance on an elephant. Later, Arulmozhi reveals that she is called Oomai Rani, who has been his guardian angel since his childhood.
The myth behind the name Ponniyin Selvan
Even the reason behind the name “Pooniyin Selvan” has to do with Oomai Rani. During Arulmozhi Varman’s childhood, when the royal family sails through the river Cauvery, the prince falls into the river and gets rescued by an unknown female figure. People start believing that it’s the river Ponni (another name for Cauvery) herself who has saved the little prince. Hence, he gets the name Ponniyin Selvan (The Son of Ponni). However, later through the accounts of Arulmozhi and Sundara Cholan, it is revealed that the unknown woman was Oomai Rani.
Book vs film
In the book, Oomai Rani’s character development goes on for a few chapters, which has been shortened in the film to just two scenes. After Vallavarayan Vanthiyathevan and Alwaarkadiyan meet Arulmozhi Varman, the trio roams around Sri Lanka exploring the country. Oomai saves them from a falling building and another fatal accident during the time. Later, it is revealed to the readers that they were all assassination plots of Pandyas. Arumozhi reveals that Oomai has saved him from similar dangers in the past.
The haunting secret of Sundara Cholan
Back in Thanjavur, Sundara Cholan finally reveals a secret to his daughter Kundhavai – the secret that has been killing him from within for all these years. Sundara says that he was in love with a beautiful woman in Sri Lanka named Mandakini. The two live happily together on a small island, but when the burden of running the kingdom comes his way, Sundara leaves her behind with the promise that he would return. But he doesn’t keep his promise. Sundara laments to Kundhavai that the sins of his past are the reason for the forthcoming downfall of the kingdom. He also reveals that the ghost of Mandakini keeps haunting him in his dreams – a significant reason for his deteriorating health.
It doesn’t take an expert to connect the dots that Mandakini Devi is Oomai Rani. However, the reason behind her fondness for Arulmozhi Varman and her resemblance with Pazhuvu Ilayarani Nandini is one of the many twists in the book. Read on only if you want to know the biggest spoiler of Ponniyin Selvan.
Heavy spoilers ahead
It is easy to guess that Nandini is the daughter of Mandakini Devi as they both look similar. But why does she adore Arulmozhi Varman and save him from all the troubles surrounding him? It’s because she ‘thinks’ Ponniyin Selvan is her son! Mandakini Devi gives birth to two babies. One is Nandini Devi. The other baby, a boy, remains a mystery. While she thinks Arulmozhi is the boy, it is revealed that the other baby is Madhuranthakan (Rahman)! He is the prince who wants to succeed Sundara Cholar on the throne. The similarities between Nandini and Madhuranthakan are hinted at in the book, but not in the film. All said and done, the father of the two children also makes up for another interesting plot twist. At least, let some mystery be before the release of Ponniyin Selvan 2 in 2023.