Ponniyin Selvan I post-film scene explained: Who is the mysterious Oomai Rani and how she sets up part 2
Spoilers for Ponniyin Selvan I ahead: An explainer into how the post-film scene of the Mani Ratnam movie sets up part 2 with the reveal around the mysterious Oomai Rani.
Ponniyin Selvan: I has been released in theatres and is running quite successfully. The film has grossed over ₹230 crore worldwide in just its opening weekend, with a haul of over ₹100 crore nett from India alone. As the title suggests, the film is part one of two in Mani Ratnam’s grand adaptation of Kalki Krishnamurthy’s eponymous novel. Even as the film ends on a cliffhanger, a brief post-film (or pre-credits if you will) scene reveals the truth behind a pivotal character and sets up part 2. Also read: Ponniyin Selvan I: Why women are the true heroes of this film
First a quick recap of PS1 and the myriad of characters we met in the historical epic. The film is a fictionalised account of the early days of Chola emperor Rajaraja I aka Arulmozhi Varman aka Ponniyin Selvan (literally Ponni’s beloved). The film opens to Sundara Chola, his father in ill-health, as his two sons Arulmozhi (Jayam Ravi) and Aditya Karikalan (Vikram) are away. The emperor’s courtiers, led by Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar (Parvateshwar in the Hindi version) and his scheming wife Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) are planning a coup. They want to install the emperor’s cousin Madurantakan (Rahman) on the throne.
What does Ponniyin Selvan: I post-film scene show?
Spoilers for Ponniyin Selvan: I ahead!
Now, we enter the spoiler territory. As Arulmozhi is in Lanka, he is attacked by assassins loyal to the fallen Pandya king and saved only by a mysterious grey-haired woman atop an elephant. Our protagonist calls her Oomai Rani and reveals that she had saved him once as a kid too, when he fell into the Ponni (Kaveri) river. This incident gave birth to his legendary nickname as people believed he was saved by the Goddess Kaveri herself. In the film’s climax, Arulmozhi and Chola warrior Vallavaraiyan (Karthi) go down on a sinking ship, battling Pandya foes. As the film ends, the news of Ponniyin Selvan’s death reaches the Chola capital.
However, just after the title card of the film shows PS2, coming in 2023, we see the mysterious Oomai Rani jumping into the sea to scour for Arulmozhi in the ship’s wreckage. As the camera pans to her face, we see an aged Aishwarya Rai. For those not familiar with the novels, this may have come as a shock. But those who have read the books know that the Oomai Rani is actually Mandakini Devi, the deaf-mute queen, and Nandini’s mother.
How is Mandakini connected to Arulmozhi?
But what is Mandakini’s connection to Arulmozhi and why is she so protective of him? The answer in the backstory provided in Kalki’s five-volume novels. Now we move on to spoilers from the books, which may spoil PS2, so anyone not up for that, may want to avoid reading further.
Mandakini was in love with the emperor Sundara Chola before he was king. But they could not marry. Mandakini, in the end, did marry and had two kids--yes, not one but two. The first is Nandini, and the second is actually Madurantakan, who was switched at birth, and whom the Chola courtiers, now want to install as the emperor. Neither Mandakini, nor Madurantakan know that they are mother-son. Mandakini, in fact, believes that her son was still-born. This unfulfilled maternal protective instinct makes her care for her former lover’s son Arulmozhi.
What does this mean for Ponniyin Selvan: II?
So far, Mani Ratnam’s film has stayed largely faithful to its subject matter. So, it only makes sense if the sequel follows the plot laid down in the books as well. Mandakini will have a larger role in part 2 and the film will explain much of her tragic backstory as well, particularly her bond with the titular character. Without spoiling much of the plot, I can simply say that part 2 will have more twists and turns than part 1 has managed so far, apart from the ones listed above, and Mandakini’s past plays a vital role in it.