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Haven't read the book Ponniyin Selvan? Here's a quick glimpse at the premise of Mani Ratnam's film

Mani Ratnam's magnum opus is an adaptation of Kalki's eponymous work

Haven't read the book Ponniyin Selvan? Here's a quick glimpse at the premise of Mani Ratnam's film

A poster of Ponniyin Selvan

  • P Sangeetha

Last Updated: 03.54 PM, Sep 29, 2022


Kalki Krishnamoorthy's Ponniyin Selvan is one of the most celebrated works in Tamil literature. The five-part novel, which was penned during the '50s, continues to be one of the most read books among Tamil speakers. The plot revolves around one of the most powerful dynasties in the south - the Cholas. It is set in the 10th century and is named after the titular character Ponniyin Selvan (Arulmozhi Varman played by Jayam Ravi). The writer has also infused many fictional elements into the book. 

Ponniyin Selvan, the book, begins with the Chola Crown Prince Aditha Karikalan sending  messages to his family through his friend and spy, Vallavarayan Vanthiyathevan who hails from the Bana dynasty. Meanwhile, a long-tailed comet appears in the sky, indicating that royal blood will spill. Valiant King Sundara Chola (Prakash Raj) is now bedridden due to deteriorating health and is in Thanjavur, one of the capitals of Cholas. Everyone believes that he will die according to the prophecy. Soon a battle for succession begins. While Aditha Karikalan is the Crown Prince, his younger brother Arulmozhi Varman is the crowd favourite. When the book begins, Aditha Karikalan is far away from Thanjavur and Arulmozhi Varman is fighting a battle in Ilangai (Sri Lanka).

Trouble brews in the Thanjavur palace as Periya Pazhuvettarayar (Sarathkumar) and Chinna Pazhuvettarayar (Parthiban) attempt a coup to make Madhuranthagan (Rahman), Sundara Chola's cousin as the next king. The trouble is not over yet as the Chola kingdom faces yet another threat from their arch rivals- the Pandyas. Their king, Veera Pandiyan (Nassar), was beheaded by Aditha Karikalan, and they have sworn to avenge his death by offering the Chola blood to Goddess Kottravai.

Amid all this, yet another person plotting the downfall of Aditha Karikalan and the other Cholas is Nandini, who is married to a much older Periya Pazhuvettarayar. However, her reasons are different from that of the Pazhuvettarayar brothers. She is a woman of astounding beauty and has a mysterious origin. Ilaiya Piratti Kundavai, who is also known for her beauty and intellect, and Nandini cannot see eye to eye. Kundavai, who is a mentor to her younger brother Arulmozhi Varman, believes that he will make a good emperor. Though Arulmozhi Varman eventually goes on to become one of the most powerful kings of the Chola dynasty and gets the name Raja Raja Chola I, the throne doesn't come easy to him.

Some of the other important characters in the novel are Azhwarkadiyan Nambi (a Vaishnavite Chola spy played by Jayaram), Poonguzhali (boatwoman also known as Samuthirakumari essayed by Aishwarya Lekshmi), Vaanathi (Kodumbalur princess played by Shobita Dhulipala), Senthan Amudhan (a flower seller played by Ashwin Kakumanu), Parthibendra Pallavan (a friend of Aditha Karikalan essayed by Vikram Prabhu), Ravidasan (the antagonist from the Pandya dynasty played by Kishore) to name a few.