‘Ponniyin Selvan: II’ Review: Come for the Epic, Stay for the Twisted Love Story

Aishwarya Rai and Vikram take center stage in the second part of the Mani Ratnam magnum opus about the Chola dynasty.

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Aishwarya Rai as Nandini in Ponniyin Selvan II

Dilani Rabindran


April 28, 2023


6 min

As fresh-faced teens, their love was innocent and pure. As unhappy adults, hardened by their choices and twisted fates, Aditha Karikalan (Vikram) and Nandini (Aishwarya Rai), remain under one another’s spell, whether they admit it or not. He is one of the tigers of the Chola kingdom that she seeks to destroy; he describes her as a snake that coils around men’s hearts. In an intense confrontation, as the two stand with their lips just inches away from one another’s, they are poised to either passionately embrace or end the other one’s life. 

Ponniyin Selvan: II, the sequel to Ponniyin Selvan: I (2022), wraps up filmmaker Mani Ratnam’s ambitious undertaking of the five-part Tamil historical fiction series that Kalki Krishnamurthy wrote in the 1950s. The canvas is so vast that many filmmakers have tried, but failed, to bring the long-overdue epic to the screen. Tamil cinema’s finest actors reprise their roles as audiences dive into the sumptuous story of how Arunmozhi Varman (Jayam Ravi) becomes the real-life Raja Raja Chola I, or “King of Kings” — who expanded the Chola empire’s influence as far as Southeast and East Asia and built the great Rajarajeshwara Temple in Thanjavur. 

While the saga of the Chola dynasty is one of politics, war, and family, the epic conclusion to Ratnam’s two-part magnum opus reminds audiences that it is primarily a tragic love story between two tormented characters and that the central figure is Nandini. It is this vengeance and yearning that makes Ponniyin Selvan: II so thrilling.

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