Ponniyin Selvan 1 was all about introducing the audience to the plethora of vivid characters that stand behind the giant walls of the fortresses and palaces, making plans to remain powerful for ages to come. One of the key players in making sure these plans are put into action is Nandini Devi, the wife of the powerful Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar. Nandini Devi did not just have qualms against the Chola Kingdom; she had a deep-rooted hatred for the men who ruled this kingdom for a very definite reason. Mani Ratnam not only managed to portray the aspect of Nandini being the most beautiful woman but her ability to use her beauty as a weapon is showcased with such an intensity that has seldom been explored in cinema. But why does Nandini carry such hatred for the Chola Kingdom?
The first movie only lets the audience know of the hatred Aditha and Nandini have for each other. This would mean these characters knew each other, as shown in very first montage of Ponniyin Selvan 2 and there was the love they shared that was snatched away from them at the peak of their relationship. Nandini remembers Aditha as the only one who killed Verapandiyan, who was her sole protector. Even though Nandini asked for mercy and begged for the life of the only man who made sure Nandini had shelter over her head, Aditha brutally killed him. Nandini never got over the fact that the man she loved killed the person who took her in as his own. He could have chosen not to kill Verapandiyan if he had truly loved Nandini. But he went ahead and killed him anyway. Aditha, on the other hand, was angered to see Nandini taking care of the man who was his kingdom’s sworn enemy. Years later, after their separation, Aditha is enraged to see Nandini in the Pandiyan camp taking care of the one man he wants to kill, and he does. Aditha’s rage towards Nandini was because of her act of serving the enemy when she should have been with him. His rage comes from the fact that he never knew why she left him. Nandini’s rage comes from the fact that she was raised by Veerapandiyan just when she was thrown out by the Cholas. There was never any closure between the two on why they separated. This led to their rage being amplified, which stems from the fact that they had shared a deep love for one another.
Ponniyin Selvan 2 was all about finding closure for what they were seeking. One is seeking the love that he lost, while the other is seeking revenge. There has been so much unsaid and unresolved between the two over the years, which only led to one becoming a revenge-seeking person while the other forgot what love meant and became a hardened warrior. In the movies, there is no indication of Nandini and Aditha ever meeting right after her marriage to the powerful Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar. Even then, she was known to be a beauty with exceptional brains. Aditha was not sure why Nandini came back to the Cholas after years of being away from them. Nandini was back for the only thing she always sought, which was revenge on not just Aditha but the Chola Kingdom that wiped out her caregiver’s kingdom. Though Nandini was sent out as an orphan, she came back to the palace as the most powerful woman in the kingdom.
Aditha, on the other hand, became the heir apparent and a battle-hardened prince who never got over the betrayal of Nandini, the love of his life. Both carry a vengeance that remains unresolved and with her marriage, there is no way the two of them will ever be on the same page. Nandini plots with her husband to support the emperor’s cousin’s claim to the throne in a bid to make him more powerful. He gathers enough support to make this a reality, and Aditha reveals that the threat to his father and the throne is real, and the leading cause behind this is Nandini herself. Nandini secretly supports the Pandiyan dynasty because she wants to erase the Chola name from history.
With Arunmozhi drowned at the sea as per their news, all the eyes of the Chola Royals lay on Nandini, who they believe is the culprit, but they cannot come up with any evidence to support their suspicions. Nandini, who has also learned to use her beauty as her weapon, manages to manipulate Aditha’s closest ally to meet with her husband to find a solution to the talk of succession and avoid a civil war in the kingdom. She is hoping this will be an excellent opportunity to get rid of him once and for all. She also knows she still has a hold on Aditha, and he would never accept an invitation from her. Aditha, knowing what the woman is capable of, goes against his best judgments and instincts; he allows himself to be drawn by the woman he dreads and loves at the same time. He is expecting to be betrayed, but at the same time, he is also longing for the love he lost years ago.
Even though Aditha had come to a solution to the succession, he was aware Nandini had other plans in mind for him. Nandini had made a foolproof plan to kill him and get out of the scene of the crime with the Pandiyan rebels. On seeing him face-to-face as a person who can see through her eyes and mind, Nandini’s motivations stumble. She is appalled to see the willingness Aditha is showing to be killed by her after all these years because he is done being who he is right now, and the pain of being away from her tortures him every day. Nandini claims to have moved on and is living off the riches that she has now. Aditha begs her to kill him. This is when Nandini’s biggest conflict arises. Will she be able to kill the man she truly loves and hates at the same time. She hated Aditha for changing her fate, but she also loved him for accepting her for who she was. With Nandini killing him with all the pain she can carry, she is dragged away by the rebels to save her from a brutal execution.
Nandini also learns from Pandiyan’s rebels that Veerapandiyan is indeed her biological father, who took her in as his way of repenting for the way he treated Mandakini. Mandakini, Nandini’s mother, was raped by Veerapandiyan. Nandini is disgusted and heartbroken to know that the man who took her in and remained a guardian figure never gathered any courage to let her know his identity. The idea of everyone around her betraying her was too much for her to take. With Aditha now dead because of her, Nandini, out of guilt and pain, kills herself by drowning. Nandini’s parentage is proof that she was a true-blue Pandiyan, which would make her a mortal enemy of Aditha’s Chola lineage. This is why they were doomed from the beginning. Aditha and Nandini were never meant to be together. Kids from the warring clans fall in love. In their scenario, they went from being in love to becoming enemies, but they never lost the love they had for each other and died because of it as well. There is Shakespearean tragedy written all over their love story. Just like Romeo and Juliet, they were never destined to be together.