Welcome back to Bahubali 2 complete detailed summary part 2! I’ve only seen it once in theaters, so forgive any slight errors in the order of scenes or stuff like that. Well, forgive and correct. If you mention something in the comments, I will either correct and update the post to show it, or else add a note to the beginning of part 3. (part 1 here)
The last section was literally two thousand words to cover the opening credits and song. Now we get into the real film! My theory of Indian film states that the first song marks the end of the prologue and the beginning of the film proper. Structured like that for the convenience of theater audiences, while you are waiting in line for popcorn or whatever, you can hear the song start and now it’s time to start making your way into the theater.
Right, so, song over! Plotty conversation time. The staging is a little boring here, reminded me distinctly of a similar conversation in Rudhramadevi. Royal Palace Pavilion Backdrop Type A kind of thing. But the character work is amazing.
(Rudhramadevi is really great, you should all watch it to try to cure your Bahubali hangover)
I talked about in my Bahubali 1 review how I was more interested in Rana’s journey than Prabhas 1. Because Prabhas 1 seemed already perfect, there was no where else to go. Of course, in this movie, we see all kinds of places he can go. But the promise of Rana’s backstory is more than fulfilled as well, starting with this scene.
The scene begins as a Nassar scene (ha! Finally learned his name and I can stop calling him “Rana’s Dad” or “Uncle King”). He is giving a monologue, how it is all happening again, he was wrongfully passed over for king because of his weak arm, and now his son is losing his place, because his unnatural mother has chosen instead someone who isn’t even of her own blood. And he ends by punching the stone pillar to prove how strong his remaining arm is. And finally, he suggests that the only solution is to kill Ramya.
This is a small scene, and notice the only 4 characters included in it, each representing a sickness in society. Nassar, the bitterness of old society feeling like power has been taken away. Rana’s bully boy, representing blind stupid quest for power. And the priest, representing the weakness of moral authority which has been pressured into justifying the unjustifiable. It’s the spirit, the body, and the mind of evil, all gathered together.
The most important part of the scene is Rana’s reaction. Which is no reaction. He just sits and listens. And pauses for slightly too long before simply telling Nassar that he is drunk, and he talks too much.
(It reminded me a lot of how he played his role in The Ghazi Attack)
The most powerful figure in the scene is not the one who is standing and talking, any of the three of them (Nassar has the monologue, but the priest and bully boy talk too), but the one who is sitting in judgement. And Rana is naturally taking that role among them. This is the first time we have seen Rana with his group, and it is the first time we are seeing him as a natural leader as well. Rana and Prabhas (both 1 and 2) are more similar than they are different. Both natural leaders, both naturally talented, both capable of playing the long game and holding their peace until the time is right. The difference is in the people they choose to surround themselves with. And this scene is where we finally get to start seeing that, to see the “real” Rana.
Oh, and then Kattappa arrives! Just as Nassar is sneering about him being Ramya’s dog. And he gives Nassar a great “oh snap!” response, indicating that he knows exactly how worthless Nassar is and how much he complains. He also, and this is important, reiterates again that it was NOT Nassar’s physical injury which made him a bad king. It was his mental unfitness, and that same mental unfitness is why he clings to the physical deformity. I wonder if Rajamouli added that line? Because it was brushed past very quickly in Bahubali 1, and I honestly don’t think it was in the Hindi version at all. Maybe after seeing the reaction to the character in Bahubali 1, he realized he needed to really clearly explain that the physical deformity was not a sign of mental instability, rather his obsession with the physical deformity was itself the deformity. If you see what I mean.
I also find it really interesting that Kattappa feels comfortable being so snarky to Nassar in front of Rana. That he finds Rana so non-threatening. Nassar has been a nonentity for years, but Rana is his son, and is sitting right there, for Kattappa to be this disrespectful without a second thought tells us something about how he sees Rana. Either that he believes Rana is so firmly under Ramya’s thumb, on the “good” side of the palace, that he could never be a problem. Or that he thinks Rana is so much less than Prabhas that there is no threat from him that Prabhas can’t handle. But we, the audience, are just beginning to learn different. Seeing the kind of talk Rana tolerates around himself, and the way he just sits and listens to it. There is just enough of a indication of what he will become that when Kattappa comes out and snaps back, you have a little shiver down your spine and a moment of “Ah! Rana can hear you!”.
After this scene of Nassar controlling his child, we get to see a parallel of Ramya controlling hers. She is in bed, recovering from her sacrifice with the burning coals. Her maids in waiting are attending her, but Prabhas is as well, massaging her feet and caring for her as a song about mothers and sons plays. Until she recovers and their positions are reversed, Prabhas lying in her lap while she does the business of state.
It’s presented as another scene or Prabhas’ virtue, the way he cares for and loves and respects Ramya. And if we hadn’t had the entire rest of the movie, that’s all it would be. But we did have the rest of the movie, so there is a slightly different level to it.
Yes, this is a sign of Prabhas virtue. But it is also a sign of Ramya’s flaws. It is good that Prabhas wants to care for her and defer to her. But it is bad that Ramya lets him. At a certain point, she should have sent him away. She should have said “stop massaging my feet, and go meet with the nobles of the city to prepare for ruling them”. Or “sit up and listen to what we are talking about, you are going to need to make these decisions yourself soon”. Their mother and son relationship is beautiful and wonderful, but it should not affect their relationship as regent and heir to such a degree.
This context comes from the scenes that bookend their mother-son time. In a way, Rana is a better ruler in his scene with Nassar than Prabhas with Ramya. Rana listens to his parent, but he is the one in control. And the same is true when we see Rana with Ramya after her time with Prabhas. Ramya is such a great actress, by the way. I don’t know if anyone else could have played this scene. She is still Queen Mother, all dramatic and powerful like always. But she mixes in a little tinge of motherly insecurity, normal human insecurity. It’s an odd mix, not peanut butter and chocolate but more peanut butter and tuna fish. And it’s supposed to be odd, Ramya is not meant to be a mother like this, she doesn’t know how to be a mother like this. It comes so naturally with Prabhas, she can be loving and indulgent with him. But she just doesn’t feel the same way for Rana, she doesn’t know how to be like that with him. And so when he calls her on it, when he points out that she is trying to over-compensate with her gifts of elephants , Ramya is relieved. She doesn’t want to have to be a “mother”, to try to show her love to Rana. She wants to retreat to her Queen Mother persona. But, see, this is what Prabhas should be doing. Not in the exact same way of course, but he should be gently indicating to Ramya that, now she has made her decision between her sons, she needs find a way to stop mixing her Queen Mother role with her just-plain-mother role. Rana is able to see that, and to take charge of the situation and make sure it is resolved.
(I find it hilarious to imagine the conversation with that poor elephant handler “sorry, can you take them back and exchange them for, oh, I don’t know, some swans or something? I will take store credit”)
I think, maybe, Ramya’s obsession with getting Prabhas a bride is because she see and is trying to resolve their power balance as well. She wants an indication that he is an adult, that he has someone else to rely on instead of just her. And she thinks a bride will be a quick fix. By the way, can we take a moment for the amazing shot of the table covered in hundreds of picture scrolls of brides? Incredibly unrealistic picture scrolls! They even have precise borders, just like you would on a photo printed off a computer. I’ve decided that we are meant to intuit some kind of high tech printing press is available in this country, some sort of wood block thing that can make up dozens of tiny perfect images to be sent out every time there is a proposal possibility. And, obviously, the whole “table o’ brides” image is supposed to be reassuringly familiar to the audience, since it is the same way marriages are arranged now, with lots of photos from aunties all over the world, instead of tiny picture scrolls from royal messengers.
I like that Ramya is rejecting all of these brides. She knows Prabhas well enough to know that he needs something special, not just a random pretty girl. Her blind spot is very specific, that she doesn’t see the most important thing is for Prabhas to choose his own bride. She still thinks she can pick for him, she can control his life and it will all work out. It’s the same thing through out the film, she knows him so well and can give him all the right things, except what he most needs, his independence.
(Bommarillu! The whole thing is an epic version of the conflict in Bommarillu!)
And that comes up again in her next scene with Prabhas, ordering him to make a tour of the outer areas of the country while she prepares for his coronation. Prabhas doesn’t want to, he feels like it is bad timing, like he should stay in the palace. But Ramya, nicely, overrides his feelings and tells him he should go.
The thing is, Ramya isn’t wrong. And neither is Prabhas. It would be healthy for him to prepare for ruling by traveling the country and getting a sense of the bigger picture. And it would also be healthy for him to stay at the center of things and watch Ramya ruling. But what is wrong is for Ramya to decide for him what he should do. Again.
It’s a small scene, but Rajamouli made a choice to play it this way. He could have accomplished the same thing by just having Ramya tell Prabhas to travel and Prabhas agreeing. But instead he included that moment of almost conflict, Prabhas doubting her decision and then bowing to it. And Ramya holding out the treat of a bride waiting for him when he returns. Again, putting off the real problem that Prabhas needs to stop having Ramya giving him things and needs to make his own decisions.
Traveling montage!!!! With Muslims. Where did they come from? This is such an olden times Mahabharata/Ramayana kind of place. It feels odd to have a community with a specific historical reference coming in. Mohammed lived and died about 1400 years ago, an actual real person. It took about another 200 years for Islam to spread to south Asia, so suddenly we are looking at a real time period for our fairy tale movie, around 800 CE. It’s just weird! Like if an airplane had flown overhead or someone had pulled out a cell phone.
On the other hand, obviously it is nice to have an acknowledgement of the Muslim community. This is such a Hindu story, I appreciate the filmmakers acknowledging that not all of their audience are Hindu. So that’s nice I guess. But still odd!
It’s nice seeing Prabhas and Kattappa traveling around together, even in just the song portions we can already see how much happier and lighter they are now that they are outside of Mahishmati. I just got into a big conversation in the comments with avani about how this is the movie that really starts to question the “perfection” of Mahishmati. And part of that is showing how much Prabhas enjoys getting the heck out of town. And getting the heck away from Ramya. Yes, he loves her, but he is beginning to feel the need to find out who he is away from Ramya.