Welcome to the end of our first all Bahubali week! But not our last, I am only about an hour into the film, so these posts will be continuing for a while. But I hope to manage to watch something else over the weekend, so I can give us a little bit of variety! Even the most delicious meal can pale, if it is all you eat. (detailed summary part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, and fanfic scenes I want to add here)
I kind of ended in the middle of a section on the last post. Prabhas is traveling around the kingdom before his coronation, and ends up in the idyllic Kuntala kingdom, where he falls in love with princess Anushka, who is not only a beautiful princess, but also a great warrior. He and Kattappa are living in the kitchen of the palace and pretending to be a simple couple of peasants who the royal family has taken in to train as warriors. Anushka sees through his charade and is trying to challenge him in order to prove that he is the skilled fighter she thinks he is. Her latest challenge, hand to hand combat with a bull, goes wrong when Prabhas lets himself be hit, injuring his shoulder. Now he is using the shoulder injury to gain sympathy from Anushka. She still doesn’t trust him, but she is enjoying the game.
Kattappa has just managed to knock Prabhas so that he can fall over on his sick bed onto Anushka. Anushka caught him, and held him a moment too long and let her face brush his hair. And then caught herself and settled him back on the bed with a brusk order that his cushions be re-arranged so he wouldn’t fall over again. But Prabhas hides a smile, because he knows she has revealed her feelings. Kattappa immediately goes into a new act, saying that his poor injured nephew, injured by the cruel princess’ orders, now cannot even sleep, if only someone would sing him a lullaby? Anushka doesn’t respond, so Kattappa begins singing a terrible lullaby, in a cracked voice, while drumming on a pot, and Prabhas just lays on the bed and smiles.
Anushka leaves the room and is immediately caught up by her sister-in-law who reminds her that it is time for the “full moon ceremony”, and that she has to change out of her hunting clothes. And we cut right to the actual ceremony, women singing to Ram. Such tight construction! This song only makes sense if we know it is happening right after the last scene. But Rajamouli was worried we wouldn’t know that since Anushka is in a different outfit, so he put in a tiny line of dialogue to bridge the two scenes.
This is such a pretty song! I don’t think there is another song in either of the two films that is quite like it. I mean, you could say that about a lot of the songs. But they do fall into rough categories. Love songs, fantasy songs, “Bahubali is awesome” songs. This is the only full on elaborate dance song we get, with the swirling skirts and multiple women’s voices and so on. It has a meta-meaning as well. This is a “traditional” style film song, the kind we are used to from hundreds of films over the past several decades. Because this moment of falling in love is removed from the epic storyline and the battle scenes and all the rest of it. It is just a woman in love singing and dancing about her man, like Kareena in “Bole Chudiyan” or Madhubala in “Mohe Phanghat Pe” or dozens of other examples that come out every year. Prabhas and Anushka’s love story, and how she feels about him, it’s just the same as any other couple in love. Which is what makes it magical, because any couple just realizing they are in love is magic.
(This is not the kind of song I am talking about. I want it for the lyrics, “But of all these miracles, a girl in love is bigger”)
Oh, and this is also the part that I really saw what Moimeme pointed out in the comments of Rajamouli’s affection for Prabhas shining through in the eye of his camera. While Anushka is singing, we cut back to Prabhas listening, and he is framed like a classical painting, graceful still postures, perfectly placed to create pleasing lines with the objects surrounding him. It’s not sexual, it’s more kind of worshipful, although not quite that either. It’s just love, I guess, pure love.
Oh, and it also calls to mind images of Krishna and other gods, the crossed legs and crooked arms. Which is the explicit message of the song, Anushka singing to Ram, who is really Prabhas. She throws flowers on his statue, and flowers fall on Prabhas listening in the distance. She blows smoke, and fire flies towards Prabhas. And in the middle of the song, she loses track for a moment and sings a few lines of apology for letting him be injured by a bull, a moment when her sister-in-law and attendants clearly sense what she really means. And laugh at her a little. And Prabhas, listening, understands too and smiles.
(This kind of pose. Not this exactly, and I know this is Krishna not Ram, but the same kind of grace and poise)
Again, all the “magic” of these scene does not feel like it is because Prabhas is the super-king or anything like that. To me, it seems like it comes from Anushka’s pure love and pure heart. And not her “super princess purity” either. Just because she is a young girl in love, and any young girl in the first flush of love, singing to her lover and to her God, would cause these same magical moments of flowers falling and so on. It’s important that we have this song in this way, so we can fully appreciate what comes after. That Prabhas and Anushka’s relationship, once all the games and the amazing arrow skills and all the rest of it has been taken away, it’s not “epic”, it’s just too innocent young people in love. Something precious and fragile that is also the most important thing in the world. And not something that all the amazing sword skills or kingly power in the world can make happen, it has to come about naturally and from the heart, like it is for Anushka here.
Oh, and her attendants and sister-in-law are treating it that way as well. They now know she is in love, and in love with a simple peasant boy. Or one who is to all appearances a simple peasant boy. And their response is to smile in appreciation and happiness at her love. Because it doesn’t matter who it is, the fact of her heart waking up is a wonderful thing that should be appreciated and respected.
All of this is so important before we get into the next section, so that we can feel how “wrong” it is. In all kinds of ways.
Back in Mahishmati, Rana and his gang are hanging out on that same pavilion. Even before the dialogue starts, it feels wrong, because they are high up, away from the city, with tones of yellow and red and brown and nothing else. While back in Kuntala where we have spent so much time, it is all blue and green and pink. Oh, and also male and female, where as Rana and his group are all male. Before the scene even starts, we have already had a shock of “wait, this doesn’t feel so good!”
Okay, we went back and forth in the comments as to whether Rana fell in love with Anushka for herself, or just because he learned Prabhas already loved her. So I was watching closely this time, and it is definitely a combination. His spy is reciting his report, that Prabhas and Kattappa are in the Kuntala kingdom, and Prabhas has fallen in love with their princess. And then, as a kind of visual aid, he offers one of those incredibly accurate portraits of Anushka. Rana takes the portrait, just for background info, but when he opens it, the music goes “Boom boom, ba-da-da-da” and there is a slow zoom in on his face. So he clearly is having a reaction to it.
But it’s not a good reaction. The music isn’t going “be-de-de-diddle-diddle”, all romantic and stuff. It’s heavier, almost angrier. Yes, he is immediately captivated by Anushka, but the flavor of his love (or would we even call it love?) is more possessive and obsessive than anything else. And this is extra terrifying, because we just saw the delicate beginning of Anushka’s feelings for Prabhas, the magic of that, and now Rana is coming in all “boom boom” to smash it.
(It’s not this song, I don’t think, but his “love theme” has the same angry aggressive sound to it)
What I found really fascinating on a second watch is how Anushka inspires Rana. This is a clear dividing line in his character. Before, he was jealous of Prabhas and angry at his mother. But he wasn’t willing or able to do anything about it. He just let it go and let it go and let it go, and didn’t act. But now, with the sudden shock of seeing Anushka’s face, he is jolted into gear. From now on, we see a different Rana, no longer sitting back and waiting, but making things happen, going after what he wants, actively rebelling. Anushka is the catalyst not just for Prabhas, but for Rana too.
And then the next scene is really really interesting! Rana arranges for his friends to speak for him, while he stays modestly silent. Word comes to Ramya that something might be wrong, she goes to see him. His friend says that he is “unbalanced” in one corner, and then points to a curtain. Ramya orders the curtain pulled, revealing a massive blow up portrait of Anushka based on the smaller portrait Rana was shown in the previous scene (I am thinking there is some kind of grid system that would let them work so fast? If you broke the smaller portrait down to a grid, and then used a larger grid on the full size portrait, and put the exact same things inside each square, and had unlimited portrait painters at your command, you could totally make a massive oil painting over night!). At which point one of his friends reveals that Rana has fallen in love. Ramya asks him directly if this is true, and he admits it. And then she offers to get this woman for him, and one of his friends speaks up saying that “A woman is not a toy you can simply buy for your son”. At which point Ramya proudly declares that her son can have anything he desires, and offers her hand in promise that Anushka will be Rana’s bride.
Okay, in my last section I kept telling you “remember! Remember!” all the time when Prabhas was kind of standing back and letting Kattappa take the lead. Prabhas is clearly enjoying this, being able to control events without being the center of them. And he is skilled in manipulating those around him to make things happen without needing to say it himself.
And Rana is doing the same thing!!! But, EVIL. Rana is manipulating people because he wants them to be complicit in what he wants, to make them feel like they are at fault, like they are committed. Prabhas is manipulating things because he wants them to feel like they are NOT at fault. Kattappa is such a figure of fun, it is easy to ignore and laugh at him, if you so choose. So is Subbaraju. Prabhas is trying to avoid speaking for himself, because that would put too much pressure on people. He wants them to be free. While Rana is trapping them.
They are such yin and yang characters! Both fall in love with Anushka, both feel that their best chance of winning her is to hide behind others, both kind of enjoy the experience of pretending, and letting others take the lead. But Rana does it because of his “doom-doom-doom” music kind of obsession and attitude, while Prabhas does it because of his “tinkle tinkle” music kind of love. And that carries through to how the rest of the courtship plays out, Rana with manipulation and control and power, Prabhas with light-hearted trickery and freedom.
(Every time I write “tinkle tinkle”, this song starts in my head. Also, it is a kind of good example of that lighter sort of love theme)
The general message of this sequence is Rana standing back and manipulating. As he will do through out the film, there are only a few very significant moments where he truly reveals what he is thinking. But it also tells us a bit about Ramya, and a bit about what is and is not acceptable in society.
Rana knows that the best way to get Ramya to commit is not by asking her directly, but rather by telling her she CAN’T do it. She is so used to fighting and dominating, that she immediately gets excited by the idea of overcoming yet another obstacle. And so he expertly manipulates her through her resistance to manipulation.
And finally one small thing, notice part of the way Ramya is being manipulated is that one of Rama’s chamchas says “A woman is not a toy you can simply give to your son.” Which is true, and which will be Anushka’s point many times in the future. And the fact that he is freely speaking out about it, and that Rama no doubt directed him to say this, indicates that there is a social acceptance, even in the less free world of Mahishmati compared to Kuntala, that a woman should have free choice and the ability to pick her own husband. What Ramya is about to do with Anushka is just not acceptable, by any standard. And she would not do it unless she had be carefully herded there, they knew the objection had to be addressed before Ramya would agree. If someone else hadn’t said it, they ran the risk that she would say it herself. That, in fact, she would agree with Anushka’s future argument, a woman has a right to say “no”.