Part 6! And I’m still not even to intermission. Oh well, we are all having fun talking about it, so I guess it doesn’t matter. (part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, and my speculative post on all the missing scenes here)
My last section set up the love triangle. Prabhas and Anushka, in the happy Kuntala kingdom, have been playing love games with each other, but she has just sung a love song to Krishna that essentially confesses her love for Prabhas. And meanwhile, back in Mahishmati, Rana’s spy tells him of their love, and shows him a picture of Anushka, and he falls in love/lust/obsession at the sight of it. This inspires him to a terrible plan, maneuvering Ramya to promise she will marry him to Anushka. And so now we have a love triangle, Anushka and Prabhas in love, but Rana in love with her as well, and with the support of his mother.
The end of Rana and Ramya’s scene was Ramya calling for plates of gold and luxurious silks and all kinds of gifts to send to the Kuntala kingdom with her son’s proposal. And then we go straight to Kuntala, to see how these all are received. There is an overhead shot of dozens of servants holding plates of loaded with gold, huge baskets of gold sitting on the ground, all of it filling the Kuntala pavilion. The pure white flowering pavilion, dominated by the wealth of Mahishmati.
And an older bearded man from Mahishmati is reading off a proposal from Ramya for her son for Anushka. The only thing I have a hard time with in this scene is WHY WOULDN’T SHE SAY HIS NAME????? Why would you just say “my son”? Nobody talks like that! At least, nobody who has two sons. You say “my oldest son” or “my son Rana” or “my son who isn’t going to be king”. I mean, if nothing else, isn’t that important information for Anushka to have before she makes her decision on the proposal?
Although that goes back to Anushka’s point in response to the proposal. I can’t capture the dialogue, it had the kind of awkward translation in the subtitles that tells me there were a bunch of very specific insults which just don’t translate. But the essential meaning is, “I’m not going to marry some weakling who needs his mother to propose for him! Who expects to attract me by sending gold and wealth. I reject this proposal, with prejudice.” And when the messenger appeals to her brother and sister-in-law, they both respond “hey, nothing to do with us! She can say what she wants and do what she wants.”
Speaking of that brother, Apu pointed out in the comments that it is her brother who becomes the leader of the rebels. And I confirmed it by checking the cast list. So there is definitely another missing scene, of Anushka reuniting with her only living relative! But that also adds another level to this scene. First, her brother was always kind of a peaceful guy, while Anushka was the warrior. But when the situation changed, he turned into a hardened leader of a warrior band who forbade beauty and any kind of distraction. A sad sign of how the entire kingdom had changed after being conquered. Second, as we see in this scene, he knows and respects that Anushka is the stronger one. He lets her write her own response, not just because it is her right to do so, but because she can do it better than he can, she is better at these things than he is. And so, when he is leading the rebels, his main focus is rescuing her, not just because she is his beloved sister, but because she is the one who can better lead the kingdom in a battle situation.
There’s also the fact that Anushka is absolutely right in her arguments. I mean, Ramya doesn’t even tell her which son! She is supposed to agree to the proposal just because, essentially, Ramya is asking her. That’s how the proposal is structured, she gets the gold and valuables that Ramya picked out and organized, and the messenger that Ramya picked, and the message Ramya wrote. This interaction here, this is entirely between the two women, not Anushka and Rana.
In the comments, avani questioned whether “love triangle” is even the write phrase to use, since Rana’s feelings for Anushka at this point are so unclear. I argued that it is still a triangle, even if Rana doesn’t feel “love” for Anushka, he is courting her. However, now that I think about this scene again, I am thinking that it might more accurately be considered a love triangle between Prabhas, Anushka, and Ramya. Ramya is doing all the courting, and Ramya is the one that Anushka rejects, and Ramya is the one whose “love” (or whatever you would call someone who decides they want someone just based on a portrait) turns to hate.
In a larger sense, Anushka rejecting this proposal isn’t just calling into question the manner of proposing, but Ramya’s whole way of running her kingdom. She takes charge, she uses oppressive wealth and power to get what she wants. Oh, and uses some old bearded guy as her emissary, she may be a woman running the kingdom, but there are no other women involved in government. And she doesn’t let anyone else do anything, even her sons to run their own romances. In this case, it is Rana who she is trying to force a romance on to. But later, she will try to force a romance away from Prabhas. She has lost so much perspective that even this very personal decision, she still feels is something that she should decide for them.
(It’s very Amrish-Puri-in-DDLJ of Ramya. Speaking of, did you all see my new DDLJ post yesterday? Everyone’s been nagging me “do more DDLJ! Do more DDLJ!” and then I do, and it doesn’t get any views. Comment! If you want me to keep doing them, Comment!)
Oh, but, the misunderstandings!!!!! Kattappa, assuming as always that Ramya can do no wrong, leaps to the idea that Ramya meant Prabhas in her proposal. I wonder if this is something he does a lot? When Ramya does something unclear, Kattappa takes the best possible interpretation of it? In this case, her somewhat insulting and unclear proposal, is translated by Kattappa into “Ramya has sensed that this is the perfect woman for Prabhas and is trying to help!”
When Kattappa comes running to the kitchens to tell Prabhas what has happened, he describes it as “good news and bad news”, and Prabhas suggests that he tell both pieces and let Prabhas decide which is which. To Kattappa, Ramya’s presumed approval is the best possible news, and Anushka’s refusal of the formal proposal from her is the worst possible news. But Prabhas is wiser, not just about love but about power. Ramya’s proposal is meaningless, this is his choice to make and her approval, while pleasant, is not necessary to him. Anushka’s refusal of that proposal is similarly meaningless, it was not a proposal “from him”, it was from Ramya on his behalf, Anushka’s refusal was of Ramya, not him. The only thing that matters is the message this says about Anushka, that she is not interested in marriage to anyone, at least not a formal marriage with a formal proposal. Prabhas focuses on that, and has no interest in the Ramya side of things. While Kattappa does the reverse.
And then, fight scene!!! In the middle of the conversation, Prabhas suddenly freezes as though he is listening to something. And we cut to see him striding across the courtyard. Prabhas does such a great job, just the way he is walking across the courtyard in this scene, it isn’t just a change from how he moves as a “simpleton who lives in the kitchen”, it’s a change from his usual “kingly” walk too. Suddenly, he is moving like he is going to war. And the pretty Kuntala courtyard changes from a place of fun and frolic, to a battlefield.
I wonder if it is because of this change in his posture that Subbaraju reacts to him the way he does? Prabhas demands to know where Anushka’s chambers are, and Subbaraju stops him, at first in more or less his usual pompous way, and then with real authority, striking Prabhas in the chest hard enough to shove him backwards. Like Prabhas, he is falling into wartime behavior, even without realizing it.
Prabhas accepts the blow and then grabs the massive chariot sitting behind him and throws it into the air, seemingly at Subbaraju. Making the audience think for a moment that Prabhas is too petty to ignore a blow from another man who is trying to prevent him from seeing his lover. Which seems unlike him. So it is extra exciting when we see the chariot just miss Subbaraju and instead fall onto the Pindaris who have started streaming into the courtyard.
Oh, this battle sequence is so great! I won’t bother going through it scene by scene, but there are a few moments I want to point out. First, avani in the comments suggested that the Prabhas was looking for Anushka’s chamber not because he thought she was in danger as a “damsel in distress”, but because he thought the whole attack might be a reprisal for the trap she set for the Pindaris back when they first met. She is in danger as a fighter and a strategist, not as a woman. And our little glimpse of her in the chamber is great too, a classical “beautiful princess” shot of her starting away, behind a veil, hair long and loose. And then the next time we see her, instead of hiding away in her chamber, she has tied up her hair, put on her fighting clothes, and is striding around looking for the fight.
(the opposite of Kajal in Magadheera. Boy she was useless!)
Meanwhile, Kattappa has gone off to look for back-up. Remember the “kshastriya” and caste message? This sequence, which will be echoed in the end battle, is part of the reason I am not buying that it is a strictly caste based message. Kattappa has gone (presumably with Prabhas’ support and possibly at his suggestion) to ask the cowherds to help in the battle. They argue that they can’t help, they are just cowherds, and Kattappa convinces them they can. And then has them use their skills to help as they can, sending a stampede of cows with fire wrapped around their horns towards the enemy. The “kshastriya” aren’t the only ones who have use in a battle, and the only ones who can defend the kingdom, or should defend the kingdom. They just happen to have the skills needed, because they have spent their whole lives training.
There’s another Kshastriya part of this sequence, when Subbaraju is hiding in the women’s chamber, and Prabhas comes swinging in to give him a knife and tell him that he has the strength, he was able to shove Prabhas back, he just has never had a reason to use it. But he will find that reason now. And he does! As the Pindaris break through the door, at first Subbaraju is a failure, immediately wounded and falling. But he manages to make one blow, forcing a Pindari to fall down and impale himself on the knife Prabhas gave Subbaraju. And that inspires him to rise up and fight off the rest of them, finally finding his bravery. This could be read as his innate Kshastriya powers coming to the front. But I think it can also be read as his Kshastriya training. Presumably Subbaraju, just like Prabhas and Anushka, spent his whole life from childhood doing weapons training and drills and so on. He may have never been able to really put that training into action, but then he never had a reason before. Prabhas knows that now, not just that Subbaraju has the strength, but that that strength only comes out in times of great stress (like when he confronted Prabhas earlier). And that is why he has never seemed capable before, but in fact is.
And then of course there’s the moment when Prabhas meets up with Anushka in battle. As I said, when last we saw her she was the perfect princess in a tower kind of look. But that’s not the kind of heroine she is, so when we see her again, she isn’t waiting to be rescued, she is looking for a fight. And she does pretty well, a troupe of Pindari comes towards her and she shoots off arrow after arrow, holding them off. But she can’t quite drive them back. When Prabhas shows up.
I love how this battle is framed. Anushka needs to be rescued, Prabhas isn’t just taking charge because he is the man, she really does need help. But, she isn’t useless, she gets her own moment of showing her amazing warrior skills. She needs help not because she is “a woman”, but because she is a very good fighter who needs back-up at the moment. I’ll put it another way, this sequence would have played out the exact same way if Anushka were a man.
Although it wouldn’t have been as romantic. Not romantic because Prabhas is “rescuing” her, but because of how they fight together. He appears behind her, shooting three arrows at a time, and steadily driving back the attackers. And again, his posture, his way of walking, has changed. This is Prabhas in his element as a warrior, striding across a battlefield like a God, not Prabhas as the foolish joking man she has known until now. And it is that, seeing him as all he is capable of, that Anushka reacts to as she watches him. And the first thing he says to her is not “I love you” or “are you safe” or “keep back and let me handle this”, it is to give her brusk directions on how to accomplish the 3-arrows-from-a-single-bow trick. And then they perform essentially a little dance, perfectly balanced together, moving forward through the battlefield, changing angles and trading places as needed to get the best shot. Prabhas shows up as his “real” self, then invites her to join him as a partner, and we get to see them working together as partners. This is as close as we can get to a marriage proposal for these two, this moment of perfect battle together is more “them” than any love song or dance would be. Just like Prabhas 2 will romance Tamannah through a fight scene, it’s the easiest way for these kind of people to communicate, they are fighters not talkers.
Oh, and the culmination of the scene is two moments. First, when Anushka turns to look at Prabhas and sees him seemingly taking aim directly at her. But she simply stands still and lets the arrows pass so close to her head that they brush past her earrings to kill the Pindari sneaking up behind her. Showing that she has complete faith and trust in him, and he knows it, knows that she will not move even a centimeter. And second, when they have to share a bow at the end, wrapped up into a single person drawing back the bow together. If the earlier scenes are foreplay, moving separately but in tune, this is the, well, the actual act of intimacy, turning themselves into one.
Oh shoot, I missed a scene back in Mahishmati in the middle of this. Oh well, I’ll catch it next time.