Welcome back! Here we are, part 7. Where thing start to get sad and scary. The last time I saw it, I was surrounded by sobbing children for basically the whole middle hour. Lot’s of “Daddy, no! Why are they doing that? I don’t like this.” Let’s see if I can get through it without getting sad myself! (last part here, you can go back from there)
The last section cut off in the middle of the Pindari battle. Prabhas, while waiting for his coronation, has been traveling the kingdom. And he met young princess of the Kuntala kingdom (a small protectorate of Mahishmati) Anushka. He fell in love with her warrior spirit and decided to woo her in his own way, by pretending to be a simpleton and working in her kitchens, and letting her slowly discover who he “really” is. Not that he is the heir of Mahishmati, but that he is a brave intelligent kind man. Meanwhile, back in Mahishmati, Rana has learned through his spies that Prabhas is in love and is inspired to put his own plan in play, convincing Ramya that he has fallen in love with Anushka’s portrait. Ramya sends a proposal to Anushka, insultingly worded as though Anushka should be grateful for the honor of marrying Ramya’s son. Anushka responds with an even more insulting suggestion that perhaps Ramya’s son, since he is not strong enough to speak for himself, should tie his thread to her sword and come to Kuntala where she can protect him. Prabhas hears of this from Kattappa, who has assumed the proposal was for Prabhas not Rana, and Prabhas doesn’t mind since he understands it to mean that Anushka prefers his method of courtship in person. But then the love story is interrupted by a sudden invasion of “Pindaris”, organized roving bands of raiders that have been troubling the kingdom and are now breaking into the palace itself.
Oh, and I missed a scene! Anushka sends her response back to Ramya, in which she suggests that perhaps Rana should tie a threat to her sword and come to Kuntala where they will care for and protect him, since apparently he is such a weakling that he needs his mother to propose for him. Ramya immediately overreacts, and orders the soldiers to prepare for war on Kuntala. And Rana nods to his follower to point out that Prabhas is traveling in the area, why not just order him to capture this rebellious princess and bring her to court as a prisoner.
Now, setting aside the whole part of it where Anushka is in love with Prabhas and therefore would never want to marry Rana, this is not an okay reaction from Ramya. She isn’t reacting to the proposal, she is reacting to the insult to her son and by extension herself. It’s kind of the gender reversed version of a “Maa ki aankhen” insult. Anushka is insulting Rana, but it is aimed at Ramya. And it hits the target, Ramya gets the message that Anushka is calling her a bad mother. But the trick of it is that Ramya immediately expands that insult to be a threat towards the whole kingdom. She has been the soul of Mahishmati for so long, that this personal family issue immediately gets expanded to involve the army and the empire. And the justice system, to bring Anushka back to be put on trial, for an insult to Ramya as a person and a mother, not as a ruler.
Phew! A lot has happened! Where I left off was at the most romantic moment, Prabhas and Anushka working together to defeat a huge number of invaders, moving like two parts of the same body as they do it. And Prabhas giving Anushka practical information on how to pull off the 3 arrow trick she has been trying to accomplish, showing that he is both the better warrior than her, and he wants to help her be better. So basically, the perfect husband for her.
There is no time to talk after that, they see that the invaders are coming straight over the wall and rush to the gate. This is the time when I noticed, again, how differently the genders are handled in Kuntala. Of the small group of leaders at the wall, Anushka is clearly the “war leader”. Her brother is a good man, but he is hanging back, letting her take the lead. And Anushka, in turn, is hanging back behind Prabhas. Not because he is a man, or the man she loves, but because she know she is the superior fighter.
Battle battle battle!!!! I like how it starts, everyone is preparing themselves, and before anyone else can even move, the screen blinks, and Prabhas is already gone, running on ahead and destroying everything in his path. It shows both just how much better he is than everyone else, and also how he sees his role in war, to run ahead and take all the risks, to break the path for others. And it just looks really cool.
And then battle some more! In the middle of which, the cows with fire on their horns that I mentioned in the last section come stampeding down. And Prabhas runs among them, and then on top of them. And finally, uses their power to pull down the dam protecting the field around the palace wall and release the river on to the soldiers.
Now, in my very first review, I mentioned that it is important to notice the use of natural weapons versus manmade. Prabhas 2 almost always uses natural weapons. And when he does use manmade, he doesn’t use them as intended, using a spear as a melee weapon instead of throwing it, use chains like whips, etc. He was never taught the “right” way to do things, and so he invents his own way, and that is part of the strength of his fighting technique, that he is so unpredictable. It is also a sign of how he generally resists the rules and laws of society. He was told he couldn’t climb the waterfall, he immediately climbed it. His mother refused to stop her devotions, he moves the sacred object. And so, he resists manmade objects, things with only one purpose. He likes to use wild natural options instead.
Prabhas 1 has been trained and taught to use weapons the “right” way. To do everything the “right” way. He’s not supposed to think for himself, just follow out the pattern laid in front of him. And yet, in this battle, we see how much he has already changed. It happened even earlier, when he used the tree as a weapon in his fight with the bandits. But now it is so much more, seeing the cows just a few scenes earlier with the cowherds, and realizing that he could use both the cows and the cowherds in a new way during the battle. And even seeing the dam and the water, and using those as well.
Let’s go back to that dam. It’s not just about winning the battle, it’s about the whole story of the film. The dam releases the river which creates the waterfall which Prabhas 2 climbs up in the first movie. And which is also what Ramya calls upon when she declares that Shiva owes her a life and must save this baby. And which is where the head of Rana’s golden statue floats away at the very end.
The waterfall is a monument to Prabhas 1. His strength, his bravery, his intelligence, all of it. And it is his spirit that Ramya is calling on at the beginning of B1, even if she may not realize it at the time. It is his father, and his mother (since love for Anushka inspired the waterfall battle tactic), that Prabhas 2 senses and is climbing towards. And in the end, Rana’s statue falls and his head rolls not because of Prabhas 2’s actions, but because Prabhas 1 is sweeping him away.
“Dhivara” is still the most epic moment of both films. I suppose you could argue about that with me, but you would be wrong! It seems odd that a sequence like that would be wasted on a love story which is forgotten shortly after. But it’s not really a love song, it’s a song about Prabhas 2 achieving his destiny. Tamannah is what inspires him, but she is just unlocking something that was always inside of him. Just like Anushka inspired him to finally grab the sword and accept his position as a warrior. And this scene ties that all together. The waterfall isn’t just a waterfall, it’s a symbol of his father’s greatest accomplishment, of everything that Prabhas 1 could have been and Prabhas 2 could still be. He is proving his equality to Prabhas 1 by climbing it, even if he doesn’t know that. OH! And that’s why Tamannah says right before the love song starts “you really did climb the waterfall!” It’s not only because he accomplished a great feat out of love for her, it is this huge symbol for her people, of the greatest moment in their history, it has a weight for her, just like it does for Prabhas as the thing that loomed over their innocent forest community.
The battle is over, and as they stand on their open pavilion overlooking the wall, Anushka’s brother thanks Prabhas and offers anything in gratitude. And Prabhas admits he is in love with a woman of their kingdom. Anushka’s sister-in-law asks who this lucky girl is, and Anushka’s face tells them. But just then a messenger bird arrives, Prabhas casually holds up his arm to catch it, and then reads the message and his face changes. He admits that it is orders, from Mahishmati, he is supposed to take Anushka back with him as prisoner. Anushka immediately goes on the defensive, grabbing a torch and threatening Prabhas with it, demanding who he is, really. Prabhas smiles and replies “you are angry, even the sweetest fruit will taste bitter”. Which is a great line that I might steal sometime! And she sets his clothes ablaze, revealing his armor underneath, and the Mahishmati royal crest.
A few sections back, there was a conversation between Prabhas and Kattappa where Kattappa suggested that he should just tell Anushka who he is, she will fall at his feet. Prabhas looked doubtful. And he was right, because now Anushka does know who he is, and she is less interested than when she thought he was just an itinerant mercenary. Her family is less interested as well. The beginning of this scene looks like one of those classic “clever hero tricks family to get princess” things. They promise him he can marry anyone he wants, he picks the one girl they weren’t expecting. But it’s not that at all! Her brother and sister-in-law are delighted to find out that Prabhas loves Anushka and vice versa. After this whole battle, they are clearly a perfect match, a warrior who can not just match but exceed her abilities.
And Anushka is happy as well. You can see in this moment her whole vision of their future, co-rulers of Mahishmati, protecting their people and helping the land, together. Sure, he is just some wandering fighter who tricked his way into the palace, but she knows him well enough know she wants to marry him.
(Just like Kareena and Shahrukh in Asoka! Only Kareena’s discovery of his identity was a lot more traumatic)
The discovery that he is a vassal of the Mahishmati empire isn’t a moment of “oh good, he has a job and some power!”, it is a moment of “oh no, I want him to be loyal and responsible only to me.” Plus, a slight bit of distrust towards Mahishmati, yet another sign that it doesn’t look as pleasant from outside the palace as it does from inside the palace.
The other question this scene brings up is what exactly was Prabhas’ plan if the Pindaris hadn’t attacked. When would he have proposed? And admitted his identity. Avani in the comments did the work to track down how much time had passed between the song to Krishna in which Anushka admitted her feelings and this battle. And it is at least 2-3 days. So, why the delay? Why not immediately seek out Anushka, propose, explain his identity, and talk to her brother? Well, the practical reason is that this is the way Rajamouli laid out the film and it feels so natural that it takes several watches to notice the time gaps. But I think we can also argue, within the film, that Prabhas was just plain having too much fun to reveal himself that soon!
I think, from what we know of the characters, that both Prabhas and Anushka were enjoying the novelty of being so silly and game playing. That Prabhas would have stayed in the character of the humble simple kitchen staff, with a few winks directed towards Anushka so she knew it was an act. And that Anushka would have kept setting traps for him, with a few winks directed his way so he knew she already knew she was right. Anushka would have held off until the very last minute before asking her brother to arrange an engagement. And Prabhas would have waited as long as possible, and planned the perfect way, to explain who he is and why he played this charade.
But I think it would have had to be a pretty good explanation, because I think Anushka’s anger here comes not just from finding out Prabhas was lying, but from finding out that he is a servant of Mahishmati. That his first loyalty is not to her and her kingdom, but to some massive empire. It calls into question all their other interactions, was he just killing time with her until his “real job” started? Which, to be fair, is exactly what he was doing! She is reading the situation perfectly.
And Prabhas gives the only possible response, that he will follow the orders he has been given, but he will put his duty to Anushka above any orders.