I said in my last section that this is the part that is very very hard for me to watch, because it is two real. It’s really the 20 minutes after “Daandalaya” that just kill me, but even this section is not good. Which is a tribute to how well the film is made, that it can evoke such real emotions in me. (part 11 here, you can go backwards from there)
We are now post-interval! Which means basically everything pre-interval no longer matters and my little “what has happened so far” section can be very short. Prabhas defied Ramya in open court, supporting Anushka’s right to pick her own husband. Ramya saw this as rebellion and therefore no longer trusted him to be king and picked Rana instead. At the coronation, Rana got the crown, but Prabhas got the cheers of the crowd and the symbols of rightful rule, the umbrella falling towards him, the elephants roaring, etc.
Also at the coronation, we got a glimpse of Anushka. Not as Prabhas’ fiancee, but as a princess in her own right. She was sitting with her brother and sister-in-law, with her cousin sitting behind her. It’s a visual reminder that she has her own family and her own people, and they have their own small place in all this drama of Mahishmati. If she had never met Prabhas, she still would have been affected by this story. A wrongful ruler would be bad for her and her people, and a rightful ruler good for them. That will come back up again in a second.
Immediately post-interval, we have a talky-talky scene. We always have a talky-talky scene at this point, because you don’t want the people stuck in line for popcorn to miss out on a cool action scene. But this is an important talky-talky scene, because it is the first time that we get a look inside Rana’s head.
Like I said in my last section, all along Rana has known what he wanted and gone after it single-mindedly. He wanted the throne and the crown, and now he has the throne and the crown. And now his purpose is gone and he is lost. In every previous scene, he was silent and still. Indicating a certain control. But in this scene, he is talking and talking and talking, revealing all his innermost doubts not just through his words, but through the fact that he is saying words at all, instead of keeping it all bottled up. And he is moving around, not just pacing, but tilting his body this way and that, bending over and straightening up. His inner confusion becoming outer.
His words help too, he is working through what we just saw in the last scene, and what we will see again at the interval scene of B1. He wants Mahishmati soooooooooooo much, but he can’t force it to love him. And the more he tries, the more it runs away. Essentially, he is Shahrukh in Darr. He believes that because his love is true, he has “earned” love in return. But it doesn’t work that way. The people of Mahishmati/Juhi Chawla will love who they love. And they will love Prabhas/Sunny Deol not because he loves them the most, but because of who he is and what he is. And there is nothing Rana/Shahrukh can do to change that.
(Shahrukh carving “Kiran” on his chest=Rana piercing his hand on the crown)
We the audience miss the middle bit of this obsessive romance, but here we are seeing the beginning, when he moves on from his obsession with the crown, something he can actually grasp, to the people’s love, something that you can never truly “win”. But we can imagine the 25 years of desperate attempts to beat them into loving him, to impress them into loving him, which lead to the ending idea of a massive golden statue paid for by gold forcibly given. And a huge police force to beat down any resistance. And again, this is all very very real to me right now and a little sickening.
Rajamouli doesn’t want to sicken us. He wants to tell a story of a bad man who was always greedy and grasping, versus good people who just wanted the right to pursue happiness. So he breaks this section up a bit. After seeing Rana being all dark and sickening, we see Prabhas and Anushka getting married. Really cute close up shot of their little fingers hooked around each other as they stand to go around the fire. Very thematic too, this is not a marriage between countries, or even between families, it is just between the two of them. Maybe other people are there in the crowd, but that’s not what matters, what matters is their two fingers hooked together.
And then we get the nuptial night, when Anushka is still worried about not getting along with Ramya. Not worried because of the big political issues, but just because she can see it bothers her new husband. By the way, notice the framing of this scene. It’s not “sexy” really. They are fully dressed and just sort of sitting on the bed talking about stuff. Which I like for their relationship, this isn’t about the physical, they didn’t get married for that. They got married because they like each other, and they want to share their lives. And they are celebrating the marriage by talking about real intimate personal things, in the privacy of their bedroom, in a way only husbands and wives really can. That’s much more important than sex (and anyway, the “Hamsa Naava” song was their sexy song, they are past that now).
(I love this song, because it manages to combine both kinds of bedroom intimacy)
Also, big big thing, notice that Prabhas here is echoing his posture with Ramya in “Saahoore Baahubali”. Partly this is just practical, it’s really hard to lounge in a full fancy sari, much easier to sit up a bit, which is what both Ramya and Anushka do. And Prabhas, the actor not the character, is a very very tall man. It would be hard to get him in the same frame comfortably, unless he is sort of lounging and lying down. But it’s also a clear visual echo, before he would sleep in his mother’s lap and take all his problems to her and hear her wisdom. Now, in a similar way, he is taking his problems to Anushka. Heck, that goes back to the simple husband-and-wife part of it! Before, the woman he could be alone with and get the female perspective on intimate problems was his mother. After marriage, now he can be alone with and tell private things to his wife, and she will be the one to advise him. That’s just how marriage works.
The result of their talk is Prabhas confidently saying that as soon as they give his mother a grandchild, she will forget everything. And Anushka accepting this but not exactly agreeing with it. Two sections back I talked about how Ramya could see the “threat” Anushka represented better than anyone else, because she was Anushka at one point. As a wife of a member of the royal family, and possibly mother in future, she could control the ruling family. I think Anushka sees this problem more clearly than anyone else as well. The problem of the threat she places to Ramya. Prabhas sees their child as a grandchild for Ramya, because he sees her as his mother before anything else. Anushka sees that this child is also going to be a possible threat to Ramya.
Which is of course what happens. At her baby shower, surrounded by gold, Ramya comes in, ignores Prabhas’ greeting of “mother”, and blesses Anushka in a very token manner, identifying her as “carrying Mahishmati’s heir”, not as anything at all in her own right. She is seeing Anushka primarily as related to her position to the royal family, and as the primary threat because of that position. Prabhas, she ignores entirely, no longer considering him a threat or a concern in any way. Because she has buried her maternal feelings, and now sees him as just “disgruntled former heir”. But Anushka is poison buried in their household, who now might be carrying the future king.
A couple of other things about this scene. We start by swooping in over gold jewelry, finding Anushka dressed in luxurious silks, surrounded by attendants. Prabhas may have lost his position as heir, but he is still very much a member of the Mahishmati royal family with all the benefits that come with that, including gold and silks for his wife, attendants, and fancy quarters. The two of them have been pushed aside, but not caste out altogether. They are still in the palace, as potentially useful tools. For instance, Anushka providing an heir before Rana can marry, this is a handy thing to have in the family. In a way, Prabhas was right in his argument on the wedding night, his mother could still come around, they are still close by, she hasn’t cut them off completely. It’s still just a personal argument primarily, she no longer lets him call her “mother”, but she acknowledges his position as heir to the throne after Rana, and his son as heir after him.
Second, the first thing we see is Anushka’s sister-in-law blessing her. Later, after Ramya has arrived, Subbaraju appears, to give gifts to the baby and again thank Prabhas for teaching him how to be a warrior and a man. This is a family event, and it is right that Anushka’s family is there. I assume that this is a combination of various religious/family ceremonies that are traditional during pregnancy. All of them involve the wife’s family and the husband’s family coming together. And I know that some of them also place great importance on the wife’s brother (a position Subbaraju would fill for Anushka).
(the situation in this song is obviously completely different, but you do get to see the ceremony!)
This is one of those things that you can give the whole huge religious ceremony explanation for, but ultimately it is just common sense and human nature. A baby is a coming together of two families. And pregnancy/birth are an incredibly dangerous time for a woman, a time when her family in particular will be worried about her and want to offer support. And so this “baby shower” involves Prabhas’ in-laws to a greater degree than other events might. And this all serves to remind Ramya that Anushka comes from a different family, that Prabhas respects that family, and that this baby will have a bond to all of them which Ramya cannot control.
It reminds Rana of this as well. Rana is a bit more under control in this scene than he was in the last. But not much. He has lost that ability to make others act for him while he smoothly slides forward to his appointed spot. Because he has no appointed spot, he isn’t clear on what it is that he really wants. But at least he is planning again, and watching, and waiting for his chance. Which he sees here, he notices the warm way Prabhas greets Subbaraju, and the way this seems to bother Ramya. The first time I watched the film, I thought this extra lingering on Prabhas and Subbaraju’s embrace was to show that there was something special about their relationship. But that’s not it at all! It’s to show that there is something special about how people react to their relationship. For Prabhas, this is a nice guy who he helped, and who is related to his wife. For Subbaraju, this is a guy he respects and is happy has married his cousin. It’s all exactly appropriate and what they should be feeling. But Ramya reads an extra significance into it, because of her feeling that Anushka is controlling Prabhas too much and Subbaraju’s relationship to Anushka. And it is that reading into it which Rana remembers and tucks away to be used later. Prabhas must have dozens of people in his life who would do anything for him, but Rana will later pick Subbaraju out of all of them as the best possible tool.
And finally, there is Rana’s big open move, his first one, when he declares that his “gift” to Anushka, is to take away Prabhas position as head of the army, and give it to his bully boy instead. There’s a lot to think about with this move. First, on the personal level again, after that moment when the wrong ruler is put into place, after the shock has worn off and all these supposedly wise people in charge have said “don’t rebel, the best thing is to stay calm and trust that it will all work out”, comes that first moment when you realize “no, it really is that bad, my fears were justified”. This is Rana’s “Muslim Ban” moment here. The moment when the line is crossed and you realize that rebellion is the only answer.
That’s how I see Anushka’s response. It’s partly sudden anger at the disrespect to her husband, who has now been moved from “his mother is mad at him, but he is still the primary heir” to “his abilities and worth are being disrespected, for no reason”. But it’s also because Anushka knows Prabhas is good at his job, to put it in the most basic language, and for Rana to dismiss him in such a petty manner shows that Rana has lost the ability to put the good of the people above his own hatreds. Ramya sees it too, she has a moment of alarm because this is not something she can simply explain away as “different methods of ruling”, this is an actual bad decision. And maybe the wiser thing would have been to hold back, to let Ramya continue to work through her thoughts and notice other ways in which Rana is making impulsive emotional decisions, the very thing that made her wary of letting Prabhas rule. That is Anushka’s mistake, not in what she says or what she wants, but in the timing she chooses. Although, on the other hand, to make this same argument in a less public setting would be underhanded and suspicious. To do it now, here, that is the honorable path.
Also notice the wording of her request. Her argument is that it is Prabhas’ duty to do what the people want, and the people want him. And I think she is saying that as one of “the people”. Like I said way back at the beginning of this section, she is a subject of the Mahishmati empire before she even meets Prabhas. She has seen their power and how it can be abused. She wants Prabhas to rule, not just as her husband, but as her king. He is the better choice.