We are now getting into “the scary bit”. The bit that I had to kind of look at the ceiling and ignore, or actually leave the theater, during. So forgive me if I move a little faster, and if I forget some parts. You can fill in, in the comments. (part 12 here, you can go backwards from there)
Previously, a bunch of stuff happened that doesn’t matter any more. Because now we are post-interval, and in a whole new part of the plot. All that matters is that Ramya thought Prabhas was choosing his love for Anushka over his duty, while Prabhas saw it as choosing the right thing (protecting Anushka’s right to make her own choice in a husband) over the wrong thing (letting her be taken prisoner and forced to marry Rana). So at the last minute, Ramya changed her decision and made Rana king instead of Prabhas. Prabhas married Anushka, Anushka is pregnant, and at her baby shower Rana took away Prabhas’ position as head of the army, and Anushka responded by saying that Prabhas should rebel and take back the crown, because it is what the people want.
Now, there may have been another talky-talky scene here. Somewhere in this section, I know we see Ramya working over papers while Nassar talks to her about how untrustworthy Prabhas is, and Ramya tries to ignore him. Avani, in the comments, pointed out that Prabhas now is in the same position that Nassar was in the previous generation. He has lost the throne, but might be the father of the next heir. And he has a powerful wife. Another reason for Ramya to be leary, she sees herself in Anushka, a powerful woman who controls a weaker man. And Nassar in Prabhas, a man who might let bitterness over losing the throne leak through and poison himself. And to have Nassar himself give this message makes it all the more powerful, it’s not just his words, it’s the constant reminder by his presence that his words could come true, a man who loses the throne could obsess over it until he had changed into an entirely different person than he was before.
(Nobody wants another one of these in their family)
Talky-talky scene (if it is here) over with, big temple scene! Rana’s bully boy, who is now head of the army, is blocking the steps and forcing everyone to go around to the side stairs, women on one side and men on the other. So many things that are wrong with this!
First, the idea of blocking access to the temple at all. This is a public building, for Rana to declare that people must wait while he visits is an example of how he has already begun to think of all of Mahishmati as created just for his pleasure. And it’s not just a public building, it is a religious building, even God is just there for Rana.
Second, splitting up the genders! We already saw that Kuntala was almost gender neutral in how it treated people. Mahishmati was not there yet, for instance all the shots of nobles and merchants in the throne room were only men. But at least we saw in the public occasions, like Ramya’s procession at the opening, the men and women were mixed together in the crowd. And in the crowd scenes at the coronation and at other points, we saw the same thing, the common folk were all mixed in. However, in B1, at the statue raising scene, the genders were split. Women were there as dancers, men were there as laborers. They were no longer seen as family units, just anonymous units in the empire, organized to serve Mahishmati.
And third, the way Rana’s bully boy is using this situation to feel up the women, that is not just because he is a gross person, that is tied directly to the abuse of power. Rape/sexual harassment isn’t just about sex, it is about power. The fallacy, especially in the Indian setting, is that young men are the most likely rapists, because they are so sexual and uncontrolled. But no, it is older men, the ones who are “respectable”, who no one would ever question. Rape is an abuse of power, as much as it is an act of sex. Which is, again, much too real for me right now. This is why it is not “scandal-mongering” or “changing the subject” to talk about a politician’s history of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse comes from the same place as any other kind of abuse of power, and it is something to consider before giving this person more power.
Dragging the conversation back around to the films, notice how in terms of sex, Prabhas has always had a light touch. It’s not just about his romance with Anushka, in which he was always respectful, even in B1 we saw him appreciating but not taking advantage of the women at the palace, or the sexy rope dancers. Prabhas 2 was a little more dominating and aggressive in his romance, but then he was also more dominating and aggressive in his pursuit of power. In a good way in both cases, Anushka needed to be shocked out of her mindset before she could/would listen to him. And Mahishmati needed to be aggressively freed.
I wonder how much of this scene was planned and how much was coincidence? It couldn’t all have been planned, but some of it could have been. If they knew that Anushka went to the temple every day at the same time, Rana could have arranged for his bully boy to block the steps at that time. They would have expected Anushka to make a scene about having to squeeze in with the common people, you can see from his face that the bully boy kind of wanted that to happen. They could have just ridden that situation out, made it to be Anushka’s fault somehow, driven the wedges between Ramya and Prabhas deeper because Prabhas would have needed to defend Anushka.
But instead Anushka surprises him and agrees without hesitation to take the stars with everyone else. Rana and his friends could never understand this behavior, because for them royalty is something shown through behavior and clothing and privileges. Whereas for Anushka and Prabhas it is something they carry within them, no matter where they are or what is happening.
And then, I think, the bully boy changes tactics and starts feeling up the women. We can see from his face that he honestly enjoys this, and from the way the women put up with it, I think we can see that this is not unheard of from this particular person. But he is also waiting to see the effect it will have on Anushka. I think he expects her to scream, or run away, or complain to Prabhas. He definitely did not expect her to chop his fingers off!
(The Internet says the character’s name is Sethupathi and he is played by this guy, Rakesh Varre)
You know what I find most interesting about this scene? She doesn’t chop of his fingers to protect herself, he isn’t about to touch her when she does it. She is doing it as punishment for how he is treating the other women, she doesn’t see herself as a damsel in distress, but as an avenger of justice. And that’s why he isn’t even ready for her, he doesn’t realize that he is in danger as soon as he is in swords length of her, he is still in the “let me leer and scare you about what is coming” point, instead of the “let me brace myself for a reaction” point.
And then we are back in the throne room and Anushka is chained up. This was the moment where I most noticed her pregnancy. We skip so much time between the wedding and this part, from just married to last trimester of pregnancy. But I think that is because Rajamouli wanted that visual of a heavily pregnant woman in all of these scenes.
Pregnancy is an odd kind of weakness and strength combined. There is the physical weakness, we see Anushka in chains here and know that she can’t run as far or as fast, that she can’t maneuver as easily, that her warrior abilities have been cut in half. In their early romance, Prabhas never really felt the need to defend her physically. During the Pindari fight, he provides partnership and back-up, but he doesn’t try to shove her to the back or do anything for her. But now we can just look at her and know that she needs someone to take care of her, and it isn’t because she is unskilled or cowardly, it’s because her body isn’t the same any more.
But there is strength there too. Anushka may not be able to move as fast, her physical strength may be diminished, but her moral authority is greatly increased. She is carrying inside of her the future of Mahishmati (as Avani pointed out in the comments, Rana isn’t even married yet, let alone with a baby on the way. This child will be the heir for at least the first year of its life). And she is also carrying inside of her Prabhas’ child. He will be extra respectful of her and caring, because he is protecting both his weakened wife and his future child, all in one body.
(This is just human instinct, no matter how strong your wife/mother of your child it. Saif suddenly was all about having Kareena hold his arm as she got bigger and bigger)
Although this strength brings with it its own kind of weakness. There was a study a few years back in America, which found that the second most common cause of death in pregnant women, after medical complications, was violence. Often intimate partner violence. Having a child is overwhelming, making the lifetime commitment of raising a child with someone is overwhelming, difficult situations become more stressful, and sometimes it can be tempting to just get rid of the whole problem, to make it go away.
Prabhas obviously doesn’t feel like that, he is more on the “extra protective and respectful” side of the reactions. But Ramya does feel it. She isn’t going to kill Anushka, but she is feeling that extra pressure of this baby that she doesn’t really want, and this woman who is now always going to be a part of her family by carrying it. She is blinded to how helpless Anushka really is, because in her eyes she holds all the power.
And thus, Anushka is chained, and Ramya does not let her talk during her trial. Although this is also when we learn the crazy “guilty until proven innocent” theory of judgement in Mahishmati. So even if Ramya didn’t have that lingering bitterness and fear towards Anushka, it still wouldn’t have been great.
Speaking of the pregnancy, notice that when Prabhas comes in, the camera shows us his perspective focusing on not just Anushka’s hands in chains, but that they are hanging in front of her pregnant belly. It isn’t just a matter of disrespect, it is an endangerment to his wife and her child. That’s why one of the first things he objects to (I think), is that they are shackling a woman in her final trimester. The point when being forced to stand, to carry extra weight, to be unable to move easily into more comfortable positions, could make her faint, bring on blood clots, bring on labor, all kinds of terrible results.
(By the way, as recently as a few months ago a woman was forced to wear shackles while giving birth. The Sheriff who gave the order is now running for senate, to give money to his opponent, click here)
Marees pointed out in the comments that Prabhas grabs his sword as soon as he sees the chains. I saw it as grabbing for the tool which could break the chains. But Marees suggested that it picks up both on the idea of Anushka as his sword (remember his earlier defense of her, to touch her is the same as touching his sword), and on the idea of the sword as the overall symbol of Kshatriya power and duty. He is holding the sword not just as a tool, but as a touchstone, a reminder of what is right, both by his lights as a Kshatriya, and by the guiding light in his life which is Anushka.