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.
(It’s weird – I’m still okay through this part, up until the last scene of Dandalayya, and then I’m probably going to be no help at all, because I start sobbing through the last few scenes of the flashback. Every time.)
– The part that makes denying Anushka the chance to go in through the royal/expedited entrance (which I think you’re right, in that by Mahishmati standards, this is probably a huge insult and a taunt about how Prabhas and Anushka are losing even more of their privileges as members of the royal family. But Anushka is used to Kuntala culture, where everyone, irrespective of status hangs out together. To her, it’s just a sign that they won’t be courteous to her re: her pregnancy, but nothing more.) is that Rana isn’t even there! I mean, through the time it takes Anushka to walk up in the long line, notice the abuse, and cut off the guy’s hand, the king’s carriage never shows up; it’s not as though Anushka couldn’t have gone in, offered her prayers, and be done by the time Rana showed up. And also yes, about how Rana/his cronies are so consistently off about Anushka’s reactions – and as I’d argue, the trial scene is the one place where they stop being able to predict Prabhas, as well.
– I just want to bring up Niki and someone else (? I can’t remember who, sorry!) ‘s points about the fact that Anushka uses bully-boys’s knife – that used to belong to Prabhas – to cut off the hand that he wears the ring of his position on, because I thought that was just BRILLIANT. And it makes it more about the actual crime being an abuse of power, the power that was taken away from Prabhas that bully-boy doesn’t deserve, instead of groping. Which is bad enough on its own, but I don’t think the movie is advocating that every instance be punished with beheading – what makes this particularly awful is how this guy is using his power to facilitate his abuse of women. And she uses the knife belonging to Prabhas, who swore his oath to protect the happiness and well-being of the people, to carry out her act of justice. (That said, he is actually reaching directly for her when it happens – she’s just so fast she cuts off his fingers before he makes contact.)
– And that makes sense, that for Anushka to “need” protection, really, she needs to be pregnant for most of her scenes in Mahishmati. But a point I really loved about this movie is how active she is; she is seen going to the temple by herself, she is strong enough to pull the guy holding her chains off his feet in the trial scene, and though Prabhas is all about holding her arm to support her, she certainly doesn’t need his help to walk when she storms off after the baby shower, or when she is running around in Dandalayya.) Pregnancy slows her down, as it does women in real life, but it doesn’t somehow make her an invalid as you sometimes see in fiction (I’m looking at you, Star Wars, where Natalie Portman’s character spends an entire movie never leaving her apartment, even to go do her job, after she’s revealed to be pregnant….and when she does, she immediately gets attacked, goes into labor, and “loses the will to live.” And this was from 2005!). Along with Ramya’s breastfeeding in public, there is this general attitude that the even parts of femininity that are seen as embarrassing or shameful should be celebrated instead of portrayed as hindering women.
– And speaking of Prabhas coming in, he is SO SO angry! We never see him this angry, even with the Kalakeya chief in the last movie, it’s a more controlled, quiet rage, but he is so mad here that he gets his “heysa rudrasa” theme for the first time in peacetime/when he’s not doing some extraordinary act. And he’s even rude to Ramya, for the first time ever; the other times when he tells her she’s wrong, he’s very quiet and respectful about it. Here, when she complains that he is being disrespectful, he shoots back the equivalent of, “Oh please, you’re chaining up a pregnant woman and expect respect?” (That’s not what he says, of course, but it came across as equally dismissive.) Even Rana looks taken aback, which makes me wonder what the hell Rana expected was going to happen; his crony certainly wasn’t in it to get beheaded. But I think this is the culmination of how much Anushka has changed him (to where he argues for justice instead of tradition just as angrily/passionately as she does, instead of more quietly, as he did before) and we see the king he would have become, and it wouldn’t be the sort of king that Ramya would have wanted or that Rana will be – I think that’s why Ramya gives up on him and banishes him, taking him out of the line of succession.
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I start feeling bad at this part, but the end of Dandalayaa to the return to the present is the part where I have to actually leave the theater.
-Yes! I was thinking that was part of his abuse. You could say that this was planned, they knew Anushka would be coming at this time and he just gave orders to block the entrance as though he would be coming. But everyone accepts it like this is normal, which means he must have started doing this a lot. Just blocking of access in case he wants something, not caring at all how inconvenient it is for everyone else. And your point about the knife is really really cool! So Anushka is enacting her own calculated judgement, it’s not just about cutting off his fingers, it is about taking away his symbols of office because he has shown himself unworthy.
-Indeed! I also liked how they didn’t hide the pregnancy. She was still wearing saris, we could see bare skin between the blouse and skirt. A pregnant body wasn’t anything to be ashamed of. And certainly it didn’t seem to make her less attractive to Prabhas, or anyone else. Combine this with her menstration scene in Rudhramadevi and you’ve got all the parts of female reproduction! Just needs one more historical epic where her character goes through menopause.
-I just started my post for tomorrow, and I get into this a lot more, the exact process of his judgement and how it plays out. I felt the same way you did, that he had really crossed a line here to a new version of ruling and a new vision for Mahishmati. And it went back to the “is there any scenario in which something like this would not have happened?” problem. If he had been the legitimate king, and a judgement such as this, not even necessarily involving his wife, had come before him, would Ramya have been able to go along with his judgement? I am sure she would have disagreed with it, with his “spirit rather than letter of the law” attitude, but would she have sat silent and allowed him to rule in his own way? Or would Ramya have turned into the rebel who had to be banished?
On Mon, May 15, 2017 at 4:30 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:
– Exactly! And that’s what comes back into play when Rana tells Prabhas in response to his anger that his pregnant wife has been chained up: “the law is the same for everyone, even you or me or pregnant women.” On the face of it, its not a terrible response; it makes Prabhas look like he is trying to bring the personal into the realm of the professional/political, no doubt for Ramya’s benefit. Except we have just seen Rana expect different treatment for himself in access to the temple, where Anushka and I’m sure Prabhas too are fine with waiting their turn in line with the commoners, even when offered otherwise. Rana just quotes this ideal without following it; Prabhas and Anushka live it. So when they complain of injustice, we automatically believe that it’s a question of justice, not Prabhas wanting Anushka freed because she is his wife.
– That could be a minor subplot in Baahubali 3 😉 But I really do love Anushka Shetty’s acting ability, tendency to get cast in really meaty feminist movies, and how unafraid she is to go all-in for her roles. Have you seen Size Zero? It’s not a historical but a sweet romantic comedy, but I was charmed by the overall message of body positivity.
– Yeah, there’s a lot to get into with the trial scene and Prabhas’ actions/arguments, and I agree that it is the one scene that summarizes his plot arc in the movie. (That’s why it’s in the sneak preview at the end of the first movie! Otherwise it’s such a boring shot, just him walking, compared to the other stuff he does in this movie, but not if you think of this scene as the one that matters most.)
Other thoughts that I forgot to mention before:
– I never mentioned Anushka’s speech before Prabhas shows up! And it’s a zinger. Unlike the baby shower scene, where there is an undercurrent of anger due to the way Prabhas is being treated (in keeping with the informal, family setting), this is 100% based on arguments of right and wrong. And she doesn’t mince her words at all, just like in the first court scene, except her insults are so much worse now that she is the royal daughter-in-law and mother of an heir! She even gets that line about how Mahishmati doesn’t deserve its name and we can see that the Anushka at this point would not let herself suffer in captivity for Mahishmati’s sake; her only major interaction is largely through Ramya. It will take Dandalayya for her to equate Mahishmati through its people instead, and I think that is what inspires her to endure for 25 years.
– and also: the beginning of this scene really shows how vulnerable Anushka is, even without taking her pregnancy into consideration. Once again she is standing before this huge hall, alone- and her in-laws are looming over her, almost enjoying how she is chained and (they believe) powerless beneath them, even Ramya a little. Sure, Kattappa is sympathetic but sure isn’t going to defend her; and even her family, in the form of Subbaraju just stands there and doesn’t speak up for her (to be fair to Subbaraju, given the proximity of their appearances, I figured Prabhas and Subbaraju had been together when they heard what had happened and that Subbaraju says nothing because he knows Prabhas is going to come charging in.)
– Time for the daily random factoid about costume, but Rana and Prabhas are both wearing the exact same thing in this scene! Or very similar, both in that red/dark green silk. And they usually don’t, Rana favors more creams/browns/reds, while Prabhas favors jewel tones like Anushka. It just emphasizes more Ramya’s instant worry that Prabhas is trying to usurp Rana’s place.
– And everyone else likely figured this out a long time ago, but I just Rana noticing Prabhas ‘ reaction to Anushka in chains is another reason why she is specifically kept in public chains/a cage instead of a dungeon somewhere: because that is the only thing that would drive Prabhas into such an uncontrolled rage, and thus the best way to get back at him even posthumously.
– The difference in colours of clothing is so true. Prabhas1 always seems to blend in whereas Rana stood out but this is the only time they are on equal footing (and significantly, just before Prabhas1 is made to strip off his royal clothing forever). Also, I like how his dupatta/shawl thing is fluttering behind him as he’s storming in – like the rage he feels is so powerful that it goes all the way through his clothes even. They’ve used very chunky and heavy jewellery on him for this scene which also emphasises his agitated movement.
– When Anushka yanks on the chains while making a point to Rana, the fellow holding them stumbles. It either shows Anushka’s strength or, that the guard knows that what he’s been made to do is unfair and so he’s left the chains lax or, that he doesn’t see her as much of a threat in her present condition.
-Exactly! I talk in my next post about how in this scene, Prabhas raises himself to a new level of judgement, a level that Mahishmati has never had before. Because he is so sure of himself and what he would want to do.
-I haven’t seen Size Zero, I was intrigued by the ad campaign, but didn’t manage to watch it.
-I really want to answer this, but wait for tomorrow! That’s when I will really get into it.
-Okay, wait until day after tomorrow for this. I want to discuss all the comments about the flaws of Mahishmati at once, along with the legalese of how Prabhas is banished. There is really a lot to dig into in this scene!
-Another theme that you can see with this is the generally fragile situation of daughters-in-law in India (or any other culture with combined households where the wife is expected to move into her husband’s family, not start a new home with him). This is an extreme version, but it is the same idea of being disconnected from your supports and everyone who knows you and thrown into a new household. Ramya has her chained and judges her for slicing off a man’s fingers, in another household it might be beating her for letting the rice burn.
-Fascinating point about the costumes! In B1 it was really obvious, because all the characters were in such different settings. Rana was always in reds and golds, Prabhas 2 was in natural colors, and occasional cool jewel tones. But in this film, after the Kuntala period is over, they are frequently in the same places at the same time. The Baby shower is in the “Kuntala” colors, but the temple scene and the throne room scenes are in “Mahishmati” colors, and Prabhas is wearing “Mahishmati” colors in those scenes as well.
-And also a tie between father and son! Both of them are driven incoherent with rage at the sight of Anushka chained.
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Haha, I’m sorry, I was pretty sure I was getting ahead of myself! But there really is so much to dig into this scene!
-otherwise, skipping down to the point about daughter-in-laws and how they are treated, in retrospect, this kind of plays into that conversation we had about how Prabhas’ oath and how it’s not one of servitude, exactly, but of balancing out the disadvantages that she would get from marriage. Because you are right, the overall lack of respect and danger is no different than the awful cases of women being set on fire by inlaws and other horror stories from rural India. And what makes me sad is that this is likely why this movie is doing well in rural and urban markets: the latter is here for the special effects and spectacle, but there might very well be an element of wish fulfillment for women in rural India to see Prabhas as a husband who is always on his wife’s side, and Anushka who survives her in laws horrible treatment to gain power and respect through her endurance. Which is really depressing to think about.
– I really need to pay more attention to costumes on my next rewatch! This scene stood out since it was so obvious, but I would love to trend the changes (what are more of the Kuntala colors? The greens and blues? Mahishmati, I’m guessing are the reds/golds/dark greens?)
Kuntala is “cool” colors, blues and greens and whites, with some bright pinks thrown in for contrast. Mahishmati is “hot” colors, yellow and gold and red.
In B1, Tamannah’s colors were earth colors, browns and forest greens and greys and greyish blues. Those are the colors of Dhivara, and her real life once Prabhas starts following her.
Prabhas 2’s colors are fluid, just like the way he constantly changes costumes in the last section as he finds new disguises. He wears light colored clothing, kind of a “fresh start” look. He stays in green tones in his disguise in the palace, the palace guards uniform. and I think he is still in cooler colors even at his coronation. Oh, and Tamannah is finally blooming forth out of her earth tones in that last scene, wearing the blue and pink of Kuntala.
Your comment reminded me of this article that I read earlier today.
@Margaret: I love that division of the colors, especially with Prabhas 2 as the one character who wears all of them, because he is the only one who has connections to all of these groups. (Except Prabhas 1 wears blue as part of his solider uniform in the first movie, right? But that makes sense, hinting how he is more in line with laid-back Kuntala, and the gold armor brings him back to warm colors. And of course he dies in red.)
@Niki – that was such an interesting article! Thank you for sharing it, and it’s so right that it’s Prabhas 1 who seems to be fueling this mania, not Prabhas 2! To the point where as we’ve said before, the whole thing is Prabhas 1’s story, not his son’s; his son is really most important in showing justice served and dharma restored to the kingdom that he loved.
I am curious about the Rana/Sethupathy dynamics. Something about Rana tells me that he has some sort of morals especially with regards to women. The fact that he kept Anushka chained for 25 years when he could just as easily have forced her to marry him or made her his concubine etc etc. He is never shown to be the disgusting, leery male (unlike his father or son). Sethupathy on the other hand, uses his power in the worst possible way the minute he gets it. Putting Anushka aside in this scene, I keep wondering if the incident would have gone the way it did of it was another woman. It felt to me that what Sethupathy did went against the principles of both Rana and Ramya but they behaved the way they did just because it was Anushka and she was Prabhas1’s wife.
Interesting point. I talked about how rape is about power as much as sex. I think for Rana, it is all about power. Sex is less interesting to him than power. He keeps Anushka chained and caged because it is an exercise of power for him, to know that he has complete control over her. To do anything sexual would be to give up that control, to admit that he needs something from her.
And I think that might be why Rana might have punished Sethupathy if he had been aware of his behavior. Because this left open a crack in their power. I think he would have protested not because it is wrong to harass women, but because it is unwise for someone in power to do such a thing. Whereas Ramya would have objected because it is against the laws. It is only Prabhas who sees it as a sin for itself, without any greater context besides misbehavior with women.
Okay, that makes sense. Rana is never shown to be somebody who even thinks of women – he went looking for Saketh while Prabhas1 went to woo the women in the Manohari song. I am curious about the backstory with his son – in some interviews, Rana claims that he was adopted.
I also wonder, with Anushka could it also be that Rana didn’t want her since she was already Prabhas1’s (‘I don’t want his leftovers’ kind of thing).
Well, now I can’t resist the interpretation that it is Prabhas that Rana loved all along “that way”. I don’t think it is the intended reading, but it kind of scans, right?
Rana’s strong reaction to Prabhas and Anushka is jealousy of Anushka for having that closeness to Prabhas, his rivalry is sublimated desire, and his obsession with Anushka is because she is the last remaining tie to the one person he really loved.
As I said, I don’t think it is SUPPOSED to be read that way. But I do think you can easily see that Rana had an odd love-hate thing with Prabhas, desperate to conquer him, but with an emptiness in his life once he did. And trying to fill that emptiness with Anushka until Prabhas 2 shows up and is an even better target.
I was just about to say this!! 🙂 Like its said, the opposite of love is hate. I started off thinking that it was his mother’s love that he craved but her death seemed so trivial to him as opposed to Prabhas1’s. In a way, your idea does pan out. At times, it seems to go beyond just sibling rivalry, doesn’t it?
And can we acknowledge that final fight scene is SUPER SEXUAL??? There’s really no other way to read it, ripping shirts and straddling each other and literally trying to take his heart?
Male sex scenes turn sexual all the time, but this was on a whole different level, right?
Hahahhaha! Okay, now I can openly admit to this knowing that it wasn’t all just in my head 🙂 Rana kept obssessing about Prabhas2’s looks – ‘You look just like him’. And that feral, intense look in his eyes!
And ripping of his shirt and then tearing open Prabhas 2’s shirt so they could go chest to chest? Definitely not! Gayest thing since the opening of Gunday.
Makes me wonder – maybe that was Rana’s issue all along. Maybe Rana was gay but couldn’t do anything about it which made him turn to detroying the representation of the ‘perfection’ in Mahismathi.
Gosh! That escalated quite quickly! 😀
My pet theory about Rana’s wife is that she was one of the princesses Ramya was looking at for Prabhas and rejected (maybe the one who was incredibly beautiful but who looked weak) – or at least someone much more mild-mannered than Anushka, as they had decided a strong-minded daughter in law was more trouble than it was worth. (And Rana, stuck in the shadow of his powerful mother would want someone he could dominate.) Unfortunately she turned out to be so boring that no one paid attention to her at all, not even when she died at some point before the 25 years were up. (But an adopted son would be really, really interesting, especially considering Nasser’s obsession with his bloodline/only relations by blood counting. I would be fascinated to see how that played out.)
I assumed he had a procreational marriage. Some appropriate weak princess who gave birth and promptly died. And who had no more effect on his personality than if he had used a surrogate.
Ha ha, Rana was gay & his “son” was adopted? That did escalate quickly.
Well, it’s definitely not the “right” interpretation, but technically there isn’t anything in the films against it 🙂
– Yeah, I agree with Rana being almost….asexual until the end? Which I’m ridiculously grateful for because I was not here for graphic sexual violence in this fantasy world. But I think a part of is was that he wanted to conquer Anushka fully; taking her by force would mean she was physically his, but she would still hate him. Instead I think his “plan”, such as it was, was to imprison and isolate her until she willingly turned to him of her own free will- except obviously that never happened.
– I agree that Ramya and Rana both have no illusions about Sethupathy’s guilt. Even when Prabhas beheads him, they are more upset with him taking over the rights of the king to punish offenders, instead of the fact that he just killed someone (if they were not convinced of Sethupathy’s guilt.) which actually makes me really mad at Ramya -making Anushka stand trial when everyone involved knows she is innocent is probably the pettiest and most vicious thing she does, even more than ordering Prabhas’ execution!
I totally agree about Ramya. Scares me to think the depths to which a human can actually change all in the blink of an eye! Putting personal vendetta over the greater good.
-I agree. And I think Rana would have been happy if Anushka had turned to him by offering sexual favors, or agreeing to serve him food, or even give him a smile or speak politely. It was about breaking her spirit, not what he wanted her to do after he succeeded.
-Good point! And I bet if Prabhas hadn’t shown up, they still wouldn’t have punished Sethupathy, even knowing he was clearly guilty. They would have given Anushka some petty punishment, like sweeping the courtyard for a week, just to humiliate her. I don’t think Ramya or Rana was so far gone that they would have given her a real punishment, but they also wouldn’t have found her “innocent”. And while Rana would have been self-aware and know that he was doing this as revenge, Ramya would have convinced herself it was for a higher purpose, that Anushka was a threat to the harmony of the kingdom and had to be taught a lesson, but she would have gone along with it.
I don’t know if it would have stopped there, though: right before Prabhas enters, Sethupathy is turning the conversation to “If she says things about Mahishmati like this in public, imagine what she must be saying in private!” most likely to turn the trial away from the question of his guilt to everything Anushka is doing wrong. If Prabhas hadn’t turned up, I could easily see things escalating very very rapidly, likely ending up with Anushka accused of treason, maybe even exiled not to the workers village but to Kuntala by herself.
(And Rana at least isn’t acting only out of revenge but also to get a reaction out of Prabhas, though he underestimates what it’s going to be. There’s at least a deeper reason there. Ramya, on the other hand, has no such greater motive and, like you say, is probably convincing herself she is still acting out of what the laws said instead of anger.
Yes, it was me who pointed out the ring idea. I didn’t realize that she would have used the same knife that Prabhas handed over to the bully-boy. That’s really clever!
I remember Ramya or Rana angrily saying that Prabhas 1 is exceeding his limits when he entered the trial court. Prabhas 1 replies that the trial court already exceeded all limits when a pregnant woman was chained.
That is an excellent point about the ‘Heysa Rudrassa’ coming on for the first time during peace. I did not notice that. Amazing catch!
Margaret, I like the way you analyse Indian movies. Your invention of ‘talky-talky’ part is brilliant 🙂 I have watched so many movies with intervals but only now could recollect why directors include boring scenes just after the interval.
It’s one of the ways you can tell a director made the film for theaters and the Indian audience. Bhansali, for instance, doesn’t include a “talky-talky” bit. Dear Zindagi didn’t have one either. But Karan Johar always has it, even in his more artsy movies.
This is not related to the topic of this post, but I thought the people here would enjoy this interview of Ramya Krishna with Baradwaj Rangan, a National Award winning film critic.
Been following this thread and love it! A few thoughts:
– Gay undertones? No. Not buying it.
– “Women were there as dancers, men were there as laborers.” How would you expect a mixed group here? Men were dancing in those freaky grass skirts. And, young/old women as labourers? Nope.
– Noticed you using both actor and character names interchangeably. Would help to keep it consistent in the posts. I.e. Mahendra, Katappa, etc. Some of the posts use Rana and Katappa, instead.
My main gripe with the film was the characterization of Devasena. In some scenes, she appears strong and fierce (which is leads to Amarendra’s attraction), but in her introduction to Sivagami, she comes off entirely arrogant (particularly in the Hindi dubbed version, which has her stating something to the effect of…”aren’t you smart enough?” Her dialogues seemed offbeat and inconsistent in B2 for the most part.
Love your thoughts, though!
Welcome! Thanks for commenting, and I’m glad you like my writing!
-I don’t know if I would say “undertones”, but more accidental images that lend themselves to a queer reading. Like Batman and Robin.
-More that people were only seen as Laborers or Dancers. If we saw the lower classes in a happy group, like in earlier scenes, then they would be there as family units. Separating the genders is an early sign that people are seen only for what they can do in society, not as individuals with relationships to each other. And then that pattern continues for 25 years, and ends up with the only people at the statue raising being people who can be used by Rana in some way.
-This is just how I write. I forgot that I have so many new readers for these posts and you wouldn’t be used to my standards! My rule is, I usually use actor’s names rather than characters for three reasons:
1. Often the actors are more playing their standard persona than a character specific to this particular film (Shahrukh almost always plays Shahrukh, for instance).
2. Often audiences are more aware of the actors playing a character than the names of the character, to use the names of the characters instead of the actors in a synopsis of K3G for instance would just confuse people more as they tried to remember who is Raj and who is Rohit and who is Yash, instead of Shahrukh/Hrithik/Amitabh.
3. For viewers new to Indian film, it is so important to learn who the actors are before you learn anything else about the industry, I am trying to reinforce that knowledge.
The exception to this is the very rare times that I feel like an actor has truly overcome their image and disappeared into a role, to the point that the audience will recognize them by the characters name more than the star (This is very very rare, I think I did it for Sonam for Neerja and possibly no other time). In this film, I feel that with Kattappa. If I had realized these posts would attract so many new readers, I would probably have tried to be more consistent to make it easier, but I didn’t, so I wrote them using my usual standard which means actor names for everybody, and an extra special very rare compliment for Sathyaraj by using his character name.
I agree about Devasena/Anushka (you are right, it is confusing with the two names!). She is either an inconsistently written character, or a complex character who changes behaviors based on situations. I am leaning towards complex, as you can tell from the write ups, but on further watching I may go with “inconsistent”.
Sorry for jumping in! But in Devasena’s defense (I do love her, so I’m afraid I’m biased 😉 ) she is perfectly nice and polite to Sivagami when they first meet, so to me, I never got the impression that she was arrogant; she only lashes out when she’s being parceled off to the prince she doesn’t want as though she’s not there, and I read her as having no small amount of genuine panic at this moment (she’s alone in the midst of enemies with no one she can trust to protect her at this point, so she’s not exactly thinking clearly about how she comes across. Plus her kingdom seems to prefer frank speaking, even between royals and their subjects – I could easily see the more polite, formal disagreements not being something that came naturally to her, especially in a stressful situation.). And in the same way, when Sivagami first shows up for the baby shower, Devasena is smiling and polite and only really loses it when Amarendra is demoted and insulted. And the “don’t you even know that much?” (which is how the version I first saw had it) came across as genuinely incredulous, like “Forcing a woman into marriage is bad” was so basic that she took for granted that everyone would know this – and since I agreed with her, that didn’t sound off to me at all! And characterization-wise, Devasena is quiet and kind at baseline, but to me, seemed pretty consistently prone to losing her temper whenever she felt threatened, even by Amarendra.
But again, reactions to characters are always so subjective , so I love to hear other people’s perspectives on how they read the same scenes- one of y favorite things about the discussions here is how many different points of view we get! Do you mind if I ask of curiosity what prior scenes came across as contradicting her behavior in the court scene?
2. Gotcha, though I would disagree with some of the roles (Irrfan, Vidya, Nawazuddi, etc.), but I get where you’re coming from. In this film, I felt all gave such strong performances that I’ll remember the characters > the actors for a very long time.
3. I have never found Sonam to overcome her public, hyped persona.
4/Avani. I found Devasena written very inconsistently throughout the film. I found in her home turf, she was strongly independent, clearly in part of an understanding bhabi and bro. But, every time she had something to do with Amarendra/Mahishmati/Sivagami, she always seemed to have a knee-jerk reaction to what was being said. She was pushy by putting Amarendra in front of the buffalo, expressed no empathy when he hurt his arm, acted arrogant and annoyed at the lack of knowing his true identity, displayed very little humility when apologizing to Rajmata, etc. I just found her self-entitled for the most part. Just saw no softness in her character and form. But, I do love how Amarendra handled her.
I found the other roles to fit into the script quite expertly. But, her role seemed off for the most part. Totally agree with Avani: “seemed pretty consistently prone to losing her temper whenever she felt threatened, even by Amarendra.” Yes, she seemed far more petulant than royal and dignified for most the film. Her role was least interesting and sloppily crafted imho.
Enjoying all the B1/B2 posts! Just little time to include my thoughts. So much to say on Kattappa myself.
Aw, she did sing him that lullaby to apologize for getting him hit by the bull! (Though seriously, I think a lot of what seems like her lack of empathy is really just her knowing he’s not really hurt. She shows zero surprise at having seen him climb into a tree with his injured shoulder at the end of Kanna Nidurinchara, after all!)
But I can totally see how in that case, her character wouldn’t work for you! Though I’m very glad you will stick around to share your thoughts on other characters too!
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I am enjoying the B1/B2 posts myself! But I also kind of can’t wait to get to the end, so we can have a discussion of the big character arches, especially Kattappa, and how they fit as a whole.
On Tue, May 16, 2017 at 5:13 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Ooh, does that mean we could also have a post at the end to specifically discuss the parallels/links/inversions between the two movies? (Or it might make more sense to combine it with the overall character arc post.)
I’m guessing so. My posts are always just what I feel like writing. I had no idea the B2 posts would get so philosophical and deep until I got into them!
But it feels like, after we spent all this time dissecting every single tiny moment, we should probably spend some time talking about the film as a whole in terms of massive themes and characters and stuff.
There is already a SPOILER post where in theory we could talk about that, but it’s just a sort of placeholder superficial thing I scribbled off after the first watch.
Regarding Prabhas and Rana’s costumes, Rama Rajamouli discussed her choices in an interview. It’s in Telugu so I don’t know if there’s any value to posting it here. Basically, she said Amarendra is not ostentatious, so they chose muted colors and earth tones for him. Rana, on the other hand, loves to show off so they chose bright colors and chunky jewelry for him. She also gave very interesting details about Anushka’s old lady make up and how hard it was to get the look right.
Backing up a moment, so Rajamouli’s father wrote the script and his wife did the costumes? That’s so neat! Very traditional family filmmaking.
On Tue, May 16, 2017 at 4:55 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Keeravani, the music director, is Rajamouli’s cousin-brother. Rajamouli’s son, Karthikeya, has been credited as the second unit director and Keeravani’s wife, Valli, is the line producer. His whole family works on his films.
And Keevavani’s son sang either the Dandalayya song or the opening one. I saw an article which listed about 15 members of Rajamouli’s family who were actively involved in the production. And, just as an added touch, in the Saahore Bahubali song, in the crowd shot you see three little girls standing in front throwing flowers. Those are Rajamouli’s and Keeravani’s (I think) daughters.
Also, the head of AMD in Los Angeles, which was the company that developed the VR technology for Bahubali, is another cousin brother of Rajamouli.
See, this is why the government’s push for “family planning” is not such a good idea! 🙂
It’s worth noting that the key players have been together for a long time. All of Rajamouli’s films have stories written by his father. Rama started officially assisting on costume design from his third or fourth film (before that she was giving inputs unofficially). And Keeravani has been the music director on all his films. I can’t remember exactly when Valli (Keeravani’s wife) started working as a producer, but she has been doing that for several films, too. By the time of Bahubali, some of their kids had grown up enough to be given official duties, too.
This goes back to my personal feeling that “nepotism” can have benefits. They could all follow the same vision because they know each other inside and out for a lifetime.
My mother told me about an interview she saw with Rama Rajamouli where she was asked if this kind of “nepotism” isn’t a bad thing, to have only family members in key positions. To which Rama replied, “For five years, we all got up at three in the morning and were on the sets by 5 am. And we often worked till 11 or 12 at night. Would we be able to depend on getting that kind of commitment from outsiders? So I don’t think there’s anything wrong on depending on your family members.”
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Exactly! If the film industry was a different kind of industry, you could complain about these things, but this is what the job is, so either you do it with family, or you become so close to your collaborators that they turn into your family. I mean, Bahubali is an extreme example, but that’s what I always hear about working on a film, it’s not a 9 to 5 kind of a job, it’s a 24 hour kind of a job.
BTW, Valli and Rama are also sisters (direct or cousin, I can’t remember now). And Valli is the one who fixed up the match between Rajamouli and Rama. 🙂
(Just another random fact I recently learned, via an interview of Rama. Rajamouli is her second husband, Kartikeya is her son from her first marriage, and not Rajamouli’s. From the way his name is written, though, it seems like Rajamouli legally adopted him and certainly Kartikeya always talks of him as his father. He was four years old at the time of his mother’s remarriage.)
Like Sikander Kher. Technically Kirron’s child from her first marriage, but I think around 4 when she remarried, and always referred to as considered as Anupam’s child. And in both cases, I think that’s very nice. Both that the people involved are so clear that this is their child and the details are meaningless, and that everyone accepts it. To the point that it is only in these random interviews where it specifically comes up that you even find out.
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“when we learn the crazy “guilty until proven innocent” theory of judgment in Mahishmati.”
Devasena herself appears guilty of this when she accuses Sivagami of participating in the farce at the baby shower. She continues her “I declare you guilty and you must prove your own innocence” act despite being told by Bajjala that the king has the prerogative to pick a general. The same Devasena launched a charging bull against Amarendra-in-disguise at Kuntala “as a test”. Just because. Very “guilty until proven otherwise” of her too!
The temple scene, in terms of politics within the kingdom, it was brilliantly set up by Bhallala loyalists. Devasena does have a reputation for flaring up. And she does. And it gets Bhallala and Co. exactly what they wanted. Devasena is THAT predictable.
Notice that Devasena responds to the official accusations laid against her with “f&#k your laws”. Not very regal, not very queenly, not even a good defense in her case and not a good sign for a future Queen Mother. Devasena in this scene and throughout the story is very “f&#k your laws, Mahishmati!” till it’s time to do the burning coals on the head thing. THAT she does gladly.
And she never gives any “f&#k Mahishmati” speeches in front of Amarendra ever. In front of Amarendra, she’s always making personal attacks on Sivagami. She bows her head in guilt when Sivagami tells Amarendra (in the court) that she has repeatedly gone “f&#k your laws and f&#k Mahishmati”. Sivagami doesn’t make a personal arbitrary decision in the case. They have laws. Laws that Devasena as Queen Mother would need to uphold. Laws that as King, Amarendra would need to have upheld.
The accusations against her weren’t incorrect or wrong factually at all. She chooses to counter the factual accusations with insults. She chooses to see Bhallala and Sivagami as “guilty until proven innocent” too by jumping to the conclusion that she was brought to trial in chains (Well, you just chopped off the fingers of the army general for a crime known only to you and him. You’re kind of a dangerous criminal, Miss!) as a conspiracy/with mala fide intent.
She chooses to wait till her husband arrives to talk about the harassment. The look on her face when Bahubali slits Sethupathy’s throat says it all. She’s all “I knew you’d do exactly this!”
And Bahubali’s speech really exposes the sexist, patriarchal, harsh world of Mahishmati. You chop off a man’s head for touching a woman the wrong way. Not really feminist is it? Yet, Devasena gives off a sense of exceptionalism every single time. Both Devasena and Amarendra play judge, jury and executioner in this scene while hypocritically calling out Bhallala and Sivagami for doing the same (and they didn’t order anyone dead either).
Exceptionalism is a very bad trait in anyone and it directly relates to all evils of power. Every one of the main players in Mahishmati is guilty of exceptionalism except Amarendra and Kattappa. Sivagami, Bhallala, Bajjala and Devasena- all think of themselves as exceptional and above the law. They’re trying to pull themselves up by putting others down. Only Amarendra and Kattappa put laws/dharma/others before themselves. I think the real love story in the film is Amarendra-Kattappa. And with subsequent rewatching, I’m more inclined to see Devasena as one of the villains.
I am fascinated by your take on these films. Partly because it is so different than mine. But also because, one of the main reasons I enjoy the films is my love for the Devasena character. You clearly enjoy the films as well, but without liking her character, which I wouldn’t have thought possible.
However, after reading your take, now I am thinking that it really is all about the title character. So long as you accept the rightness and heroism of Bahubali, the film will work. And every other character is open to interpretation.
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Believe me, Devasena was my absolute favourite after I walked out of the theatre. On 1st rewatch, I noticed the sheer amount of work Prabhas (the actor) put into his role and his Amarendra became my favourite. I love how complex this universe is. It gives your something new every time, even you’re rewatching just a segment you like. Have to say, your take on it, especially the post about the characters’ colors, made me go deeper. My mother blames you for my renewed obsession. I am pestering her with what I read here 😛
That’s such a compliment! That I got you interested in the film again.
I love movies soooooooooo much, my hope is that my writing about them makes people love them too. I don’t want to be a reviewer/writer who makes you hate a film, or lose all enjoyment in it. I want to make people watch them and enjoy them and appreciate them more. It’s part of the reason I have so few negative reviews. Well, that and that because I love movies so much, I honestly always find something to enjoy in everything I see.
reviews are hot genre on social right now, especially on youtube. I must have watched a million of them. you seriously have got to do Youtube too. A bunch of noob reviewers received emails from Arka Mediaworks for BB2 trailer drop etc.
Guck, youtube makes me feel sick. I am happy doing podcasts, because it is still more about the thoughts and the discussion than the pizzazz. But youtube feels like it is so superficial, you know? I could never do the kind of discussions we are having here on Youtube, it would all be little thought nuggets with no content.
Basically, I have a hard time making a first impression is the problem. Give me 2 thousand words or more to talk about something, I can work through it and really impress you. Give me half an hour to do a podcast with someone else to talk to, same thing. 5 minutes in a video, I wouldn’t feel like I was contributing anything useful or unique to the world, there are other people who are so much better at it.
On Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 10:00 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:
I hear you. But THIS needs to reach more people. And not just the Bahubali posts. True fans will find you somehow. I know a tonne of people who aren’t “reading folks” but they like good analyses.
Please recommend me to the anyone you know! I’ll think about videos (my friend moviemavengal is already trying that out and has invited me to be her guest any time). But in the meantime, if you are eager to get my blog around to more people, here are the 4 things you can do to help (I did a whole post about this a while back):
1. Comment! Especially on posts you care about, more people read posts if there are comments
2. Retweet me, especially to an fan clubs or artists or anyone you know who might be interested in the topic
3. Tell people you know in real life about the blog
4. Comment on other websites/fan groups/etc. linking back to my blog.
Essentially, I am begging my readers to act as my PR. I’m doing the best I can, but some of these things just aren’t doable for the creator (we all know that shiver of disgust when someone promotes their own blog on another website).
Are you on Facebook? I’d gladly share there. I’m not really a twitter person.
Yep! Thanks to another commentator who told me I should me. Really, I am terrible at promotion and The Internet and all that. There is a “Dontcallitbollywood” facebook page:
On Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 9:26 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote: