Happy second to last “sad part”. Thank goodness I got to take a break in the middle for our weekly TGIF post. Otherwise this would have been much too hard to get through. (Last part of the scene by scene is here, you can crawl back through the archives from there). I’m going to try to put up the final “sad part” later this evening, and then you can all talk about it all weekend.
Previously in Bahubaliland, TERRIBLE THINGS HAPPENED!!!! Prabhas and Anushka were banished, but that wasn’t enough, Rana and his father still feared Prabhas. So they set an elaborate trap, tricking Subbaraju into an assassination attempt, then killing him and using this as evidence to Ramya that Prabhas is planning a revolt. As a final attempt to stave off civil war, Ramya orders Kattappa to kill Prabhas. But plans to do it in such a way that it will look like the Kalakeya’s did it. And the Prabhas 1 dies, and it is super super sad, especially because as he is fighting for his life, Anushka is giving birth to Prabhas 2, the baby he will never see. And also sad because Kattappa, his beloved foster-father, is the one who stabs him in the back.
Before moving on, NOTE FOR NEW READERS WHO WONDER WHY I SAY “KATTAPPA” INSTEAD OF “SATHAYAJ”: I’ve been writing this blog for a year and a half now, and my “house style” is to use the actors’ names instead of characters, just like the New York Times‘ “house style” is to always use “Title Last Name”. I know most of my regular readers have gotten used to this, and but I feel bad that it is confusing to new readers who haven’t seen my writing before, so I wanted to explain. I have 3 reasons for this method:
1. Most of the time, Indian actors are more playing variations on their regular characters than actually disappearing into a part (Shahrukh is almost always Shahrukh, Madhuri is Madhuri, etc.), and so using their regular name makes as much sense as using a character name.
2. For regular fans of these movies, they are more likely to recognize characters by the names of the actors playing them than by their names in the script (can you imagine trying to follow the plot of K3G if someone used “Rahul” “Rohan” “Yash” instead of “Shahrukh” “Hrithik” “Amitabh”?)
3. For people new to the films, these names and the faces they are attached to are really important to learn! If I can help with my reviews to train you as to who is who, then that’s great.
The exception to this is if an actor is so amazingly phenomenal at their job, and a character is so incredibly vivid and perfect, that I just have to use the character name. This is a huge huge compliment, from me to the filmmakers and actor and everyone involved in crafting this character. And in Bahubali 1 and 2, while all the characters were amazingly vivid and all the actors were remarkable, Sathyaraj and his Kattappa were a cut above. Oh, and for the rest of the actors, reason 3 is really really strong in this case. B2 has such a massive international reach, and I want to make sure that Prabhas and Anushka and Ramya and everyone else benefits with increased name recognition as much as possible, because they deserve it.
Okay, now the real review.
And it feels not just sad, but scary and, again, “wrong” when Prabhas’ death is blasphemed by the presence of Rana. He arrives as a dark shadow, against the light of the fires Prabhas started in his final fight. And Kattappa steps back and Rana doesn’t even see him, focusing on the body of Prabhas.
Just like we are mourning both Prabhas the person and Prabhas the king, Rana is glorying in his defeat of both. I don’t remember the details of his monologue, but I know he glories in it, in how Prabhas is finally defeated and no longer a threat to him in any way. This is also the beginning of Rana-The Madman. Or is it the reveal of Rana-The Madman? Has he been mad all along?
I think maybe he has. Way back in B1, there was a little bit of bitterness in his face when Prabhas 1 twitted him in their introduction scene, saying “you are a great warrior, when I am king, you can lead my armies”. But it was quickly hidden and no one seemed to notice. Even the audience could have forgotten about it, as we saw all those exciting scenes that followed with Prabhas and Rana working as a team to defend their kingdom. Until, suddenly, Prabhas has leaped off a cliff, with faith that Rana will hold him up. And Rana, after a moment of hesitation, begins to cut the rope.
(There’s a lot of reasons they included this song sequence, but at least one of them was so that we would forget about Rana’s hatred and then be surprised when it popped back up again)
This was not sane behavior. Not even sane in the “I really really want to be king” kind of way. If he just wanted to be king, he wouldn’t be ashamed of what he was doing, he wouldn’t be conflicted. He would just do it. But we have that moment of hate earlier, the friendly conversations just before, and now the kind of feverish eagerness in this moment. Quickly hidden when Kattappa and other guards came riding up. Another reason that we know there is a problem inside of him, that he knows there is a problem inside of him.
Rana, and Rajamouli, worked together to parcel it out in tiny tiny pieces. We had that moment of hatred when he looked at Prabhas in their intro scene, and then it went away in their fun buddy adventure. Another moment when he almost killed him, and then the battle planning where they worked together, and the battle itself where they were on the same side. Until the end when, once again, Rana let his hand show a little, killing the Kalakaya leader from behind.
To us, the audience, those moments in B1 seemed like the purest melodrama. We knew he was evil, because we had seen him in the present day when he is SO evil! But now, in B2, we get to spend more time with him, and see how those little moments were all he allowed himself, that he was to be feared not when he was running mad, but when he was under control. And no one saw that, no one saw that his control must be fierce to hide so much madness. And the madness must be enormous to require so much control. No, they just saw the surface, where the control and the madness kind of balanced each other out and ended up with this guy who seems nice enough, handsome, good fighter, but not really anyone you would think twice about.
(Which is also how I kind of felt about Rana the actor until this film. Handsome, okay in a song, broke Bipasha Basu’s heart, but otherwise nothing special. And then the same scene when Kattappa is going “do I even know this man?” is when I am saying the same thing about his acting. Except not so much, because I have seen The Ghazi Attack, and he was great in that too)
That is what Kattappa finally sees in this scene. That he has been working for a madman, trusting a madman not to be mad, and in so doing he has helped to turn the whole world mad. To make the sun rise in the West (or set in the East? whichever it is).
Up until this moment, if you don’t know that Rana is mad and bad like the audience does, then this whole “kill Prabhas” plot, and all the rest of the terrible things that happened, could seem kind of disconnected, not part of an over-arching scheme. Rana and Prabhas fell in love with the same girl, coincidence. That girl spoke back to the Queen mother and got Prabhas to lose the throne, bad luck combined with Nassar being nasty. Rana took away Prabhas’ position and gave it to a bully, that was petty and misguided but not really evil. That bully molested women and Anushka chopped off his fingers, more bad luck, and Rana was trying to sit in judgement as best he could when Prabhas interrupted. Prabhas is banished by Ramya, nothing to do with Rana, just the two of them losing their tempers. Prabhas’ good friend tries to kill Rana, entering through a passage known only to the royal family. Seems crazy, but unless Rana is lying, and there is some elaborate set-up, Prabhas must be involved in some way. Maybe it would be better to let Prabhas explain, to investigate, but Ramya’s decision to execute him before the matter gets worse is understandable, and while Kattappa and Ramya may be personally heartbroken over it, the kingdom will be okay, Rana is a reasonably good ruler, and anything is better than civil war.
From the audience side of things, we know it has been Rana all along. That nothing has been a coincidence or bad luck or mistakes in judgement, it was all planned to this end. And more than that, doing all this to avoid civil war and keep Rana on the throne is actually the worst possible result. Let civil war happen! Get Rana off the throne! We know that Rana is crazed and unbalanced and will destroy the kingdom. We saw in B1 that he did destroy the kingdom, and we have seen in B2 all the little hints that he is on that path, that if the people won’t love him he will try to force them to love him. But until this moment, Kattappa had no idea.
Oh, and also, the whole visual of Rana monologueing and chopping at Prabhas’ body with an axe while the blood flies about, is very disturbing! And the one moment that felt slightly wrong to see in a theater filled with small children. Heck, it felt slightly wrong to see in a theater filled with Me! Very graphic.
And then Kattappa goes back and confronts Ramya with what she has done. Both of them play this scene so well. Kattappa has such a “nothing to lose” attitude. I think it is both because he has just killed the only person he ever let himself love, and because he has just learned that the faithful service which he held as his highest ideal has mislead him. One or the other, he could have continued on with, but to have both hit him at once is a disaster.
I don’t remember the dialogue for this scene (too sad!!!!), but I do remember the acting moments, because they are so memorable. And that’s a brilliant decision on the part of the filmmakers. This whole movie has been about complex ideas presented in simple ways. Law versus Justice, what makes a leader, all of these Big Big thoughts, but shown in a way that a 5 year old could easily explain what is happening and why. And so, in this confrontation scene, it’s not about what Kattappa says as much as it is about him simply smearing the blood from his hand onto Ramya’s. The talky-talky explains why, he tells her Rana was part of the set-up, meaning everything they thought was wrong, and they have committed true murder. But really, all you need to understand is that Kattappa feels like there is blood on his hands, and he feels like Ramya should have a part of that blood guilt as well.
Ramya’s shock is fine, okay, good acting. But it is the moment after the shock that is just phenomenal. The when she carresses Prabhas’ head. Only, his head isn’t there. But Ramya is miming so perfectly the attitude of a mother touching her sleeping child’s head, that we don’t need words or visuals to explain it more, we know exactly what she is feeling.
It’s not just guilt, it’s this sudden rush of all the feelings she has been denying herself since the confrontation with Anushka. Really, since she said farewell and sent him off on his tour of the kingdom. That was the last moment she gave in to the deep deep pangs of motherhood. With Rana, it was never like that. I just recently re-watched the introduction scene of both sons in B1, and when she watches Prabhas 1 do his sword tricks in the palace, she smiles at him, not just with approval, but with love and motherly pride. But when Rana does his trick with the mace, she just sort of has a managerial approval, like she is glad he is so talented because it will make him good at his job for Mahishmati, but she has no personal opinion.
When Prabhas criticized her judgement for the first time, confronted her in public to save Anushka, Ramya had this rush of emotions, and it was all too fast and too power for her to clearly see which were emotions of motherhood, and which were emotions of a leader. And I think what Rana and Nassar were counting on, and what they managed to do, was to make her confuse the two. The instinct which made her want to forgive Prabhas, to trust him, that was the instinct of a leader who knows he has always been obedient and thinking of others before himself and she should hear him out. The instinct which made her furious and insulted, that was a mother’s instinct. And she mixed up the too, thinking she should give in to the anger, much though it hurt her, because it was the “right” thing to do.
And on the other hand, when she made Rana king, she saw that as being smart for the kingdom, being wise. Because it wasn’t a decision her heart wanted. Only, she forgot that this was a 3rd part of her, the guilt part of her, the motherly guilt not ruler’s guilt. Nassar has been using this against her for years, trying to convince her that as a mother, she should always put her son’s feelings above all else. And she feels bad, because Nassar isn’t wrong, she does have a preference for Prabhas. But what she isn’t sure of, is if that preference as a mother is affecting her judgement as a ruler. And so she over-corrects, swinging towards Rana both because she feels bad as his mother for ignoring him, and because she feels like her judgement was wrong in Prabhas because of her motherly feelings towards him. And so, the natural forgiveness and love that always come from a mother after that initial anger, the hug after the punishment, that is what she has been resisting. That is why the coronation came so close on the heels over her decision, there was no time to regret it. And by the time she did, Rana was king and Prabhas was clearly a danger to the throne, and she had to keep ignoring her motherly desires for the sake of the kingdom.
Prabhas knows all this too. At least, he knows her as his mother. He keeps expecting her to react as a mother. He smiles and calls her “Amma”. He tells Anushka that as soon as they have a baby, it will all be okay. But Prabhas has been fooled too. Like Kattappa, like Ramya, he has underestimated Rana’s hatred. If Rana weren’t there, whispering in her ear, if all these terrible things really were just bad luck and coincidence, then he would be right. Ramya would understand her son and love him and forgive him. Because that is her natural path. But her natural path has been obstructed.
Let’s go back to that dam-waterfall image. Ramya’s love for Prabhas 1 is like a river, powerful and natural and will always find it’s way back to it’s path. Prabhas is counting on her to find that way back and love him again, because he knows it is her destiny. But what he doesn’t know is that Nassar and Rana have been slowly building up a dam, brick by brick, bringing that love down to a trickle while he is in Kuntala (Rana acting all sweet and loving and making Ramya feel guilty for ignoring him), and finally cutting it off completely when Prabhas is there in front of her. And they keep building up and reinforcing their dam, every time Ramya’s love starts to seep through a little, sadness or guilt or doubt, Nassar is there to turn it aside. Until, finally, she is so blocked off and so out of touch with her feelings, that she can allow herself to make the ultimate decision, to kill her own child.
(And then Prabhas 2 rejects the waterfall of motherly love by climbing up it to find the non-romantic love of Tamannah! Or maybe my metaphor has stopped working)
Until now, with Kattappa’s revelation, suddenly the dam breaks, just like the Kuntala dam broke, and her feelings come rushing out so powerful that they sweep away her sanity.