I finished the sad parts, yay! And then celebrated by taking 2 days off. And writing yet another fanfic (by the way, almost nobody reads the fanfics, but the few who do, really really enjoy them. And I really really enjoy writing them!) Anyway, now I am back. Time for the thrilling conclusion! Or at least, the first part of it. (part 20 here, you can crawl back through the archives from there)
Previously: Everything happened! Noble Queen Mother Ramya was maneuvered into banishing innocent Prabhas 1 and Anushka. They were happy in their banishment, but evil Rana, Prabhas 1’s brother and the new king, was jealous. So he arranged for it to appear that Prabhas 1 organized an assasination attempt on himself. Ramya was forced to order a secret execution as punishment, noble Kattappa, the faithful slave, had to carry it out. But after Prabhas 1 died, Rana appeared to glout and reveal his evil plan, which Kattappa then reported to Ramya, who begged the forgiveness of Anushka and took the baby to safety (although they both appeared to die), while Anushka was left as a captive of Rana.
And then we fast-forward 25 years! But not too fast. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how neatly everything we have seen fits with this ending to the flashback. Ramya was shot in the back, while carrying the baby, and fell into a waterway that ran through the palace grounds. We had previously seen that this waterway connected to the moat outside the city, which formed part of the river that travels through all of Mahishmati. We had also previously learned that the palace was riddled with secret passageways known only to the royal family.
I think we can put it together that Ramya managed to shield the bay from drowning while they fell into the river. And that underneath the water was another secret passageway. Which lead to a tunnel that ran along the water in a slow slope, until coming out at the foot of the waterfall. And somewhere along the way, some traveling guards happened to see her, and start to give chase. But, so far from the city, they had no way of alerting anyone else to what they had seen. Ramya, with an arrow in her back shot by her own son, managed to fight them off and kill them, so they could never return and give word. And then with her final breath, called on Shiva to save the baby so that it could return to save the kingdom, knowing she herself would not be strong enough to do so, and that the baby’s mother, who had been so wronged by her, was left in captivity. Ramya is able to walk under water, holding the baby up, until they are both spotted by a forest tribe, baby is rescued, Ramya mysteriously floats away. Baby grows up, 25 years later, baby is Prabhas 2. And obsessed with the waterfall that leads back up to the kingdom he should inherit.
Meanwhile, back in Mahishmati, Rana’s last words to Anushka were “you have no one but me now” (as I was reminded by many commentators, because I had blocked this part out). After much much much much much discussion and analysis in the comments, I think we have all agreed that while Rana had a strong reaction to seeing Anushka’s picture for the first time, that reaction was not necessarily “love”. At least not in any form that we could recognize. Perhaps it was “finally a weakness I can exploit”. Perhaps it was “something tells me this woman will be my nemesis”.
And certainly, since then, his obsession has clearly been with defeating Prabhas, not with gaining Anushka. If she had not crawled her way to the palace in search of her husband, there is a fair chance Rana might have even forgotten about her (ooo! New fanfic idea! But that would be a sad one, I don’t know if it’s worth it to write about noble widow Anushka raising Prabhas 2 alone. Although we could have cute scenes with Tamannah and Prabhas 2 being foster siblings). He might not, but he also didn’t seem to have a plan for her, he took the time to gloat over Prabhas 1’s body, but he didn’t bother to go searching for his wife, or even send someone to do so. Perhaps another reason that Prabhas 1’s dying words were to his mother, not his wife? He know that Rana’s obsession would extend more to her than Anushka?
Anyway, she’s here now. Rana says “you have no one but me”, but he could just as easily have said “I have no one but you”. Enemy No. 1 was always Prabhas 1, enemy No. 2 was Ramya, enemy No. 3 probably would have become Prabhas 2 if he’d taken the time to get to know him. But they are all gone and out of his reach now, so he is left with enemy No. 4, Anushka. The only living representation of everything he fears and hates and feels the need to control. And that is why, in this moment, he turns to her.
But while at that first moment she might have been simply the only one left standing, over 25 years she became more than that. I think we can do some extrapolating, right? Anushka was in baaaaaaad shape when last we saw her, chewed up from giving birth, not even able to stand. She couldn’t have been thrown in that cage right away, she must have been patched up a bit. Rana says, in B1 in the present day, something about her rejecting him. He could have meant that initial rejection, in the courtroom, but I could also believe that at some point he kept her in the palace and asked her to be his queen, and she turned him down. And only then did he throw her in the cage in the courtyard.
That would also pick up on the Sita themes, if I am remembering correctly Sita was offered luxuries and comforts, and a semi-honorable place with Raavan’s household, and she refused it all, choosing instead to sit in a tree in the courtyard. Like Sita, Anushka is finding her strength in sacrifice, no matter what Rana can do to her, so long as it is at least partially what she has chosen, it does not hurt her in the same way. And Rana knows it, he can keep her chained and caged, but he can not break her.
Taking a brief journey into supposition, I think if Prabhas 2 hadn’t been taken away by Ramya, there is a 50-50 chance that Rana wouldn’t have killed him. That was the plan for sure, he made some comment about “taking care of the baby”. But I could believe that he would have a moment of hesitation at the thought of this ultimate power, raising and controlling Prabhas 1’s son, in a way controlling Prabhas 1 himself from childhood onward. That would be the darkest version, Prabhas 2 raised in misery, in sight of by kept away from Kattappa and Anushka who love him, and Rana constantly battering at him and trying to change him. In that case, I think he might have killed Anushka, as she was not as amusing as this young baby. Or else kept her as a servant or in a similar menial but less horrifying life, while his focus stayed on the baby. It’s not about sex or even personalities with him, it’s about control, who he can control.
But, phew! Prabhas 2 did not fall into his clutches! Prabhas 2 was raised in the freest life possible, in the forest, among nature. We only get small glimpses of his life, enough to see that he did not obey even his beloved mother. While Prabhas 1 was taught obedience and duty above all, Prabhas 2 was taught softer lessons of love and finding the best and least harmful solution. If you look at his introduction in B1, he moves the Shiva Lingaa in order to save his mother a burden. The priest won’t stop her, Prabhas 2 can’t stop her without disrespecting her, his adoptive father is useless, and so the only solution is to change the situation itself. In its own way, it is the equivalent of the moment when his father literally sliced through all the laws and tedium of the Mahishmati court. But, while Prabhas 1’s actions gained shock and censor and banishment, Prabhas 2’s actions are joyfully celebrated. Everyone, from the priest to his parents, believes he has done right and honors him for his deed.
Slightly before that is Prabhas 2’s real intro, trying and failing and falling from the waterfall. But before we see him do that, we hear about it from some fellow tribesman in the water below. Partly this is just to set up his hero’s entrance, the kind of carnival pitchmen of characters. But it is also to establish that while Prabhas is liked by the forest people, he is not revered, he is not scene as on a level above them. They know that he is accomplishing something none of them could do in reaching even that far up the waterfall, but they are still kind of matter of factly talking bets on how high he may get today before he falls again. Prabhas 1 was always raised remote from the common people, from anyone besides Rana and Ramya and Kattappa. And he craved that common connection, we saw how he blossomed in Kuntala, and even more in his “Dandaalayyaa” exile. But Prabhas 2 was able to grow up surrounded by it. Even right before “Dhivara”, a friend comes to call him to join them, and Prabhas is casually standing to go with when he pushes the mask into the ground revealing Tamannah’s face.
Okay, I could go on and on, but just to shorthand it, Prabhas 2 is Krishna and Prabhas 1 is Ram. Krishna has an idyllic perfect childhood, away from the courts. And it carries throughout his life, teaching him to be the trickster, to place more value on happiness and humanity than on the rules of the courts. In the same way, Prabhas 2 has shown over and over again that he makes decisions quickly and carries them out without considering the consequences. Or I guess without worrying about the longterm consequences? He has never done anything wrong, never compromised his own sense of ethics. But when Tamannah says she has a duty to perform, he immediately accepts it and commits to carrying it out, without worrying that he may not be able to perform it, or that this duty may not be a correct one. He has faith in himself, he has faith in Tamannah, why not?
Prabhas 1, in his greatest moments, acted in the same way. Saving the POWs during the battle in B1, fighting off the Pindaris and then vowing his allegiance to Anushka, defending Anushka in both courtroom scenes, and rushing off to save Kattappa in the end. They were all split second decisions. I don’t want to say that his longer decisions were wrong, but they didn’t reach that pitch of correctness that his spontaneous ones did.
Which brings me to the present! Mostly the way this scene plays out is because Rajamouli had to cut a lot of stuff (PLEASE put deleted scenes on the DVD! Please please please please please! I will pay dozens of dollars!). But Prabhas 2’s reaction at least is in rhythm which what we have seen from him before, both sudden and correct. He immediately declares a battle, and asks for word to be sent to all the villagers and peasants and anyone else who followed his father to join them.
A different hero would have waited, would have tried to find allies and come up with a battle plan. But that may not have worked. Let Rana prepare, lose your momentum, let people suffer for one more day needlessly, why? Prabhas 2 takes a sudden assessment of their strengths and weaknesses and declares that it is time. And his surety carries them along with him, if he had allowed one moment of doubt, he would not have succeeded.
Prabhas 1, I’m not sure exactly what he might have done in this moment. It’s similar to what he faced in the Pindari battle, but in that case he had no choice. They were attacking, he had to defend. In this case, he might have taken weeks to consider, to prepare, to try diplomacy or consider other options, most of all to look at what Dharma and the law required from him (ha! I read that sentence over and saw it as “what Karan Johar’s Hindi distribution deal required of the plot”). And he probably still would have succeeded, but in his way, which is not the way of Prabhas 2. They may look the same, but they are different people (kudos to Prabhas-the-actor for making that so clear to us!).
(Also kudos to Prabhas the actor for looking really really good in a white shirt)
Prabhas 2 also calls for the villagers and others to join them. This is taking his father’s actions in the Pindari battle to the extreme. In that case, it was necessity and a particular plan. In this case, Prabhas 2 just immediately leaps to the idea of using villagers, with no special idea in mind as to how to use them. He sees no division besides that of basic skill between the villagers and the trained fighters.
The battle does not take place until the next day, and there is some preparation we see through traps and so on. But it is a rough and ready kind of preparation, there aren’t exactly “plans within plans”. It’s more “here’s 3 really good ideas, and after that, we will improvise”. But I will get into that tomorrow! Because I have now successfully finished my first post into the finale segment! Woot! Happy ending on the horizon!