Well, I managed to finish all the sad bits on Friday, so only happy-happy is left! Well, happy-happy and fighty-fighty. Fight fight fight. But, what if we didn’t need the fight? Or what if the fight had come sooner? How might things have been different? I already did one alternative happy version of the film, but there has been a complaint that it is still not happy enough, because Anushka 1 and Prabhas 1 didn’t get to raise their son. So I fixed that!
What if Prabhas and Anushka had been left alone to live in their stoneworkers village? What if “Dandaalayyaa” had continued for another hour and a half? Well, it would have been a much less interesting film! But at least it would have been happy.
As I see it, what would happen is that Prabhas would have slowly expanded his influence. Not on purpose, but because his constant small choices to do the right thing would lead him there. For one thing, more and more small boys would have come to him, asking to be trained. Other worker communities would ask his help in building labor saving devices. And people would start coming from farther and farther away to ask his help in making fair judgements of disputes. He couldn’t turn them away, not if they needed help.
And as more and more boys started studying with him, and more young women with Anushka, and as the village became more and more a light of hope, more and more people would come to live there. Prabhas wouldn’t make them come, but he also wouldn’t want to make them leave. And so long as they were there, he would start thinking about better ways for the community to grow, planning better houses, probably starting a community kitchen, and new industries, new professions, free schooling and training for all the children in order to provide for the future, everything.
I can’t see Rana just leaving him alone. So I will say that Rana gets distracted, gets a new obsession. Let’s say that in his first meeting with the nobles, they challenge him, and later he stops an assassination attempt, a real one, which does manage to kill Ramya. Rana and Nassar, with their twisted relationship to Ramya, they can’t let this go. Rana gets obsessed with internal enemies, put together an elaborate group of spies and counterspies, spend all their time trying to plug imaginary leaks. Basically going the full Nixon. And meanwhile, no one thinks about the small powerless workers village on the side of the kingdom.
(Nixon. If Mayor Daley hadn’t lost his mind at the 1968 convention, there’s no way a man this ugly would ever have won a presidential election in the TV era. So yes, it is all Chicago’s fault. Also, Johnson’s)
Until a traveling salesman, Sudeep, arrives. He gets lost on the way to meet with Kattappa and ends up going through Prabhas’ village. He sees his wares and is desperate to buy them. The merchant takes him to Prabhas’ hut, where Prabhas is feeding little boy Prabhas 2 while Anushka nurses baby Anushka 2, and asks why he can’t buy their wares. Prabhas explains that the laws of Mahishmati do not allow individuals to trade outside of the national borders. They will not knowingly break the law. He is welcome to try to buy from any artisan in the village, Prabhas will not speak for them, but he does not think they will go against it. Sudeep tells Prabhas that he was told no one would go against Prabhas, his word is their law, if he says it is all right, Sudeep can buy. Prabhas acknowledges this, and says “Then I say, we must obey the law.”
Sudeep continues traveling, warned away from Mahishmati city because no stranger is safe there from the royal spies, and ends up in Kuntala. He is greeted by cheerful king Subbaraju (Anushka’s brother and sister-in-law have retired, exhausted by everything that has happened, and left it to Subbaraju to protect their sovereignty), with his aggressive tiny adoptive daughter Tamannah who challenges Sudeep with her little toy sword, which of course charms him. Sudeep buys a few things from them, but mentions that he could have made them all rich if he was able to buy from Prabhas’ merchant village. Subbaraju keeps his own counsel, but remembers what was said, and asks Sudeep to stay a few weeks, and enjoy the beauty of the palace. And then Subbaraju and tiny Tamanna go off a day’s journey, to Prabhas’ village. Tamannah and Prabhas 2 immediately start playing together with their tiny swords while their parents talk. With Rana obsessed with internal enemies, he had to give up control of Kuntala. It took all the money in their royal treasury, but they were able to buy their freedom. Prabhas and his villagers cannot sell to an outsider from within the territory of Mahishmati, but if they set up a trade fair in Kuntala, they can. There is nothing that says a citizen of Mahishmati cannot travel outside of Mahishmati, sell their wares, and then return with the money. Prabhas considers this, but still seems torn. Anushka speaks up and says that the law itself is flawed, to break it would be wrong, but to go around it is permissible.
(Sudeep! there’s the biggest flaw with my last speculative post, no Sudeep!)
Sudeep, Subbaraju, Prabhas and Anushka join together. Over the years, his village grows larger and larger with the money pouring in, the central water well becomes a glorious fountain, the small huts become substantial bungalows, and so on. And Kuntala becomes a tourist destination during the annual trade fair, strangers pouring in from all over. But Prabhas 2 has never gone, since he was always left behind with his mother, and later to protect his sister and serve as “justice-giver” for the village. Nor has he seen his cousin Tamannah since childhood, as once she officially was named heir to the kingdom, she could not leave it until she finished her training. Anushka, on the other hand, has gone most years, since her mother feels she should know her Kuntala heritage.
Both siblings are sick of this pattern. And so one year, they make a plan. Anushka will fake an injury, a twisted ankle, and therefore have to stay behind. Once the parents have left, Prabhas 2 will follow in disguise as a simple villager, while Anushka will stay behind and finally get to try her hand as the protector and justice-giver of the village, all by herself.
Of course, Prabhas sneaks into the trade fair based on the directions Anushka gave him, not realizing she was used to using the women’s entrance. Prabhas surprises Tamannah in a compromising position, and she is furious with him. But that does not dissuade him, raised in a village (a really nice one, but still a village) he has no sense of embarrassment. He cheerfully chats away, offers to hand her the dress she had taken off (let’s say he found her while she was trying on an outfit before buying it). She wants to argue with him, but she can’t, because that would reveal her own identity, and she also is in disguise because she isn’t allowed to visit the trade fair! Prabhas keeps following her, she ignores him, until she notices that a group of men seem to be following her. Prabhas 2 is seemingly unaware of this, chattering while Tamannah gets more and more nervous. Finally, Tamannah turns down a blind alley, purposefully choosing her battle ground, and the men close in, but before she can even make a move, Prabhas 2 has effortlessly dropped his casual demeanor, and thrown the men off her, defeating them all one by one. Tamannah stands, still in her fighting posture, clearly not a damsel in distress, but also impressed with Prabhas 2’s fighting abilities as a fellow fighter. Until the fight is over, and Prabhas 2 turns and continues the conversation as though it was never interrupted. Tamannah slowly starts to smile and then laughs and suggests that perhaps they should go to the such-and-such stall, she has heard it is the best.
They spend a wonderful day together, falling in love. And in the evening, Tamannah takes him to the prettiest place in town, the palace grounds. And then makes her move, and they have sex. But the next morning, she sadly drugs him and sneaks away to her rooms, where she is the next Queen of Kuntala, responsible to all her citizens for protecting them from the depredations of Mahishmati, with no time for romance with a simple young village boy.
(Like this, but in a better movie)
Meanwhile, back in the village, Rana’s son is going on that same wandering trip through the territories that Prabhas 1 was sent on. He ends up in the village and sees some young village women at the well. He misbehaves with them, and when they object, says that they can’t stop him, no one can, he is the heir to the throne. Naturally, a young child has run for Anushka 2 by this point, and she shows up just then. Things rapidly escalate, and it ends with Anushka 2 chopping of his head, and then looking a little stunned at what she has done. His guards attempt to attack her, and without Anushka even needing to order it, the young men trained at her father’s school have leapt to her defense. But one soldier escapes, saying he will warn the palace and bring the guards down on them. The young men turn to Anushka, clearly waiting for her orders. She closes her eyes for a second and braces herself, and then opens them and clearly gives directions, where to build barricades, where to put the non-combatants, to prepare the hospital, to collect the weapons, and to send out the word to the surrounding areas for help.
At the trade fair, Prabhas 2 has awoken to find Tamannah gone, but he has no hesitation in what to do next. He immediately goes to find his parents, barrels past their anger at him disobeying orders to tell them he has found the woman he must marry and he needs their help. At which point they look awkward, and tell him that he cannot marry where he chooses, because they have promised his hand as a child to his cousin, the princess of Kuntala. Prabhas 2, like his parents before him, declares this to be a sin and wrong, that he should be able to marry where he chooses. They try to explain that it is an agreement of long standing, that it is the only way to ensure the protection of both their communities, that Kuntala needs a strong protector and the village needs a permanent tie to Kuntala. It’s for the good of the people. Prabhas 2 isn’t having it and storms out, while Prabhas 1 and Anushka 1 put their arms around each other for moral support.
Prabhas 2 is determined to find Tamannah and puts together evidence and decides to start in the female only weapons classes in town, since she was a clearly a trained warrior. He finds her, teaching a class, and when she tries to get away, he fights her. It turns into a sexy fight, with the training staffs instead of swords. And finally he has her down, but then backs off and instead bows before her offering to let her kill him, as his life is hers anyway, and has been since he first saw her. Tamannah softens and lifts him up, and admits that she loves him too, but it can never be, she is promised to someone else. She has a duty. Prabhas 2 rejects duty, says that the higher right is to follow their hearts. But Tamannah can’t, and leaves him.
(Like this, but better. We won’t let Ashutosh Gowarikar direct)
Prabhas 2 of course follows her and sees her enter the palace. He assumes she is a lady in waiting, and when he sees her talking with one of her ladies in waiting, assumes that is the princess he is to marry, and is disgusted with her. He waits until evening, and then let’s his heart guide him to Tamannah’s chamber, and kidnaps her! Using the same drug to knock her out that she used on him.
Tamannah awakes in a cave in the forest. Prabhas 2 has been waiting for her, and as soon as she is alert, he hands her a sword and tells her that he could not let her go, but he also cannot keep her hear. His life is hers, if she wants it, as punishment for taking her. But, on the other hand, now she has a choice. They have spent one night together outside the palace. Send word of this to her fiance, as is only right, and see if he chooses to keep the engagement or break it. Tamannah picks up the sword and presses it against his chest, drawing blood. Prabhas 2 just smiles at her, truly ready to die for her with no regrets. And finally Tamannah’s face breaks and she drops the sword and embraces him. Love song!
(I don’t know when I became so fond of this love song, but apparently I need to include it in each version even more than “Dhivara”. Maybe it is Prabhas’ dopey leaps at 1:55 that I find so endearing?)
Meanwhile, back in Kuntala, Subbarajju is panicking. He has called out the guards and rushed to where Anushka 1 and Prabhas 1 are staying, telling them that this is why he needs Prabhas 2 to help him, Tamannah has been kidnapped! Prabhas 1 and Anushka 1 immediately take off to search for her. Rejecting the help of any guards, as they travel and fight better alone. They follow the trail to the outskirts, finally finding the cave where Prabhas 2 and Tamannah are hiding the next night, when all is dark. Fight scene! In the flickering light of the fire inside the cave, no one can really see each other. Anushka and Prabhas 1 see Tamannah wrapped in Prabhas 2’s arms and try to pull her away. Prabhas 2 thinks this strange figures taking Tamannah away are trying to hurt her and goes berserk fighting them off. Anushka has grabbed Tamannah, she is fighting to get free and go to Prabhas, just as everyone has swords at each other’s throats, the sunlight finally slices through the cave, and the truth is revealed. Swords fall, couples embrace each other, and Tamannah puts it together that Anushka is her future mother-in-law/aunt who she has met many times, which means that man she is embracing who looks just like Prabhas 2 must be her husband, and therefore Prabhas 2 is her fiance. She starts to say something, but Prabhas 1 winks at her and she stays quiet. Instead, Prabhas 1 asks if she is willing to come quietly back to the palace and marry the man chosen for her. Tamannah says she is. Prabhas 2 is horrified and tries to object. Anushka silences him by reminding him that the place of a true lover is to obey and respect her decisions. Something he has forgotten by his behavior just now. Prabhas 2 is abashed. And heartbroken when Tamannah leaves him to go to Anushka 1 and tell her to tell her father, she is ready for her engagement ceremony. Prabhas 1 turns and asks Prabhas 2 if he is ready as well. Prabhas 2, with nothing left to live for, agrees.
Sad/happy song, Anushka and her handmaidens get Tamannah ready for the ceremony. Prabhas 1 prepares Prabhas 2, being all fatherly and sympathetic. They arrive for the ceremony, both Tamannah and Prabhas 2 are veiled, and Prabhas 2 won’t even look at her. Until as he is putting the ring on her hand, he notices the tattoo, the one he gave her last night in the cave. And then he looks up, surprised, and sees her smiling at him from behind her veil.
But what they don’t know is what is waiting for them back in the village. Because just now a message has arrived from Mahishmati. Kattappa is there, visiting for the first time since Prabhas 2’s birth. With glorious news! Prabhas 2 is now the heir to Mahishmati!!!!
You see, back home, the Mahishmati army arrived. But it was a weak army, Rana had gotten rid of anyone who might be a threat to him, leaving only inferior commanders. And the soldiers were underpaid and overworked, desertion was common. When faced with the dedicated fighters of Prabhas’ village, lead by brilliant tactician Anushka, the battle was over almost before it began. When word reached Rana, alone in his huge throne room, over-weight and depressed and unhealthy, the shock of the defeat, combined with the loss of his son a few days earlier, made his heart give out. He calls out “Amma!” and dies. Kattappa finds the body, and when he is asked who is in charge, he proudly declares “Prabhas 2!” His father may have been pulled out of succession, but Prabhas 2 has not.
Well, this is a pickle! Tamannah is sworn to protect Kuntala and cannot marry the king of Mahishmati. But Prabhas 2 has a responsibility to the people who need him, and there is no one else. Or is there?
Cut to, Anushka 2 sweeping into the throne room, with Kattappa at her side. The bickering nobles are back and surprised to see her. She almost reaches the throne before one of them pulls himself together enough to ask “Who are you? By what right do you take this throne?” And Anushka declares herself “Daughter of Anushka 1 and Prabhas 1! Granddaughter of Ramya!!! Granddaughter of Prabhas 0! Great-Granddaughter of Prabhas -1! And The New Ruler of Mahishmati!!!!” Kattappa cries out “Hail Anushka 2!!!!” and Anushka moves towards the throne again, when someone moves to stop her, and she draws her sword and chops his head. And then turns and says “Killer of Rana’s Son and Defeater of Rana’s Elite Guards! I take this throne by right of birth, and right of conquest!!!!” And then she takes her seat.
Okay, is that happy enough? Ramya’s still dead, but let’s be honest, that was always going to happen. But everyone else is alive! And Prabhas 1 and Anushka 1 get to raise their son together. And Anushka 2 gets to have a glorious hero’s journey with no romance, which is what I kind of want for her.