I know we remember, because we have been obsessively crawling through this film moment by moment and scene by scene. But would anybody else? (part 21 here, you can crawl back through the archives from there)
Previously, a whole bunch of stuff happened! Rana evilly manipulated events so that Prabhas 1 would be taken out of the line of succession and then killed. He tried to kill Baby Prabhas 2, and control Queen Mother Ramya, but Ramya escaped with the baby. The only enemy left was Anushka, who Rana obsessed over for 25 years, keeping her locked in a cage, while Baby Prabhas 2 was being raised far away from all this in the forest where Ramya managed to hide him away before dying. 25 years later, through a series of coincidences and fate, Prabhas 2 ends up rescuing his mother and hearing the entire life story of his father. He is furious about everything he has just been told and immediately orders that the word be put out, they are going to battle IMMEDIATELY.
I talked in my last section about how differently Prabhas 2 handled the battle prep than his father would have. It’s a sign of what different people they are, Prabhas 2 always sees his way forward and goes for it. Prabhas 1 sees his way, but then waits for the perfect moment and the perfect setting and the perfect allies before moving forward. Which is often what causes him to lose ground, if he was a little more impatient, a little less striving for perfection, he might have had a happier life.
But the other thing I find interesting is to consider the allies that Prabhas 2 brings with him to his final battle. Prabhas 1 never really had any “allies”, at least not like this. His relationships outside of his inner circle were always over-shadowed by his mother, and his position. Whereas Prabhas 2 was just plain friendly! And nice and open and welcoming. He was down on the ground with everyone else making friends and getting his hands dirty. The kind of connections Prabhas 1 only was able to build with Kattappa, Anushka, and Subbaraju at the very end of his life when he started to feel comfortable and able to interact as a person, instead of always as a prince. But Prabhas 2 is newly come to his royal status, he had 25 years of learning to connect on a human level and ask for help when he needed it.
(Remember before this song started, he had tried asking his mother to stop, asking the priest to stop her, and asking his father for help. Only then did he do it for himself)
And so Prabhas 2 brings with him the forest tribe he grew up with, the Kuntala rebels who trust him based on Tamannah’s word before they even knew he was the king, Kattappa’s elite band of soldiers who similar trust him on Kattappa’s word (and Prabhas 2 has no problem accepting Kattappa as his “grandfather” who he asks for help), and finally the villagers and peasants who Prabhas 2 saw and heard cheering for him at the statue raising. Oh! And who he helped save at the statue raising! Not as a gesture of kingly nobility, but just because they needed help, and he had been raised to pitch in and help others as needed.
Prabhas 2’s battle plan is based on the strengths and weaknesses of his allies, not a perfect concept of battle. Part of that strength is their devotion to him and willingness to follow, and he does not discount that in his planning. Remember back in the Kalakeya battle, how the army started to fall back until Prabhas 1 went back and reminded them what they were fighting for? Prabhas 2 doesn’t have to remind them, because they are fighting for something from the beginning, for something they care about, not just army pay and following orders. And that’s one of their biggest assets, that the will follow him where ever he leads, without retreat or hesitation.
Prabhas 2’s plan is also based on the strengths and weaknesses of his enemies. I don’t think he sat down and worked out in his head “Rana doesn’t know his son is dead, and is obsessed with Anushka, and doesn’t know I am alive, let’s start by shocking him with all these things which will cause him to fly into a rage and lose all sense of battle tactics”. I think Prabhas 2 doesn’t work out stuff like that, he just makes these amazing leaps from conception of idea to execution without worrying about failing. Remember how he climbed the waterfall? Like that. So he declares they are going to battle immediately, rattles off all the people to be gathered as allies, and then immediately moves into orders for battle, no pause to explain even to himself why these things should be so.
And now we come to the part where you have to remember something that happened aaaaaaalllllllllll the way back in hour 2 of the first film. Which is probably why we also saw it in the opening credits part of this film. The whiny irritating sexually gross son of Rana was the one who went off to bring back Anushka after Prabhas 2 rescued her. He was beating her and insinuating nasty things about her, so Prabhas 2 beat him up and then beheaded him. As I said in the post in the relevant section, this is a clear parallel with the moment when Prabhas 1 similarly executed a man for misbehaving with a woman, after having been incited into a rage by seeing Anushka in chains.
It’s hard to remember, but for Rana, all that happened just now. He wasn’t part of the flashback journey that our heroes (and the audience) have all been on for the past 3 hours. For Rana, in the past 24 hours, the name “Bahubali” was chanted in the square exactly as it had been 26 years earlier at his coronation, he started obsessing over it and then caught a glimpse of Prabhas 2 in the throne room in disguise, and shortly afterwards Anushka was rescued. Rana has suspicions that Prabhas 2 might be back, but on the other hand, he is also the only person who can be sure he is dead. Remember, Ramya was shot from a great distance, alone in the palace courtyard, and immediately slipped into the water and disappeared. Even Nassar didn’t witness the arrow striking her and the body falling. Sure, intellectually Rana knows that Prabhas 2 must have died with Ramya, but the doubt could make him crazy.
I think doubt has been Rana’s problem for 25 years. Not doubt in Prabhas 2’s death in particular, but doubt of everything. Do the people really love him, is the kingdom fully under his control, is he still as young and strong and powerful as he once was? Remember, our introduction to him is fighting off a bull, clearly challenging himself against the greatest opponent he could find just to prove that he could win. And watching him from the sidelines are his son and his father, the two people he needs most to provide validation and reinforcement of his worldview.
And in this little glimpse we get of him before the final battle, we see what has always been his security blanket against those doubts, his chains on Anushka. She was living proof that he had conquered Prabhas 1, that he was “better” than Prabhas 1, that his mother was dead and gone, that the kingdom was his. But it was a double edged sword, because she was also proof that he hadn’t achieved all these things. So long as Anushka was in chains, he could be happy. But until she admitted defeat, gave into him by word or deed, he would never feel secure. Now, with Anushka gone, his happiness is gone and his security is on the weakest balance it has been in ages.
(I wanted a photo of Rana with a teddy bear, but such a photo does not exist, so you will have to make do with this)
This is everything that Prabhas 2 understood instinctively, in the same way he knew the exact place to grab the branch to save himself from falling down the waterfall. And so he arranged for the first sight that Rana sees of his enemy to be Anushka, out of her chains and more defiant than ever, carrying the head of his son, one of the two people on whom his power and sense of self rests. And finally, behind her, Prabhas 2 slowly reveals himself, the perfect culmination to drive Rana to complete distraction.
Oh, before moving on, can we take a moment for the telescope which Rana is using to view all this? So STRANGE!!! I mean, I am pretty sure the science is sound, having a row of crystals cut to varying thicknesses would turn into a telescope. But first, it made me go “wait, do they not have glass in Mahishmati? Have we seen glass anywhere?” And second, WHY DOES HE NEED HIS ASSISTANT TO PUT IN THE LAST CRYSTAL PIECE??? Why not have it just always set up with all the crystals lined up? Is it like at the top of the Empire State building, you have to hand the assistant 5 cents and then he will activate the telescope for you? Is this a sign of how petty and money grubbing Mahishmati has become, that they don’t leave their telescopes unlocked for just anyone to use?
(See, the cheating spouses of Mahishmati can’t use this telescope, because the first crystal is missing!)
Moving on, with great difficulty, we now reach one of those points where you just have to accept physics as fluid and changeable depending on if Right is on your side. Like when you watch a Rohit Shetty car chase. I really don’t think that a) you can shoot an arrow through a skull that is in the air already in such a way that it will perfectly land in someone’s hands, and b) that said skull would survive the trip without getting all smooshy. But I’m not going to complain, because I don’t really want to see a realistically smooshy decapitated head, with the brain leaking out and the face kind of dented and all.
I like how Rana’s immediate reaction to his son’s death is to vow to build up a funeral pyre out of all who witnessed the death. It is very very telling of his character. His response is not sorrow, or even vengeance, but rather embarrassment? He wants to save face, his focus is on who saw this event occur, this event which is shameful for him as a king and a father. It was a similar reaction to the shouting of Bahubali’s name at the statue raising, he wanted to know where it started and how.
I think this might be the price of his careful self-control in his early life. Over and over again, for 25 years, he played not exactly the fool, but the humble one. He let Prabhas 1 twit him without reacting, he accepted his mother’s obvious lack of interest in him without complaint. He even refused to join in and encourage his father’s complaints on his behalf. And his greatest plan involved forcing a woman to publicly humiliate him. It all wore away at his soul little by little. And now, any moment where he appears to be ignored, made fun of, insulted, it destroys him.
Rana goes to war not with planning of any kind, even the loose plans that Prabhas 2 made. He is driven so mad with rage, and the need to prove his strength, that he sends his army out thoughtlessly, into the trap set by Prabhas 2. And notice this trap relies on Rana being not just crazed with anger, but in discounting the very people that Prabhas 2 is counting on.
Rana knows that Kattappa went out the night before with his elite devoutly loyal band of soldiers and has not returned. But he doesn’t even consider that they might have joined Prabhas 2 in rebellion. He knows that Prabhas 2 is backed by villagers and farmers, but he doesn’t consider that they might have unique skills that will be hard to combat with army training. Because Rana doesn’t consider Kattappa, or the lessor people of the kingdom, at all. Someone (the comment was anonymous, feel free to identify yourself) posted that Rana’s exact order to Ramya was to announce Prabhas 1’s death because the “lambs” are bleating in the courtyard. That’s how he sees the people, as lambs.
That’s closer to how Prabhas 1 saw them than how Prabhas 2 does. Prabhas 1, when he allied in battle with the common people, sent Kattappa to act as liaison. I don’t think he really knew how to talk to people the way Prabhas 2 does. How could he? He has been trained his whole life to protect others, to throw himself in front and ahead of them. Whereas Prabhas 2 has been taught that they are the same as he. And so his battle plan is a very “use every part of the buffalo” kind of plan. He knows the farmers/forest people may not be able to use weapons, but they can help set-up boobytraps and throw stones, something the army will not know how to combat. So his first line of defense is to use them. And then to bring in Kattapa’s troupe from the side, the trained warriors ready to fight and die without hesitation who need less of an element of surprise. And finally the rebels from Kuntala as skirmish fighters, coming into the battle and breaking through the ranks.
And everything kind of works, until Rana himself joins the battle. At which point they lose, but win. Or win, but lose. But I will have to get into that tomorrow.