Welcome to part 2 of the big final battle section! The part where stuff actually happens and I don’t just blather on and on about the set up for stuff happening! If you want to read the blather part, it is here. And you can go back in time from there to find the earlier posts.
Previously: Pretty much the entire movie happened. Prabhas 2’s parents, Anushka and Prabhas 1, were terribly persecuted and their lives destroyed. Prabhas 1 was killed by his best friend/foster father Kattappa, Anushka was imprisoned by the evil king who ordered it, Rana. Prabhas 2 was taken to safety and raised far away and is only learning all of this now. Prabhas 2’s immediate reaction is to call on everyone to come help him go to battle against Rana. And, BATTLE!!!!
I talked in the last section about how with Prabhas 2, to think is to act. He hears this story, Rana is bad, he is angry, he goes to battle. And he goes to battle with the allies he has and the tools he has. He uses them to the utmost, but he doesn’t bother to wait around and consider other possible tools that might be available to him later or if he could come up with a better idea if he worked at it or any of that. Just, Bam! Instant battle!
The advantage of this in this particular tactical situation is that it made Rana respond with BAM! Instant attack! There was no thinking, he just sent out the maximum number of soldiers immediately to run straight towards Prabhas 2’s group.
It’s boring to watch, not having nearly as many tactics as the Kalakeya battle, but it also fits with what we know of Rana’s character, and the character of tyrants in general. He has so much power, that he doesn’t bother to be clever any more. We saw that with his intro scene, his attack on the bull. He beats it into submission. There’s none of the grace and intelligence that we saw in Prabhas 1’s similar confrontations in this film, either with the bull or the elephant in his introduction. Rana has grown old and strong with his power, and that very strength is his weakness. He doesn’t know any other way to fight.
Prabhas 2 is weaker, and less experienced, and that is his strength. For one thing, he doesn’t know enough to be afraid, or to plan ahead, which means he is completely unpredictable for Rana. For another, because he is weaker, he has to use his forces in ways that would not be expected. Even using the enemy’s strength against themselves, there are so many soldiers that they can’t maneuver, if Prabhas can arrange for them to be kind of scrunched up together by his smaller forces, they will bump into each other and get confused and end up defeating themselves. We see that right away, Prabhas 2’s go-to fight move is to just sort of push them all in front of him until they get backed up and create a clean strip in the battlefield. Like I do when I am taking lint of the dryer trap.
They would still be hopelessly outmatched, if it weren’t for Rana defeating himself. Starting with use his lawnmower chariot. I love the lawnmower chariot, but it has the same problem as a real lawnmower, you have to make sure you are only going over grass, not flowers. And Rana just takes the shortest path from point A (the gate out of the city) to point B (Anushka). Which means he mows down a whole bunch of his own men! Clearing another strip of battlefield before Prabhas 2 even gets to it.
Anushka is just standing there, kind of in the background, with her brother to guard her. Her brother tries his best, pulling out his knife which we get a close-up of, but Rana cuts his throat, and then grabs Anushka and tosses her in the back of the lawnmower, cuts another straight direct path through his own men to the gate, and then raises the gate, smooshing more of his men in the gap, like when you accidentally close a door on your finger, and smashing some others who fall to the ground.
Let’s pause and think about things for a moment here. So many many things! First, Anushka’s brother is dead! So sad!!!! And it really really really feels like it is supposed to be Subbaraju here, or was in some earlier draft, because of the way we get the close-up on his knife. A knife is an odd weapon to use, practical for this particular close-in fighting situation, but wouldn’t you think he would have had a sword or arrows that he could have used before Rana got so close? And to have the lingering camera look at it, makes it seem like the audience is supposed to recognize it. Plus, it would be so resonate to have Prabhas 1’s knife be used a final time in an effort to defend Anushka 1. But, no! It’s Anushka’s brother, not her cousin.
I want to give his death a little time to breath, here in my recaps, time that is not really given to him in the film. Let’s look at what we know of this man. A kind brother, and a gentle king. Willing to fight for his kingdom if necessary (we saw him on the battlements during the Pindari fight), but also wise enough to step back and let others who are more suited take the lead in those situations (Anushka was clearly the war-leader for the battle). During the sudden attack on Kuntala, rather than stand and fight, he chose to rush to safety with what few children he could save. Children, not adults who would be better suited to take back the kingdom, but children who could be a way of desperately trying to preserve the kingdom. Over the next 25 years, he continued to gather more and more young people to him, and see them all die in failed attempts (Tamannah’s band has mostly people between the ages of 25-30 it looks like, which means those initial 10-12 year olds must all be dead, as are any other children who joined in the early years). In an effort to cope with all this death and misery, he hardened his heart and focused on one goal, rescuing Anushka, so she could bring back all the hope and faith and courage that he was slowly losing. Or, alternatively, he realized that any true victory was unlikely, but giving these kids an achievable goal to hold on to was the best he could do for them. And now, suddenly, everything he has waited for has happened, almost before he has time to process it. He is doing his best to accommodate to the new world, but he is still focused on protecting Anushka, even in the midst of battle when he might have served better by leading his fighters. Or, alternatively, has his life of sacrifice and misery clarified his vision, so that he knows, for sure, Anushka is the key to this battle?
Anushka is the key, but not through her freedom, rather through her captivity. How would this battle have played out if Rana failed to capture her? He could have been over-whelmed by her defenses and forced to retreat, which would have given him time to formulate a better attack plan instead of mowing down his own men. Best case scenario, he is confronted by Prabhas 1, or Anushka, and defeated. But then, even with Rana dead, they still have to fight their way into the city, defeat the remnants of the King’s guard and stupid Nassar, and finally in a bloody unclear way take control by taking the throne room. No, it is actually better for Rana to “win” at this point, bring the battle back into the palace grounds, and inspire Prabhas 2 in the way he needs to be inspired. Equally important, to show to his men how little he cares for them.
(Plus, you know, Ramayana again. Sita has to be captured so that Ram can rescue her)
I don’t think Anushka “knows” that. But I think she knows that, from now on, if Rana takes her, Prabhas 2 will find and rescue her. I can believe that she couldn’t fight off Rana after 25 years of brutal captivity. But I can also believe, in certain circumstances, she might have killed herself rather than being taken again. But those are NOT those circumstances. She knows the battle isn’t over, that Prabhas 2 hasn’t even begun to fight, that a confrontation between Prabhas 2 and Rana is inevitable. And her capture is just one small part of it, it will not change things one way or the other. Might even accelerate the confrontation. Not that I think she was standing there thinking “I shall let myself be captured and pretend fear in order to inspire Prabhas 2”. But I do think she was thinking “I am panicked and unhappy, but he’s gonna come get me eventually. This isn’t the end.”
Besides what Anushka’s capture did to Prabhas 2, there is also the consideration of what it did to Rana. Not only did Rana kill his own men on the way to and from Anushka, he also pretty much went “welp, battle over!” as soon as he had her back. Which explains why, for the remainder of the fight scenes, we see King’s Guard uniform guys just sort of standing around. Or even joining in to help Prabhas 2 and his crew. They literally don’t have anything to fight for any more, Rana was their only leader (I assume he had generals and stuff, but he didn’t take the time to field them that we saw, just ordered a straight up exit of the mass of soldiers from the city to the battlefield), and he just left, so there’s kind of not anything else to do besides stand around. And observe that while your commander just left you, the “enemy” commander has a whole bunch of lieutenants taking charge of their own groups, and is actively trying to work out next steps.
That’s another thing about how Prabhas 2 is with his allies. Prabhas 1 respected and worked well with Kattappa and kind of with Rana in the Kalakeya battle. But Prabhas 2 didn’t just respect his allies, he let them go off and do their own thing most of the time. The original attack was all kinds of coordinated, Prabhas 2, by himself or with help, had worked out how best to throw off Rana with a visual, then surprise the attackers with booby-traps and better fighting techniques then they expected, Kattappa hiding in the tall grass, etc. etc. But after that, some people hung out to protect Anushka, other people were moving forward to the city gates, while others were stuck in skirmishes further back. Now, with Rana gone and the whole battle sort of gone floop, everyone is figuring out their own thing in their own way. Sure, Prabhas is the most spectacular, but he’s not exactly issuing exact directives to all the other people who end up doing other things.
But what is Prabhas 2 doing just now? He saw Anushka being dragged away, he chased after and couldn’t quite catch the lawnmower chariot, he manages to grab hold of the drawbridge as it is being raised, but is shaken off when Rana uses his 50-yard bow (yes, I am doubling down on it being the same bow that Ramya offered him) to shoot one perfect arrow into his chest.
Uff! What a dramatic ending! Before moving on to the second phase of the battle, I want to talk about Prabhas 2’s chest for a moment. When the first looks came out for this film, one of my reactions was that Rana and Prabhas had new outfits. My first thought was just for the action figure money, so everyone would want to buy them all. But after actually watching the film, the armour is deeply meaningful.
Prabhas 2 is wearing his father’s signal, a horse’s head against a rising sun. He has accepted his father’s legacy, and is trying to carry it forward. Rana, on the other hand, acknowledges no other anything. The lion’s head is a symbol of Mahishmati, we see it periodically through out both films. But it is a minor symbol. It seems to be used more for the power of Mahishmati, but not for the society, the people, the city, the royal family, anything else. It is over the throne, and it is on the front of Rana’s war chariot (thus available for Prabhas 1 to use to grasp the skull of the head Kalakeya). But the horse’s head and the sun symbol, separately, also appear at least as often. It is only after Rana’s reign begins that the lion becomes more and more prevelant. And now, in this final battle, we see his current armor, which turns his entire body into the lion. There is no “Rana and the power of Mahishmati”, Rana is Mahishmati. At least, the Mahishmati that Rana sees, the throne and the power and the rule.
Prabhas 2 is representing a different vision of Mahishmati and of leadership. While the lion is power and rule, the horse is grace, intelligence, service, elegance. And, once again, Kshatriya. The sword and the horse are both universal symbols of the upper warrior class. Both valuable in battle, and expensive to maintain. Only the elite of society can afford them, and in return for those resources being used for their needs, they provide service to others in society who need them. Prabhas 1 and 2 are following that tradition, whether they rule Mahishmati or serve elsewhere makes no difference, their essential character is one of service.