Bahubali Theme Post: Bhallaladeva, Just Wants to Be Loved!

In case have haven’t figured it out, I am working up to the final characters.  Bhalla is 3rd to last, then Devasena, then Amarendra.  I debated making Bhalla second, because he really is the co-lead of the films in many ways.  But on the other hand, his character is slightly less important overall than Devasena.  But only slightly.  Feel free to make that your first discussion point in the comments, if Bhalla deserved the the second place instead of Devasena. (full index of Bahubal posts here)

Bhalla’s biggest flaw really shouldn’t be a flaw at all.  He just wants to be loved.  Isn’t that a good thing?  A human thing?  It’s why we (at least, I) have a sneaking sympathy for him.  He does terrible things, but for a reason that makes sense to us.

If you compare him with Bijala (who is not getting his own post, sorry!  I decided to keep it to the main 7), you can see what I mean.  Bijala resents his loss of status, and hates his wife for being stronger than him.  Everything comes from a place of hate and bitterness.  You want him to just grow up and be a better person and kill those urges inside of him.  But Bhalla, it comes from a source that should be encouraged.  Wanting to be loved is healthy, part of what holds society together, caring what other people think of us.

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(Also, he looks good in shades)

The first time we see Bhalla in the films, he is enjoying that love.  Defeating the bull isn’t just about showing off his power, it’s about showing off his power in order to get his father and son to cheer him on.  It’s about basking in their approval.

Which builds right to the next sequence, in which we see him building a massive monument to himself, trying to force that same love and approval from the people.  And failing, because they love his brother more.  Only after we see this in the present day do we go back to the “past” and see the origins of it all.

In the comments on some post (there have been so many!) someone questioned how we are all so sure that Sivagami loved Bahubali more than her other son, and that Bhalla minded it.  I think that’s why we had to see this part first.  The way that lack of love from his childhood has made him crave it so much as an adult.  And so we are able to connect the way Bahubali is extra close to Sivagami in the flashback with the way Bhalla seems to resent him once they are grown, straight through to Bhalla’s frustration with the love the people still have for Bahubali over him in the present.  The proof of the problems in his upbringing aren’t back in childhood, but in the present day, seeing what was the result of it all.

Which is one of the most realistic parts of the film!  Kids are so good at compartmentalizing, and denial, that even the children with the most messed up home lives can seem basically fine.  Unless you spend a lot of time with them, and know them well enough to see the signs, you may not know anything is wrong.  But those same things that you bury and ignore as a child can come up again in surprising ways in adulthood.  And so Bhalla and Bahubali’s childhood seemed ideal, no problems.  But we know there must have been problems, because look at the result!

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(this man did not have a happy childhood)

Setting aside Bhalla’s massive underlying issues for a moment, let’s look at just how Bahubali, the healthier brother, turned out.  Yes, he cares for people and believes in Dharma and all of that is great.  But he is also a bit cocky.  In that way that the “golden child” of a family often is.  He doesn’t seem as aware of how his words affect others as he could be.  The way he tosses accepts the sighs of the palace women watching him practice as his due, the way he teases Bhalla and walks away before seeing his reaction, even the cheerful way he accepts the challenge of tracking down the stolen war secrets and then takes control of the bar, it all comes together as one of those people who has never really had to try for anything.

Not that Bahubali is a bad person, just that he hadn’t fully developed yet at the time when we met him.  He was a little immature, a little thoughtless.  Without his essential good qualities, and the Dharma lessons that Sivagami insisted on giving him that provided a baseline of good behavior, Bahubali could have easily turned into the “bad” son, the one spoiled by too much love.  Heck, what happens to Bhalla’s son could have easily happened to Bahubali.

And Bhalla could have easily gone the other way.  Getting too little love could have been the making of him, extra sensitive to other forgotten outcasts, focused on serving the kingdom as a whole instead of pleasing his mother, and aware of his own flaws and how he could improve.

I guess this is where Bijala steps in.  And Kattappa from the other side.  Sivagami gave her two sons almost the same upbringing.  They had the same lessons and training from her in right and wrong.  One got a little more love than the other, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one would be “bad” and one would be “good”, it could have lead to all kinds of different results.  The different results are where their fathers change things.

Kattappa took Bahubali’s natural care for others, the extra love he had to give because he had been given so much it was overflowing out of him, and turned it towards the downtrodden. Instead of Bahubali spending his childhood and young adulthood flirting with the palace maidens, or playing with fellow spoiled noble children, he ended up spending it with the lowly ones of society.  And instead of being further built up, told he was special by all those around him, he got the simple positive reinforcement for hard work, duty, and skill from Kattappa.  Because Kattappa can’t conceive of anything beyond hard work, duty, and skill.

But what of poor Bhalla?  Bhalla was so parched for love.  He was easy pickings for anyone who showed him any attention.  His father managed to draw him in through positive reinforcement.  But at the same time keep him always hungry for more.  We never see a simple moment of fatherly affection from him.  It is always a little given, more withheld until Bhalla has “earned” it.  Bhalla’s hunger, with Bijala’s encouragement, grew and grew and grew.

Image result for bijaladeva

(Sorry!  No post for you!  That’s what you get for being INCREDIBLY IRRITATING.  Although you are the only main character to still play a major role in my fanfic, so that’s something)

And that’s why he hated Bahubali as an adult.  Because he was jealous of his peace of mind.  The balance he had found between Sivagami’s love and Kattappa’s expectations.  Bhalla was never really in balance.

But it is this lack of balance which lead to his intelligence.  As I see it, he spent a childhood learning to deny what he was feeling, to bury his unhappiness.  And, as a coping mechanism, he learned patience and strategy and how to manage to get what he wants without asking for it.  Because he has learned that asking what get it, either from his mother or his father.’

It’s not that his madness lives with his intelligence, it’s that his intelligence was born of his madness.  Or vice versa.  He wanted love, but he learned to hide that desire from his family.  His intelligence grew with this challenge of constantly presenting a false face and somehow getting what he really wanted anyway.  But if he had been less intelligent, quicker to reveal his feelings, perhaps Sivagami and Bahubali (who really did care for him) would have been able to respond to his issues and help him before they reached the point of madness.

And so we end up with Bhalla in the present day.  Still super intelligent and able to present a false front to the world, seemingly in total control.  But under that, hiding a madness which has only gotten bigger and bigger.  With the initial source of his unhappiness gone, Sivagami who created this imbalance and Bahubali who was the focus of it, now he has moved all of it on to the one remaining object, Devasena.  He may act like the all powerful king of Mahishmati, but he has to keep Devasena always in the palace courtyard in order to feel like the all powerful king of Mahishmati on the inside, instead of a little boy who is jealous of the way his mother loves his brother.

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85 thoughts on “Bahubali Theme Post: Bhallaladeva, Just Wants to Be Loved!

  1. – I definitely think that the contrast between the unloved child/the golden son is definitely how Bhalla perceives it! But I just am not convinced that Amarendra grew up cocky or particularly entitled to anything- to me, he comes across as very aware that Bhalla is the true son, and he is the adopted one (does anyone really think Bijjala wouldn’t have thrown it in his face every chance he got?). Amarendra’s behavior, especially after he falls into disfavor and seemingly just goes along with it (he isn’t angry or bitter like a man who was spoiled or felt entitled to it would have been –heck, like Bijjaladeva, who I think was similarly spoiled/the favorite and did expect to be king someday as a boy, because from what I understand, asper RoS, his arm injury was acquired, not present from birth–but instead almost resigned, like he always figured it wouldn’t last), makes me suspect that from his side, he grew up uncomfortably aware that he was just part of the family thanks to Sivagami, and that he should just be grateful for what he got, not complain, and generally find a solution to make the best of it. And that’s Amarendra’s coping mechanism, to find allies and supporter in the common people, to make up for the love that he wasn’t getting in his family (except from Sivagami, but even that was something that he didn’t have a right to) Which is to say, despite Sivagami’s best efforts, it looks like both her sons grew up with subpar childhoods.

    -And the Kattappa/Bijjala influences continue! Absolutely agree that their respective adult male figure shaped both boys and how they approached dealing with conflicts.

    – My biggest theory about Bhalla’s personality is that Sivagami is totally right when she says he’s more fit to be a commander than a king, except it’s not the moral judgment it seems to be. Instead: Bhalla does better with simple objectives and thrives on the satisfaction he gets when they are complete; i.e., “Kill the Kalakeyas, stop the invasion, feel awesome that you’ve achieved your goal.” But being King doesn’t work like that; sure, you might have solvedthe poor harvest in the south, but now the gold workers want you to lower taxes for them but the neighboring countries aren’t happy with that,etc etc – no matter how good you are, there’s always some problem that’s going to come up and you can’t always be sure if you’ve succeeded or not. Amarendra thrives on that sort of challenge, I think he likes the process of figuring out solutions for its own sake, but that is guaranteed to frustrate Bhalla as I see him to no end and make him miserable. (I think that’s why we never see Bhalla actually making any decrees/ruling in court in the present day, or even really in the flashback! We see Sivagami doing so during Saahore Baahubali, and Amarendra on a smaller scale during Dandalayya, but never Bhalla. For someone who wanted the throne so badly, actually ruling doesn’t seem to be his priority. i think that’s also why during the quick montage of Mahishmati before Bhalla’s entry, it seems to be doing so badly – people being whipped in public, gold being taken away by soldiers in public, the place in general looking drabber than in the flashback. I don’t think Bhalla had much interest in any aspect of day-to-day kingship except for the army.)

    And I think Sivagami, as his mother, knew this, which is why she initially made him the commander-in-chief, which he is more suited for anyway : it’s based on single problems, it’s got a clear goal, it’s got a clear “yes, you won”/”no you didn’t” dichotomy. Bhalla’s tragedy is that his father got it into his head that the throne should be his goal, and Bhalla obsessively followed that, only to have a “well, what now” reaction once he got it. And I wonder if the dissatisfaction he felt wasn’t excused away as “well, it’s because the people like Baahu better” and he never really had the insight to see that the problem was that he never really wanted the throne in the first place.

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    • -I can see your point about Amarendra. But it’s kind of the question of prince versus son, right? As a son, he got more than his brother. They both go the same training and all that as the crown princes. But he felt his mothers love, and was able to give it back to her, more than Bhalla could. And so while Bhalla grew up with a higher status, on the inside he was emptier. But you are totally right that both boys had difficult childhoods! Amarendra looked to the common people and his foster father for a connection he didn’t have in his family, and Bhalla focused on the status he did have as his only value.

      -Yep, even if you remove all the other parts of their relationships, when learning how to succeed in the world, Bhalla could watch is father and Bahubali could only see Kattappa, since he was rejected by his uncle.

      -I love this analysis! Yes, Bhalla is always about the goal. Whereas Baahu is about the process. And, to take it further, Shivudu is a combination of the two. He enjoyed the challenge of climbing the waterfall for its own sake, but he needed a goal at the end of it to really drive him forward. In the same way, Devasena “needed” to be captured by Bhalla before Shivudu would really attack and take the city, although he had worked out a battle plan and was planning to fight already, but he needed that little push. That goal oriented focus helped him achieve his destiny in a way his father never did, but it didn’t necessarily make him a better person, just a more successful one.

      On Tue, Jul 4, 2017 at 12:09 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Gotta run, but really quickly: jumping onto goal-focused Bhalla vs process focused Amarendra (thank you! so much more concise than my rambly explanation 🙂 ), surely this difference between the two would have been obvious sooner in their life, like when they were preteens or so? If so, Sivagami might have done better to assess them sooner, and raise them to be commander-in-chief vs. king sooner instead of letting the question of succession drag on; in such a world, there’s a chance Bhalla wouldn’t have hated Amarendra quite so much, and the thought of them working together, with Bhalla’s focus actually getting stuff done while Amarendra keeps an eye on the big picture, would have been the best outcome possible for Mahishmati! (Even in canon, the way Sivagami presents her reasoning sounds so judgmental; I can see what she’s saying, and she’s not wrong, but it comes across as “Baahubali is better, so he will be king.” Maybe if she had framed it more explicitly as “it’s not a question of who won the competition, but who has better skill sets for each job,” Bhalla wouldn’t have been so furious at the beginning of BB2 not as inclined to plot everyone’s destruction?)

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        • Well, to be fair to Sivagami, I could also see her knowing her son’s personalities but not being sure what that means for who would be a better ruler. There are advantages to having a goal oriented king, she could have been worried that Baahu would get so caught up in making sure everyone was happy all the time that he would forget to do his job. That’s what the battle showed, not just that Bhalla failed, but that Baahu managed to succeed, to balance the needs of the moment with his desire to save the people.

          On Tue, Jul 4, 2017 at 1:05 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Ooh, I like that reasoning! Makes Sivagami more logical, and keeps me from wondering why she made such an obviously crazy decision to keep on waiting 🙂

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          • If you miss the fact that Bhalla is MESSED UP because of his childhood, all his surface personality traits could make him a decent ruler. Focused, unemotional, with no real human connections, could be a great king. And Sivagami couldn’t acknowledge his messed upiness because that would be to confront her own failings as a mother, and what a total jerk her husband is. It’s where we get into the complication of the regent also being the mother of these two boys.

            On Tue, Jul 4, 2017 at 5:22 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • – Agreed on Amarendra. That was exactly my takeaway too, especially so after the first movie. It’s evident even during the unfair distribution of weapons/chariot during Kalakeya war, Amarendra never complains because he expects it at some level, and makes the most of it. I don’t think he grew up entitled or cocky at all. Though he definitely flirts a lot more than Bhalla does.

      – The only aspect that challenges this is the Saahore Baahubali song in the 2nd movie where Sivagami’s closeness to Baahu is shown, but I think this was more for dramatic effect, to highlight how much things change later. It’s telling that Sivagami’s love for Baahu is only explicitly shown till he is doing exactly as he is told, the first instance of conflict – he is completely cut off. We see Bijjala and Bhalla secretly observing Baahu in his exile, but nothing from Sivagami – not even to see if the pregnant Devasena is getting adequate nutrition.

      – Excellent point on Bhalla being more goal oriented as well, it’s obvious in the way he plows down his own army during the final war to get to Devasena, or in the way he doesn’t think twice about killing his own people to get to the Kalakeya king. It ties in with my belief that he is emotionally incapable of sympathy, empathy or love. When he sees Devasena carrying the severed head of his son, his first reaction is not grief, but fear (trickling down sweat), humiliation (I’ll kill everyone who saw you die) and anger that stems from it. Nothing about how much he loved or cared for Badra.

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    • There are a lot of leadership lessons a kid also can learn just by watching these two movies. They can be applied not only to kingdoms but also to modern politics and business houses. .

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    • Awesome thread ladies. Yes agree about the personality types. Although if I may add, Amarendra has the added advantage of being the child of the last king (who was soft-hearted and bullied by Bajjala in RoS). People still associate him whatever they felt was good about his father. Bhallala grows up with the notoriety of his bad prince father. So maybe people maintain their distance because they hated his father plus his awful father is still around so people have an additional incentive to stay away from Bhallala.

      I’m not sure where I’m on the which-Prince-was-better-to-rule question because for all intents and purposes, the crown princes were raised to rule as a tandem. Sivagami trains them equally and in her professional estimate, they’re both equally good so she delays making that decision all that time and basically maintains the status quo till a real challenge presents itself and one of them presents himself as better option.

      Bhallala the Unloved, is a victim of his father’s ambition and his mother’s emotional neglect. A case may be made that Bhallala is also emotionally neglected by Amarendra who gets along with everyone but somehow never gets close to the cousin he was raised with!

      And he actually has nothing but the crown to cling to in life. No motherly mom (Amarendra got that!), no real protective/loving father figure (Amarendra got that with Kattappa), no mama (everyone needs a fun uncle! Amarendra has that too!), no special someone (Amarendra gets that one too!), no love from the public even though his role in the Kalakeya battle was crucial in terms of defending the kingdom!

      His mother doesn’t even make an effort to get him a wife in the 10-11 months post his coronation! No wonder the man becomes obsessed with his cousin who just seems to have it all! (Didn’t someone float the Bhallala is gay for Amarendra theory previously? The “I cant have you so i’ll destroy you” trope makes sense with the theory!)

      Could Bhallala have been redeemed as a character? I highly doubt it! His entire character has shades of Bheem/Duryodhan including the kill-first-ask-questions-later approach and the mace weapon symbolism! He was designed to be a foil to Amarendra. Without Bhallala, we’d see all the flaws that Amarendra has more clearly!

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    • “We see Sivagami doing so during Saahore Baahubali, and Amarendra on a smaller scale during Dandalayya, but never Bhalla. For someone who wanted the throne so badly, actually ruling doesn’t seem to be his priority.”

      I think Bijjala ended up with a disproportionate amount of power. Post Amarendra and Sivagami’s death and sometimes even before. We see Bijjala ordering the soldiers to kill Mahendra and Sivagami, checking the completion of the golden statue, issuing war commands during the Mahendra-Bhalla battle. Bhalla, I suspect, was just happy to let his father take over the actual ruling (for most part).

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      • Oh, really interesting thought! Bhalla was only interested in the goal, not in achieving anything. But, conversely, he was a talented and intelligent person who would have had the ability, I think, to be a good ruler. If he had the motivation.

        On the other hand, Bijjala, I think, does not have the ability. I mean, his statue plan was incredibly flawed! But because Bhalla passed the buck, an incompetent person ended up taking charge.

        On Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 5:13 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Poor old Bhallala can’t even get a full analysis post for himself without Amarendra’s good qualities being mentioned!! 😁

    An excellent post as always. Although I suppose there isn’t much evidence of Bhallala having had issues during childhood. We would have had a closeup of child Bhallala if they wanted to reveal that suspense earlier in their flashback.

    I love your take on Bhallala’s intro in BB1. It’s totally him doing a stunt to be admired by his child and father. At his coronation too, he feels pleased to hear his jaikara.

    Also, taming the charging bull– that’s such a huge metaphor for his sexuality isn’t it? You’ve mentioned his world being very masculine. Perhaps that’s what that shot was giving off – a very high testosterone gay vibe?

    He’s also shirtless more than Amarendra.

    I suppose his introversion, if the gay thing is correct, starts somewhere during puberty. Around the time Amarendra is getting along with Kattappa and hanging out with the grateful masses (including maybe grateful girls his own age).

    So Bhallala gets no love from his mother, his cousin brother, regular people (not sycophants or sevaks assigned to him) AND he gets no love from the boys he fancies because he can never tell them he fancied them!

    Bhallala is also an expert emotional manipulator. Is it strange that such a master of deceit never tried to get love from his mother before the Kalakeya battle through an emotional trap?

    We know he knows what buttons to push viz Bajjala, Sivagami and even Amarendra. He’s studied them keenly while they were busy not paying attention to him. Heck, even Devasena ignores him and goes straight to insulting Sivagami.

    My eyes have started to hurt and I can barely type anymore. Gawd this post is delicious. I should finish the rest of this comment tomorrow I guess.

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    • I am still waffling on whether Bhalla is actually gay, but there is a definite vibe of being so masculine as to cross the line into no longer even able to relate to a woman. I could see him enjoying sex with a woman so long as there was no communication or empathy involved. So, like, a kind of prostitute relationship. Or purely procreational sex with his wife (the poor invisible nameless woman). Or, like he has with Devasena, a relationship that is entirely about control and she doesn’t even look at him. So sex with a man (if he has those needs), could be easier for him, since he wouldn’t have to acknowledge the humanity of a woman in order to enjoy it.

      And I could see that coming up in young adulthood. Just, a general inability to relate to people the way his brother does. Women, male friends, everybody. As a kid, it would be one of those things you don’t really care about or notice, you are happy playing by yourself, it doesn’t really matter. But then as you grow up, you might suddenly see that everyone else has friends, or romances, and suddenly you feel left out and less than somehow.

      Bhalla’s inability to manipulate Sivagami, Devasena, or Amarendra kind of shows, to me, how important they are to him. He doesn’t want manipulated love from them, he wants real love, spontaneous love. Sivagami he does manipulate eventually, but I think only after she has failed to give him the crown and he has decided within himself that he will give up on receiving spontaneous love from her and instead settle for a manipulated gift of the crown.

      And go to bed! You can reply to this late tonight (my time) when you will be able to keep me up!

      On Tue, Jul 4, 2017 at 12:19 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I was thinking of real life Princes and somehow I ended up thinking of Prince William when I thought of Bhallala. That dude is coming out to be more and more arrogant and entitled by the day isn’t he? Made me wonder if it’s how people around you never really humanise you beyond your title that makes you lose touch with the common people or if it’s an inborn sense of being superior.

        One of the scenes I absolutely love with Bhallala is the one after Devasena’s escape where he rubs her chains on his face. I haven’t fully been able to understand what that made me feel but your explanation of him wanting unmanipulated love totally fits the bill.

        Another thing I loved about this characterization is that he’s very self aware. Like when Sivagami offers him the palace etc after announcement of Amarendra’s ascension, he says I’m not that neech to want sulk for the loss of a crown. (Btw incredible facial acting by Ramya there! You can see her being actually uncomfortable and formal!)

        And then again, when he’s telling Sivagami that he’s taken care of himself (knowing she would overthrow him) he calls himself neech again. It’s a completely amazing moment to me that this villain is aware of his villainy. It’s such a break from the “but I’m being villainous for the greater good (read: the hitler types) kinda villain!

        Even when he’s mutilating Amarendra’s corpse, the dialogue is something that most of us would probably utter in anger. I don’t know how it felt in the original actor’s delivery but the dubbed version had this awesome teeth gnashing jaw clenched kinda emotion which sort of humanised Bhallala even in that moment.

        This character has amazing little moments which you sometimes want to see more of. Had Rajamaoli not been bromancing Darling so much perhaps he could have given more screentime to Rana. Or maybe once they got down to this film they had so much to work with they didn’t know what to keep and what to chop!

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        • What I would like to see in a different edit of the film is somehow us knowing what was happening with Rana’s head sooner. Which they tried to do! That was the whole point of the “cutting the rope” scene. But somehow it just didn’t work. Everything he did before that moment when he walks away from Sivagami after rejecting her gifts just felt too “surface”, you know? But everything after that was fascinating!

          On Tue, Jul 4, 2017 at 6:57 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • True. Getting a “making of the monster” moment would be much appreciated!

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        • I don’t know what exact words were used in Hindi version. But in Telugu version while turning down the gifts he says ‘I am not that alpa (a lowly person but not necessarily bad). Later when he says that he has taken care of the situation he uses the word neech (both lowly and bad). But you are right on – he is self aware from the begining, and he knows when to talk and when to stay quite.

          Not just Rana and Ramya but everybody has beautiful facial expressions.

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          • These seem like such insignificant details but they make all the difference in terms of understanding don’t they?

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  3. Sivagami gave the same lessons, same opportunities to both Bhallaladeva and Amarendra. And the princes ended up taking different paths to the journey of life. And it is because I think they have the hearts of their respective birth fathers-Bijjaladeva and Vikramadeva with some differences. While Bhallaladeva is unlike Bijjaladeva in keeping thoughts to himself and not even revealing to his father, Amarendra is a warrior par excellence unlike Vikramadeva. But it is also because they have their fathers hearts that they gravitate towards different kinds of people. And Bhallaladeva gravitates towards Bijjaladeva (naturally, he is his birth father) and his group of sycophants.

    The lost legends series credits Rajamouli as one of the producers along with Shobu and Prasad, so I take it that the character portrayal in that series is compatible with the movie. We see there that Bhallaladeva becomes a favorite of people with dubious intentions, being very careful about trusting anyone, killing even his sycophants and keeping the murders safely hidden from Sivagami and even his own father. In short, he is ruthless.

    And then Sivagami’s love for the two sons. For quite sometime I kept going back and forth (sometimes I still do) between Sivagami treated both sons equally to Sivagami had some extra love for Amarendra and I have settled, for most part, on the Sivagami had some extra love for Amarendra. And I do wonder, from time to time, how much of this lack of bonding between Sivagami and Bhallaladeva is due to Bhallaladeva consciously keeping a distance from Sivagami because Sivagami prefers the other son vs Amarendra always hanging around her.

    In the end Bhallaladeva is a loser and it is only because of the choices he makes. In one of Rajamouli’s interviews, where he was introducing the principal characters, he talks of how Bhallaladeva does not believe in God but likes the idea of God/deitywood, with him being the God/deity. But everything he got, all were manufactured/manipulated stuff. He had to manipulate Sivagami by faking magnanimity towards losing the throne to Amarendra. She gave him the throne subsequently only because she was mad at the other son, and not because she wanted to make him the King. He again proclaimed his so-called love for Devasena and got a promise, by deceit, from his mother but that came to a naught as Devasena refused to take the bait.

    And then the people of Mahishmathi, who refuse to accept him as their God either at his coronation or twenty five years later when his golden statue is unveiled. They make it painfully clear that for them, it is Amarendra, living or long dead, who is their God and if there is to be a substitute, then it is Amarendra’s son Mahendra.

    His mother, as soon as she learned the truth, his true face, dethroned him, and made his brother’s few hours old son the King. He eliminated Amarendra so he could have Devasena but then Devasena is Devasena and she shows him who is the boss, though she is held captive for twenty five years, she has the last laugh, she sets him alight as she all along planned, her son, who is the last piece of her husband Amarendra, reclaims his throne.

    I think Bhallaladeva acknowledges that he always knew his mother loved Amarendra more when he tells her she didn’t even spare Amarendra’s life so why will she spare his-the less loved son’s, life. Bhallaladeva tries desperately, for one last time, to win over Devasena, when he tells her let both he and she can die together, and just as she is about to pour the burning coal on him, he acknowledges that he is a loser and Amarendra (through his son Mahendra and wife Devasena) finally won.

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    • What I like about Sivagami’s relationship with the sons is that, from what we see of their childhood, it evolved naturally, just like it often does with parents. For whatever reason, one child is just slightly easier to relate to, to understand, to love, than the other. Something just clicked, early on, and they always had something special that she didn’t have with the other son.

      But what is unusual is Bhalla’s reaction. Not impossible to believe or anything, but not necessarily what has to happen. He could have reacted by just accepting his role as the slightly less loved son, or he could have worked to improve the relationship, or find something special to share with his mother that was just the two of them. I’m not even thinking as an adult, when he was 3 years old he could have asked her to read him more stories, something! But instead what we seem to see from him is that he just let the situation fester inside of himself, let his resentment build and wait for other people to make the first move. And then reject that first movie when it came because he would rather keep the resentment.

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  4. First of, wanted to say how much I love your posts on Baahubali series and the amount of thought that goes into it! Love your blog.

    I have a completely different take on Bhalla, and his dynamics with Baahu, growing up. Right from the start, we see Sivagami give equal attention and equal love to both kids, but one kid reciprocate more than the other. This is evident in the way Baahu bows down before his mother after receiving his sword while Bhalla just dashes off, or in Baahu being protective of his mother during prayers, or in Baahu renouncing his royal meal to go share food with Kattappa, while Bhalla is oblivious to any of it. Baahu is the one who deeply appreciates what he has been given, and is grateful for it, while Bhalla grows up entitled, not just to his privilege, but also to his imagined right to be loved more than Baahu by everyone because he is more legitimate (fed to him by Bijjala time and again).

    If there’s one thing that’s evident about Baahu, it is his great capacity for giving away his love and trust, and even Rajamouli has spoken about how he wished he had put in more scenes between Rana and Prabhas to highlight the relationship between the conniving elder brother and the loving/trusting younger brother.

    I think Bhalla is incapable of love. He sees people as objects, as means to an end, to be owned or controlled or subjugated, he doesn’t understand selflessness, putting someone else before himself, or sacrifice. He is always surrounded by his cronies, even before the Kalakeya war, when he steps up to sacrifice the cow, there are four people walking behind him, while Baahu walks alone. During his coronation, he proclaims himself as “son of Bijjala and Sivagami”, while Baahu just says his name, unattached, with no additional attributes. In a way, Baahu always identifies himself as being alone in the royal household, and is well aware of it.

    It couldn’t have been pleasant for Baahu growing up. Sivagami was busy running the kingdom, whatever little time she could spare was spent on the children’s upbringing. Bijjala and his cronies never lose an opportunity to put Baahu down (I mean, Bijjala accuses Baahu of killing his mother during childbirth in open court, he couldn’t have been very pleasant in private), and hence Bhalla grows up always assuming he is superior. The love Baahu gets despite being “inferior” confounds him, he is not able to understand it, he is not able to explain it, and he lashes out in jealousy and entitlement that he should be loved more, like he is in the palace. He never understands love till the very end, remember when he assumes Devasena would somehow be willing to die with him. I thought he was delusional. Maybe not. Maybe he just doesn’t get it.

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    • Thank you! I am so glad you are enjoying it. And thanks for commenting!

      I like your idea of Baahu as someone who never felt like he was “owed” love, if that makes sense. And so he was always especially appreciative of any that was offered to him. It also works well with why he wanted to woo Devasena the way he did. He wanted to see if he could get her love just for himself, nothing else. And he was angry when his identity was revealed and immediately worked to subvert that by offering his allegiance to Devasena, putting her on a higher footing than himself.

      this is a big stretch, but it feels like we are all dancing around Bhalla being mentally abnormal, right? Autism, psychopath, something that makes him able to understand emotions and relationships on an intellectual level, but no more than that. He feels like if he can push the right buttons and say the right things, he can guarantee a certain response. And he is very intelligent, so sometimes he can, he can observe and predict accurately enough to make it all happen just as he plans it. But without that ability to fully relate to emotions, something like Devasena’s hatred/disinterest in him just doesn’t make sense.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly. There is not a single scene which shows Bhalla offer love without it being reciprocated – not as a son, as a brother, or as a father, or even as a friend or a lover. There is a lot of observing, planning, acting, but nothing where he displays an inkling of love. Contrast this with, say, Loki in the Thor series, who jealousy clearly stems from being loved less, and how all his initial actions are to win Odin’s love and approval. Bhalla just wants. He has nothing to give.

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  5. Oh boy I never imagined that a movie would be discussed about to this length even after 10 weeks of release. I am enjoying reading these posts and comments.

    Poor Bijjala, he was pushed aside by Kattappa and now by Margaret.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. When Bhallala defeated the bull in BB1, that victory wasn’t impressive or meaningful. But when it is seen in connection with the fact that he couldn’t defeat Devasena in 25 years, my admiration for Devasena grows. May be that admiration should be reserved to the post on her character.

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    • I think it’s also a sign of how Bhalla sees defeat and victory. The bull was strong and violent, he is strong and violent, he defeated it by fighting it into submission. But Devasena never plays that game. She doesn’t fight him head on, she doesn’t even seem to notice him, there is nothing there for him to hit or block or anything. She is his captive physically, but he can never defeat her mind because he doesn’t even know how to reach it.

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      • Completely agree with this, especially the last line. He does not know how to even get across to her, dismissive as she is to his torture. Not once do we see her crying, even when Bhadra is poking her with the rod and pushing her about. Bhalla makes the most incendiary comments like “Mahishmati has forgotten him” and “his name has disappeared not only from people’s tongues, but also their minds” and takes it a notch further, saying he wishes he got to kill Bahu with his bare hands, in a desperate bid for a reaction from her. And even then, he gets none!

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        • Exactly! And I don’t even think Anushka is “resisting” him. I think, start to finish, she honestly just never noticed him. Even in her hatred, she just wanted him dead, it wasn’t an obsessed hatred, it was goal oriented. I don’t see her gloating over it for 25 years like Bhalla did over Bahubali’s death.

          Liked by 1 person

          • She really is not resisting him because, in my opinion, she is absolutely certain that her son is alive and will rescue her and avenge his father’s death. Her faith in that is unflinching. And maybe, just MAYBE, she is undergoing all the torture meted out to her without obvious protest because perhaps she felt guilt at how her arrival on the scene and subsequent conflicts with Sivagami were what ultimately led to Bahu’s death. Just MAYBE. So she in a way accepted this as punishment, awaiting atonement by Sivudu’s arrival.

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          • I had a similar but different thought. That she is so plunged into grief abouter Bahu’s death that she truly does not feel or care about anything else. Nothing can come close to her grief, so none of it matters. She is able to pull out of her depression by focusing on her son, but even that is kind of a distant second to her grief. And Bhalla doesn’t even register.

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          • Perhaps, yes. I had this thought that maybe she kept herself going by imagining her son alive and well, and creating visions in her head as to how he was growing up. Just to keep herself sane in the moments that she was not storing up immense levels of hatred for Bhalla.

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          • the other thing I am thinking, just now, is that maybe Anushka was grateful her son wasn’t with her. Not just because she is in prison etc. etc., but because she is so sad, and if she had to also raise her son, she would have to get over her grief before she was ready, or else raise him in a distracted fashion. I could see her thinking “I am so glad he is being raised by someone happy and loving and focused on him.” Which in fact he was!

            On Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 10:31 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yes, yes, absolutely! She made the ultimate sacrifice as a mother, giving her child away so there was some hope at least of him being safe. Even through the grief of just finding out that her beloved husband had been killed, she was able to think logically that her son should be escorted to safety, which meant away from where she was. With Bhalla obviously enraged at being dethroned, she must have thought her death must be imminent, so she knew that whatever transpired, her child was not safe anymore, around her.

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          • What if that is Devasena just totally convinced that Sivagami would do anything to keep the child alive? Her body was never found and nor was the last child? Maybe Devasena just has that amount of faith in Sivagami’s abilities?

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          • I love this idea! That despite their enmity, the two women fully knew each others abilities. Remember, Sivagami also says that Baby Baahu must come back for his mother, who WILL be waiting. She is sure that Anushka will survive anything Bhalla does to her and be waiting for her son.

            On Sat, Jul 8, 2017 at 10:58 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yes, she did have faith in Sivagami’s abilities, no question. However, I think what made her even more sure was that she SAW Sivagami’s guilt, the realisation that she had messed things up very badly. So maybe she knew that her guilt would be motivation enough for her to get the child to safety. By then she would have known that Sivagami had a huge ego, and she saw it come crashing down when she touched her feet and acknowledged her mistake.

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          • I don’t think Devasena ever doubted Sivagami’s love for Amarendra or his child. She questioned her logic and the laws of the land but never Sivagami’s love. Rather she was concerned about her bond with Amarendra (in the wedding night scene) being affected by him choosing to go against Sivagami.

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          • Yep. Devasena never gave out the vibe of wanting to be the next Sivagami or wanting the keys to the kingdom, so to speak. She didn’t seem to mind letting Sivagami’s primary claim to Amarendra . But Sivagami failed to see that.

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          • It never got to her making a claim did it? Amarendra picked Devasena on day 1 and neither of the two made an attempt to make nice with Sivagami ever again. They just assume she’d be ok when she’s given a grandchild. Devasena too assumes that since she’s having her grandchild, Sivagami should come to her with barrels full of kisses and forget the insults.

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          • Maybe that is because that is usually what does happen? Pop out a grandchild (rather, a grandson) and all is forgiven. Perhaps what Amarendra and Devasena failed to contend with was the extent of Sivagami’s ego born of decades of seemingly unquestioned power and authority. Also, maybe Sivagami may not have been all-forgiving anyway because Amarendra’s child would not have been the only heir. She had another son to carry on the bloodline. So maybe Baahu and Devasena got a bit too complacent.

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          • Well if someone called me names I wouldn’t call them first either! 😁 I think Devasena fed off of Amarendra’s complacency regarding his relationship with his mom. And yes, the baby does melt her heart doesn’t it. I wonder what would have happened had Sivagami been able to escape with Devasena too!

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          • Oh man, I don’t want to imagine those two on the road together! Unless it is a comedy. Can you imagine the sitcom version? Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law raising a baby together, constant little power plays over whether he should be tucked into a blanket or if he is too hot, should he be walking by now, whose name will he saw first, etc. etc.

            On Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 6:56 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • But they’re united by a grave tragedy and they have a mission to complete together — they have to raise and train Mahendra to take back Mahishmati. Sivagami can teach him statecraft and laws and Devasena can teach him archery and swordfighting etc. It would actually be a pretty kickass story!

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          • I just want to see all those many scenes when bandits or whoever come to attack the lonely homestead with the two widow women, and then Devasena and Sivagami pull out their hidden swords and kill them all with no problems.

            On Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 7:38 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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            Liked by 1 person

          • ooooh yes, I have wondered the same! what if they escaped together types 😀 maybe they could escape to Kuntala and Sivagami resurrects the kingdom after Bhalla destroys it. I have this fanfic version wherein Sivagami never died at all and will return in BB3, a la Ekta Kapoor serial style. LOL. But that is too farfetched.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Well, that is all the rage in epic fandoms these days isn’t it? If we don’t see a character truly 100% dead then they’re probably not dead. Come to think about it, even Amarendra could have technically survived his wounds (he was wearing the forearm armor when he went to rescue Kattappa so technically he could have been wearing armor underneath his shirt too and Bhallala uses a small axe type thing to mutilate him which might leave deep scars but hey, the guy’s got plenty of muscle to absorb those blows right?)

            How body is never found either!

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          • I have wondered about the body too. Not in an Amarendra-is-alive way, but only for curiosity purposes. Hoping he got a decent funeral at the very least. Reminds me of Hector and Achilles in Troy for some reason. Achilles did concede to letting Hector get the burial he deserved. I hope Bhalla did the same, if nothing but to assuage the masses.

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          • They didn’t find the body. That’s why people had come to the palace to find out what happened. What if some loyalists carried him off and died somewhere on the road and Amarendra has been living with amnesia in some remote village and Mahendra’s ascension jolts his memory?! What if he doesn’t remember who he is but he leads a tribe or something (The Vaithalis) in an attack on Mahishmati??

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          • And he arrives just as Devasena is about to be married to someone else in a political marriage!

            On Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 7:58 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Perfect! And then I won’t feel sad about him not getting to marry her, because he doesn’t really want to anyway, he is just being nice. And Amarendra reappearing is the perfect escape for both of them.

            Heck, we can tie it into the rest of it, Devasena is peacefully pushed aside by her son and daughter-in-law after she inevitably comes into conflict with them, feels extraneous in the kingdom, the best solution they can think of is to marry her to Kumar Verma and give her status as Queen of Kuntala as a kind of retirement job. And then Amarendra reappears, and they are reunited, and both go off to live in a little hut and be Grandpa and Grandma to all the little Mahishmati princes and princesses.

            On Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 10:30 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. I really felt that Bhallaladeva was a misunderstood introvert in the the first movie (not the part where he was shown as evil king🙂). I really sympathised with him in Manohari, where he does all the work while Baahu is busy frolicking with the girls. The scene where he left the rope felt forced, as a result.
    But the second movie showed that though he was ignored or not loved and noticed (I stick with even though he had the security of being the real son, Baahu was more cocky because of all the love and attention and admiration he got), that was no excuse for turning out the way he did. He turned out that way because of his underlying badness.
    I love how the movie didn’t make him a conventional villian. They humanized him. In another movie, he could have been the anti-hero. And he just wants to have Devasena in his power so that he could tie her up (though I don’t think he was homosexual, and I think he did have a crush on her when he saw her painting, which turned into obsession as the years went by). This could be part of his code of ethics in his anti-hero movie🙂.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Didn’t Raavan do the same thing? He kidnapped Sita, which was wrong, but then he respected her too much to touch her once she was in his power, which was good.

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      • Right! That’s also where Rajamouli got this from, isn’t it? But it’s good that Bhalla isn’t some random villian who just kidnapped her, like Raavan. He has more complex motivations.

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    • I agree, I never thought he was homosexual either. Being overtly masculine (taming the bull) and the absence of women in his court is no indication of homosexuality, in my opinion. Perhaps having a very alpha woman calling the shots all through the years (Sivagami) turned him off the premise of women being in any position of power. I dunno if I agree about the crush on Devasena part. Maybe he just saw the fire in her eyes–which Sivagami anyway wanted to see, while looking for a bride for Baahu–and knew that she could be Bahu’s Achilles heel, and knew on a purely instinctive level that she would be what ultimately got him the throne. And he was right.

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      • Not crush exactly, but I think he did have some feelings for her. His feelings of jealousy for Baahubali and conniving for the throne were intermingled with it though. Maybe I over interpreted his start on seeing her painting and his showing off at his coronation. But one thing is certain, he wouldn’t have bothered about her much if Baahu wasn’t involved.🙂

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  8. One of the best traits of Rajamouli is how well aware he is of his limitations. Time and again he has said that he knows he is an excellent storyteller but he prefers to keep it as simple as possible and avoiding too much complexity in story and characters and their motivations/conflicts and flaws (Sivagami may be an exception), which may well be how people are in reality and instead chooses to focus on the emotions of the audience and making them invest in the characters.

    This could be why he chose to not go too much into showing or even explaining through someone else as to exactly why Bhalla turned out like that etc.

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    • that is exactly what I am noticing in the novel versus the films. It feels like Rajamouli kept it stripped down on purpose, just dealt with the characters we have, not an elaborate backstory for the kingdom or explanation for every little thing. I think it made it a stronger story over all.

      On Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 5:02 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • It could also be because he was attempting a movie for a pan-India audience. Some regions in India have a history of watching complex storylines and appreciating them (eg Malayalam and even Marathi) but others not much (eg current Hindi and even Telugu/Tamil). So I guess he attempted to strike a balance.

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        • Yes, the book has such an elaborate backstory and so may characters, it is extremely difficult to keep pace. I much prefer the way Rajamouli has dealt with the movie; fewer characters, a Lion King-esque theme, and sensible reasoning.

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  9. It is a crying shame that I am able to join the scene so late. I chanced upon the blog just a few days ago as my Bahubali craze needed an outlet, and how! Great job Margaret, your analyses are super detailed. Avani, Moimeme, SheshankJoshi, the Asmitas, and all others–you guys are soooo good in your comments as well. As for my take on Bhallaldeva, I agree that one could empathize with him as it is so clear that he is an extremely disturbed person and absolutely famished for love. But it ends there. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Sivagami loved Bahu more. To me it seemed more like Bahu himself being such a loving charmer that Sivagami couldn’t help but be drawn in! In the crown princes’ childhood montage, we see how Bahu bends to take her blessings after getting his sword, while Bhallala just strides away admiring it. And notice how Bhalla gets his sword before Bahu does! The incident with the scorpion is also testament to how Bahu was an effortlessly caring person, not even showing anyone how self-sacrificing he was. Another point would be that perhaps Sivagami was more openly loving towards him as he was the orphaned heir, so to speak. She did not want to be perceived as unfair towards him, as one would expect, and in the process what transpires is that Bhalla–the eldest and the more ‘obvious’ heir, so to speak–was the one who perhaps was starved of love.

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    • Welcome! Sorry this comment got stuck in moderation for a little bit, but it’s here now!

      I think I see what you are saying about Sivagami. At the heart of it, she loved her sons equally. Or close to it. But she had an easier time finding ways to relate and show her love to Baahu, because he was just such an open person. But with Bhalla, if she wasn’t giving him exactly what he expected (the throne, the girl he asked for, etc.), he assumed it meant she didn’t love him.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. There are comments that Bhallala might be gay and I am confused. There are two instances to indicate his sexual orientation – his reaction to Devasena’s portrait and that he has a son Bhadra. I don’t understand how people came to this conclusion of him being gay.

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    • Rajamouli has said in interviews that Bhadra was a surrogate, he could have been conceived without intercourse, as such. His reaction to Devasena’s portrait could have been perceived as love (his twisted version of it) or lust, yes. But the way I saw it, it was more like the wheels of his mind were clicking into motion, and he was formulating a plan in which to create a rift between Sivagami and Baahu, which would ultimately get him the throne, using Devasena as the perfect pawn because of Baahu’s love for her.

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      • Yeah, he was already losing the throne to Bahu so if he “got” the girl, he would be able to one-up Amarendra for life plus he’d have an heir in the running sooner than Bahu also since Bhallala, knowing his cousin, knows he might not recover from losing what he thought might be the love of his life (and may not marry or marry late, hence securing the throne in the future for Bhallala’s line).

        Re Bhallala’s sexual orientation: As I rewatched the film, especially the part where Devasena has escaped and Bhallala is at the site rubbing her chains on his face, I don’t know how it felt like to others, but I felt like if this was a scene I was reading in a book, I’d definitely interpret this as a masturbatory activity! That scene looks like an expression of Bhallala’s repressed sexuality.

        Big, iron chains are such a masculine thing to be aroused by. Now, since Bhallala isn’t given a hint of being sexual towards any woman (most maniacal epic movie villains do get their own abusive relationship sub-plot to reinforce their sexual aggressiveness), it might be read as “he was gay so he couldn’t talk about it” or that he was in fact dealing with impotency!

        Because that would totally make sense if Bhadra was born through a surrogate (cue the Pandu comparison) and also why he is never able to “take” Devasena! All the other uber-masculine thingies about Bhallala (bull-taming etc) are then nothing but him overcompensating for his impotence!

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        • This movie is such a fairy tale format for kids to enjoy but has soooo much for adult talk 🙂 I don’t know if Rajamouli really intended Bhallala’s character to be gay (by not showing his wife) or we are interpreting too much.

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          • I really don’t think he was gay/impotent. In my opinion, the reason why he didn’t “take” Devasena all these years is that maybe, he thought that once he did rape her/dominate her sexually, his hatred for her would eventually vanish and perhaps she would soon become irrelevant to him. Maybe he wanted to continue hating her forever. Either that, or in his twisted way, he “loved” her and did not want to force himself upon her. There is the scene wherein he is shown saying to her “If there is anyone remaining in the world for your love or your hate, it is me”. So in a way, he gave her an option and knowing her, she would have obviously chosen the latter. So he chained her. He’s a bondage/control fetishist, for sure.

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          • I think this blog alone has explored and analysed the story beyond whatever Rajamaoli thought or planned. And that’s amazing for him!! That he created something that took a life of its own!

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