Everyone who has watched Baahubali:The Beginning will remember how it all began – with Sivagami emerging from a cave holding a baby. She looks up at the gigantic waterfall and says, “Oh lord, don’t punish him for my sins.” The moment may make Sivagami look weak, but as director SS Rajamouli pointed out at a packed session at the Jaipur Literature Festival today – Sivagami is anything but weak. “Physically maybe, because she had been carrying the child for two days with an arrow in her back,” he said. “But she wants the baby to live for the people of Mahishmati, for the mother who’s waiting. But she’s not asking, not begging, just demanding that the baby live. So she’s never weak.”
It’s around this strong, powerful character of Sivagami that a new book revolves. The Rise of Sivagami, a prequel to the film, was unveiled at the Lit Fest today. It picks up from where Baahubali begins and works backwards to reveal Sivagami’s back story. The book’s author Anand Neelakantan, writer of best-selling mythological novels like Asura and Ajaya was also at the session, along with actor Rana Daggubati, who portrays the villainous character of Bhallala Deva.
Talking about the book, Neelakantan said that it’s probably the first time that’s he dealt with a positive character. “When Rajamouli called me to write this book, I was taken by surprise. Because I usually write about villains. My first book was about Ravan, the second was about Duryodhan. So if I had my way, I’d have written a Baahubali from Bijjaladeva or Bhallala Deva’s viewpoint,” he said.
Neelakantan had to watch the film many times to understand the character. He found that even though it was titled Baahubali, one of its strongest characters is Sivagami. “I felt that if we had to tell a back story to the film, it had to be from her perspective, from where she started. It’s her journey on which the three books will be based,” he said, hinting that this is going to be a series.
Rajamouli says he chose Neelakantan to write the book because he was deeply moved by his portrayal of Ravan in Asura. “Sivagami for me epitomises Indian motherhood. She’s Kunti, she’s Draupadi, she’s Sita, she’s Durga,” he said. “If Anand could make Ravan’s story so compelling, I could only imagine what he’d do with a character like Sivagami. And I wasn’t disappointed. I couldn’t stop reading the pages he’d send me.”
Watch: Baahubali stars Rajamouli and Rana Daggubati live a JLF 2017
The session, which was primarily a discussion on the book and how it came about, was interspersed with interesting conversations around the film. Rana Daggubati spoke about how he looked to Kamal Haasan’s Nayakan for inspiration for his character. “He is probably one of the finest actors that this country has ever seen. He remains a reference, an encyclopedia for actors across generations, across characters,” he said. When asked whether he had any doubt about playing a character many years older than he is, Daggubati said, “Was I skeptical about playing an old character? Yes. But not about playing an old powerful warrior.”
The session ended with Daggubati reading out excerpts from the book in his baritone to an audience that cheered and applauded wildly. But the question on everyone’s mind remained: “Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?” In response Rajamouli said the book and the sequel to the film,Baahubali:The Conclusion, which releases in April, would have some surprises – and some answers.
Click here for our full coverage of the Jaipur Literature Festival 2017
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