2015. The entire nation wanted to know the answer to the one question which etched itself so deeply in the hearts of all, that hundreds of speculations were formed surrounding the biggest mystery ever - ‘katappa ne bahubali ko kyun mara?’
The 2017 sequel did not only provide with an answer, but also gave commercial bollywood a much needed lesson in the art of storytelling. The movie easily became a cult favourite and inspired merchandise, an animated tv series, and now even a show on Star Plus.
But the best form of art it could turn into was surely ‘The Rise of Sivagami’. Authored by Anand Neelakanthan, it narrates the tale of the authoritative and ambitious queen of Mahishmathi, Sivagami, but at a time when she was just 17. The book traces the story of Sivagami, a girl orphaned because the State of Mahishmathi declared her father a traitor and killed him in one of the most inhuman ways ever. Having discovered an old book in a language which only a few know now, she has embarked on a treacherous journey with the single aim of destroying each of the royals of Mahishmathi. It also traces the journey of a 21 year old Katappa, when he is appointed as the slave of Bijjaladeva. His mindset, his relations with his younger brother, and his brainwashed sense of duty. But this is just a small part of the massive storyline.
While the original movies revolved around just 6 characters in the entire kingdom (well, happy realisation), the book has a lot more of them. It has a prime minister, other ministers, noblemen entitled to land (Bhoomipathi) and mines (Khanipathi), the royal harem with eunuchs gossiping around, a massive brothel which plays a huge role in the story, a tribe of people planning a coup for reasons I won’t spoil now, pirates indulging in human trade illegally with the nobility of Mahishmathi, and a group of women who valiantly try to save women and children from the pirates.
Opening to a thrilling start, the pace slows down a bit before rapidly accelerating, taking you along on a smooth coaster of words which describe detailed settings with scenes and characters intertwined so beautifully with the plot that one is just left addicted to the book after about only 3 quarters of a century of pages. Developed beautifully, each character has its own breath, its own ambitions, its own idiosyncrasies. All characters are way different from each other, which keeps you interested all through. Women are shown in a strong light throughout the book. They are strong and proud, they don’t succumb to men, they are authoritative and can fight for themselves if the situation demands so. Can’t really praise more about them without spoilers now. The eunuchs are shown as strong and influential, which actually used to be the case in kingdoms. Most of the men, being the nobility, are their usual egotist and haughty selves, but some are sunken deep in the ocean of servitude, and there also is Prince Mahadeva, who wants to be anything else but a prince.
Achi Nagamma and her army of women is worth a mention. Goosebumps arise at their entry point in the story. If you aren’t thrilled at the scene of their entry, then nothing in this world can thrill you. There are a lot of empowered women and men in the novel, but Achi Nagamma has a separate seat among them.
Overall, the book is worth a read. Brilliant character development is the origin of the fabulous river of a story which seamlessly flows through your mind, converting it from its bored barren self to a thrilled fertile region of addictive creativity. Being the first part of the trilogy, it ends at a cliffhanger too, making the wait for the second part seem to be a long and unbearable wait!
- Apurv Tiwari