The Rise of Sivagami: Before the Beginning — Book Review

Title: The Rise of Sivagami

Author: Anand Neelakantan

Genre: Fantasy/ Mythological fiction

Publisher: Westland

Price: 299 INR

Pages: 490 (Paperback)

Stars: 4/5

I loved watching Baahubali: The Beginning in 2015 and like everyone else spent the next two years guessing why Kattapa killed Amrendra Baahubali. Then, came Baahubali 2: The Conclusion and all my guesses were close!

I must say, need not to though, that I loved watching both the epics. I was fascinated by the story, the characterisation, the grandeur of the sets and certainly the special effects. Coming out of the hall after watching the first part itself was indeed a proud event; not a single Indian would have expected anything made like this in India until now [perhaps Koi Mil Gaya was the first to achieve that prominence with the most innovative introduction of Jadoo in 2003].

Because I come from a 3Ds Max and Maya background, I could actually see how much of efforts must have been put into making of the two movies (or extravaganzas?). Although many of my friends who work as Creature FX Leads or Technical Directors with units such as Dreamworks or Pixar didn’t appreciate the movies as much as we laymen did.

Anyway, when I was told that Anand Neelakantan has come up with a prequel to the Baahubali: The Beginning, I ordered the book, right away and read it in two days’ time! Yeah, two days! The book is so entrapping that you would not give up on it without reading just one more leaf and one more and eventually the last leaf.

The Rise of Sivagami is certainly the story of powerful Rajmata Sivagami. ‘Who is she?’, ‘Where she comes from?’, and ‘What is that made her such a dauntless ruling woman?’ are some of the questions that are answered in the book. Anand Neelakantan was asked to write a prequel to Baahubali and he indeed has worked wonder in building a spirited history of some of the characters including Kattapa and Bijjaladeva, and not only Sivagami. In fact, some new characters such as Katappa’s brother Shivappa and his father Malayappa, Devdasi Kalika, Ally, Skandadasa, and Pattaraya are also introduced in the book.

The book takes you to the grand era where Mahishmathi is built; where there is chamberlain, equerry, courtier, and the Privy council, some of whom are evil and some of whom are upright; and where there is a holy mountain that the entire Mahishmathi people believe to be their nurturing mother. It takes you through a journey untold before the Baahubali: The Beginning. It takes you through the journey that starts from the moment of mutiny when Sivagami breaks into her forbidden home to search for her father’s book with her beloved childhood friend Raghava up to the event where Maharaja Somadeva announces Sivagami as Bhoomipathi of Mahishmathi and assigns her to hang her foster father Thimma as her first job!

The upturn of Sivagami’s fortunes from an orphan girl to becoming the Bhoomipathi of great dynasty is what The Rise of Sivagami is about. However, Anand Neelakantan has worked exactly hard on other characters’ personalities and their storylines too. The storylinesof the minor character such as Keki — the eunuch, Gundu Ramu — the dear ten-year-old friend of Sivagami, Kamakshi — Sivagami’s closest friend, and Achi Nagamma — the leader of women army, do successfully help advance Sivagami’s storyline forward.

The so called minor stories of the dense group of assorted characters that run-in correspondence to the protagonist’s life journey make it a little messy read — you would have to look to and fro between the chapters to ensure that you maintain the swiftness of what is happening. But, the astute turns of events keep you hooked up all night and the next morning [I was like trying to read a few more pages even before shower!].

Neelakantan has written it beautifully with all his heart and soul and as he told the media that he was always inspired by the Jataka Tales and Mahabharta, The Rise of Sivagami also seems to be inspired by such long traditions.

To me it was brilliant reading something that touches the eminence of classics like The Hobbit or Lord of The Rings! I am desperately waiting for the next book to be launched so that I could find answers to the following questions:

· Did Sivagami really hung Thimma, her foster uncle, whom she loved like she loved her father?

· How did Sivagami eventually got married to corrupt Bijjaladeva and not to Prince Mahadeva who was madly in love with her?

· How did Sivagami became the Rajmata when she so frantically wanted to destroy Mahishmathi?

· Whom did then Prince Mahadeva married and with whom he gave birth to Amrendra Baahubali?

· Will Sivagami be able to rescue Gundu Ramu from the clutches of Hidumba and get hold of her father’s book?

· What secret does her father’s book written in the ancient language of Paisachi contains?

And many more…

Nevertheless, in the end I wish to ask the author Anand Neelakantan: Why did he kill all the good men and women in his book? Only this fact makes the book a bit depressive to read.

Verdict: If you are a big big fan of Baahubali and Prabhas then you must read this very first book of the trilogy that is yet to be launched!

Disclaimer: This post is been published originally as a Facebook Note! :)