Encountering Bahubali: The Conclusion’s Devasena: A Revisit to Sati’s Introduction in Amish Tripathi’s The Shiva Trilogy

It does not require to be stated that Bahubali: The Conclusion (Bahubali-2) is the talk of the town these days and the movie deserves all the praise both from the critics as well as the audience. It contains all the qualities required for a ‘superhit,’ that is, tight script, superb direction, appealing performance by all the characters- main as well as the side ones, amazing cinematography, crisp dialogues, regal costumes, catchy background score, commendable editing, and great visual effects. Bahubali-2 is already being considered a ‘milestone since the film has collected approximately 1300 crores within 15 days of its release, which is the largest in the history of the Indian cinema. It has set up various benchmarks for the other filmmakers to follow. The film is especially lauded for the portrayal of its female characters which is quite different from what has been traditionally observed in the Indian cinema.

Viewers cannot stop loving Devasena, the princess of the kingdom of Kuntal (played by Anushka Shetty) and Sivagami, the Queen of Maheshmati Empire (played by Ramya Krishnan) for their strong, assertive, and bold personality. Devasena’s portrayal especially has drawn a lot of attention since Indian cinema had not witnessed such a strong female personality in any of the movies till now. She is surely the female protagonist we all had been waiting for in the mainstream/commercial Indian cinema. Her portrayal is fresh; she is strong, independent, vocal, and intelligent. It is already being observed that owing to the introduction of such a character as Devasena by the Director S. S. Rajamouli in mainstream Indian cinema, a change in the depiction of female characters will now be observed in the coming movies by other filmmakers.

While the Indian cinema has observed the presentation of such a character as Devasena so late- after more than 100 years of its advent, the Indian literature has been witnessing the depiction of such strong female characters since time immemorial. One such character is of Sati-the female protagonist of The Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi. Sati is the princess of Meluha, and just like Devasena, she is no damsel in distress. Although the context of both the works, Bahubali-2 and The Shiva Trilogy is completely different yet an interconnection between the personalities of Devasena and Sati can be observed. The traits of both the characters are so similar that while watching Bahubali-2, you cannot but remember the character of Sati everytime Devasena appears on the screen. This is mainly due to the similarity in the ways both the characters have been introduced in their respective works. This article is concerned with tracing the similarity in the introduction of the female protagonists, Devasena and Sati in Bahubali-2, and the first book of The Shiva Trilogy, that is, The Immortals of Meluha, respectively. The arguments will be presented one by one as follows:

1. Bahubali-2 is about 163 minutes in duration and Devasena has been introduced in it after nearly 20 minutes. There are in all 26 chapters in The Immortals of Meluha, and Sati is introduced in the 3rd chapter of the novel. If we study these figures, then it can be observed that both the characters have been introduced at almost the same time in their respective works.

2. In Bahubali-2, the scene takes place close to the forest area somewhere in the countryside of the kingdom of Kuntal, where as in The Immortals of Meluha, the scene takes place in the countryside area of Meluha near a temple. In both the works, the areas are inhabited by local village folks.

3. In Bahubali-2, Kattappa (played by Sathyaraj) is shown to be accompanying Bahubali (played by Prabhas), and the former keeps on blabbering one thing or the other where as in The Immortals of Meluha, Shiva, the male protagonist is accompanied by Nandi, who serves almost the same role as Kattappa.

Moreover, Shiva and Bahubali seem to feel a kind of restlessness in the initial phase of the scene. While this ‘restlessness’ is apparent from Prabhas’ expressions on the screen in the movie, Amish Tripathi has used words to convey the same feelings experienced by Shiva in his book.

4. Both the females enter the scene differently- while Devasena comes in a ‘doli’ accompanied by a small troop of soldiers, Sati arrives riding a chariot and is accompanied by only one female maid, Krittika. But the affect this arrival has on their respective lovers is almost the same. The moment Bahubali and Shiva encounter their respective beloveds, they are mesmerized by their beauty. Again, this feeling of ‘love at first sight’ has been expressed in the movie through Prabhas’ expressions, but Tripathi has used words to convey Shiva’s feelings.

5. Both Devasena and Sati face a surprise attack while on their way. Although Devasena came prepared to face the attack, but her enemy had no idea about it.

6. Both the female characters fight many enemy soldiers at once with a sword.

7. Both Devasena and Sati come across as almost similar as far as their personality traits are concerned. They are warrior women who are sharp, bold, and strong.

8. Bahubali assists Devasena in the fight against the enemy discreetly where as Shiva assists Sati openly. However, the fact that both the males help their respective females in the fight brings about another similarity in the two scenes.

9. Both Devasena and Sati frown at Bahubali and Shiva respectively when they first see them. They look at their male counterparts with a speculative eye, trying to understand them.

10. In both the cases, the female characters seem to be less impressed by their respective male characters since in Bahubali-2, Bahubali hides his real identity and appears before Devasena as a village commoner incapable of fighting, and in The Immortals of Meluha, Sati seems to be less impressed with Shiva’s remarks on her sword fighting skills.

11. The protagonists win the fight. In The Immortals of Meluha, Shiva and Sati pay farewell to each other where as in Bahubali-2, Devasena takes Bahubali and Kattappa along with her so that they could be of some use in the kingdom of Kuntal.

The two works of art, Bahubali-2, and The Immortals of Meluha are quite different from each other as far as the plot, theme, setting and other elements are concerned. But the two scenes compared above appear to be so similar to each other that one might consider Devasena’s introduction in Bahubali-2 as the visual presentation of Sati’s introduction in the Chapter 3 of Tripathi’s The Immortals of Meluha. In a totally unrelated argument I would like to take my chances and state that I personally found the relationship between Devasena and Bahubali quite similar to the one between Sati and Shiva since both were based on mutual trust, love, respect, and admiration.

Coming back to the main argument at hand, can we call it a mere coincidence that such strong similarities can be observed in the two scenes as discussed above or has Dir. Rajamouli borrowed from Tripathi’s book without giving him any credit? Can we call the scene of Devasena’s introduction in Bahubali-2 an original work of art or a ‘slightly twisted’ copy of the scene of Sati’s introduction in The Immortals of Meluha? Answering these questions is pretty difficult but we can certainly try to find out what we mean by ‘originality’ in a work of art?

It should be realized that as stated by the great Greek philosopher, Plato, art itself is “thrice removed from reality.” Art is considered as a “copy of a copy of a copy.” The theory of Mimesis or Imitation considers ‘borrowing’ as a normal action practised by an artist; it is something that inspires him/her to create a work of art.

The script writer, K. V. Vijayendra Prasad (who is the father of Dir. S. S. Rajamouli) has borrowed heavily from the ancient legends and myths to work on the script of Bahubali-1 and Bahubali-2. Moreover, in one of their interviews, the two costume designers of Bahubali-2, Rama Rajamouli (S. S. Rajamouli’s wife) and Prashanti Tipirneni stated that they took inspirations from Amar Chitra Katha, Chanda Mama comics and the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma for the costumes of the female characters in the movie. It should also be noted that Amish Tripathi too depended largely on Hindu mythology for working on The Shiva Trilogy.
If these ‘borrowings’ are to be taken into account, can we then hold Jim Jarmusch’s statement, “Nothing is original- steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination” true? Is there no originality in a work of art? What exactly do we mean by ‘originality?’

Let’s understand it this way- when an artist gets inspired by something, he/she tries to concretize the pleasure he has felt when he came in contact with that object of inspiration in his work of art. While performing that concretization, the artist uses his creative imagination and talent in such a manner that his/her work becomes more than a mere ‘copy.’ As a result, the artist makes the work his/her own, and hence, ‘original.’ How ‘good’ it turns out to be depends on the talent of the writer- how he professes the pleasure he had felt in his work. If the readers are able to derive the same pleasure from it as the artist did when he came in contact with the object of inspiration, then the work becomes art.
Bahubali-2 is certainly an original work of art, and even if Dir. Rajamouli has ‘borrowed’ from Chapter 3 of The Immortals of Meluha, he has done it so creatively that in no way can we call it a ‘copy.’ He might have been influenced or inspired by other works and have used them to create his magnus opus, but in doing so, he has used his creative imagination and talent, and hence, has made Bahubali-2 his own work of art.