Why Baahubali For Me Was Not About Him, It Was About Bhalla

Aditya Kv Aditya Kv in Bakkar. Chai. Sutta on 12 May, 2017

An ode to the Bhalla, the only one who seems to be objective in the film.

Baahubali is an amazing film; it’s got all the glitz and glamor, the director doesn’t leave a stone unturned in creating a different universe for the average film goer. Among all of this visual splendour I felt that the story went amiss. How many times have we seen this same story, the father gets killed by a relative and the son comes back to take revenge. But then I realized that Rajamouli is a master storyteller, as he was not telling the story of Baahubali but rather the story of Bhalla.

It is not a story of triumph of good over evil but rather a story of a man who was systematically broken down and pushed to the corner where he had to take drastic steps.
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Rather than viewing the story from the lens of Baahubali, if we viewed it from the lens of Bhalla we would realize the complexities of governing a kingdom. So let’s retell the story from Bhalla’s perspective. 

Bhalla as a boy was forced to share his mother’s affection with a cousin from his childhood, he truly was never the only son. His mother never ensured his succession though his father was the eldest in the family, this is very similar to how Duryodhana was denied the kingdom. He proved his merit in various trials and tribulations that were set for both him and his cousin.

But he was taunted by Baahubali who believed that he would inherit the kingdom (There is a scene where Baahubali does come up and tell Bhalla that he would be the commander of the army when Baahubali was the king even before the trial was over). 

His mother decides to put him through a final test in the form of killing the Kaalakeya. Now the problem starts from the very beginning, Bhalla has been able to secure the best equipment needed for the war, Baahubali seems to be a little too sure that he would get through with the siege equipment he has. Of course he does come up with a brilliant plan to use even the most worthless siege equipment but this shows a lack of any negotiation skills on behalf of Baahubali.

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While in the theater of war Baahubali stops to rescue a few dozen villagers, Bhalla doesn’t stop. He realizes that the lives of thousands depend on him and he can’t stop to save a few dozen. He charges ahead and is the first one to reach Kaalkeya and bring him down from his elephant. He weakens Kaalkeya and then Baahubali swoops in.

Bhalla of course does finish the war off but then finds himself at odds, he completed the goal and the reward was taken away from him.

As we move into Part 2, we find the same differences recurring between the two characters; one moves about swiftly doing his business and another who lets his emotions rule the roost. Baahubali might have been loved by the people but would he have been a good king? No one is to say as he was mercurial and undependable. He was tactical is saving a few lives and would have committed a grave strategic error of losing a war itself if his move backfired.

It is not clearly established that Rana was a bad ruler in anyway, his son was a bit off but this man with his cold and calculative thinking would have been ruling quite well. He actually treats Devasena quite well until she asks Baahubali to become the king (She was basically committing treason right in front of the king instigating a civil war among brothers when everything between them was at least outwardly alright).

Bhalla was a broken man; first his mother had not supported him. Even though he proved himself again and again, he wasn’t given the kingdom and finally when he was the king, his brother's wife had pretty much insulted him repeatedly. This pushes a man down a dark path, it is actually Sivagami's fault that her affection towards Baahubali reached such a level that when in the court of Kuntala, the messenger had announced that Sivagami had asked Devasena’s hand in marriage for her son, it was automatically assumed that the messenger was referring to Baahubali.

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It is almost as if Bhalla and his contribution to the war was forgotten. This is what Bhalla was afraid of; his legacy being tarnished by a man who was the crowd’s favorite. Baahubali is like that kid in class who is liked by all but might not be the best leader in anyway. He actually never proved his leadership mettle.

So the story for me goes like this, Bhalla who went unhinged by his mother’s decisions murders his cousin. His sister in law who had taunted him is held captive, and he goes as far as killing his own mother. He was not this maniacal at the beginning but he transformed because of the injustice doled out to him. His brother's son who survives, climbs up a waterfall and forcefully romances a girl and finally by pure luck kills Bhalla (a tribal boy who didn’t seem to have any military experience vs a grizzled military veteran, it’s a chance of luck for the boy).

This is truly the story of how Bhalla rose and fell.