Anand Neelakantan

The Rise of Sivagami (Bahubali Book 1) [Review]

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Rating: 2.5/5

Who won’t be excited to read stories about Bahubali? When I found out that the creators are coming up with a book and it is written by Anand Neelakantan (Asura, Ajaya series), I was radiant. I was, am and will be a huge fan of the Ajaya series for its sheer courage and boldness to project a story from the alleged antagonist’s view. I highly respect the author for that. At the same time, I wouldn’t say I am huge fan of Bahubali- though I admit I was really impressed with the movie when I watched it. It was something new to Indian cinema. Yes. It’s a story about kingdom and fight for the throne, more like Mahabharat, but I felt this was for the first time, a concept like this was handled with so much professionalism and sincerity. Usually, the visuals are given prime importance and the story is out of bounds, but Bahubali made sure that it scored in all the departments. The movie meant serious business- and yes it made huge business. Honestly, more than the entire film, the ending stood out so much rising huge anticipation among the viewers- “Why did Katappa kill Bahubali?” That was more than enough to let the nation hover at the edge of the cliff for almost more than a year now. Enough said about the movie, let me jump to the book.

Book 1 of the Bahubali series- The Rise of Sivagami is a prequel to the movie. It narrates the story of the fierce and fearless little girl, Sivagami and how she became part of the Mahishmati kingdom. We do know from the movie what a strong and powerful hold she had over the running of Mahishmati, but how did she land up there in the first place? It also delves into the life of Katappa, the most loyal slave on earth. We have many other characters, who probably didn’t make it to the movie, who play a very important role sowing the foundation for Sivagami to attain power. But did she have an easy route then? What do you think? No way!

I wouldn’t go deep into the story- don’t want to spoil all the excitement. So will keep it short. Sivagami grows up under the care of Uncle Thimma after her father is labelled a traitor and is executed eventually by the King of Mahishmati. Raging with revenge, all Sivagami could think of is to kill the King of Mahishmati. For her own protection, Uncle Thimma puts her in a foster home where she has a hard, very hard time with her home mates and the warden. How does she get out of the foster home to avenge her father? That’s one of the main storylines. In parallel, Kattappa- a very sincere and loyal servant is put under huge dilemma when his brother raises questions about their future as slaves and why they succumb to all the insults and pains. Kattappa endures several tests throughout the book where he puts his life for his master. These two central characters are weaved into a political conspiracy of smuggling government secrets and plots to destroy their mother country.

Honestly, after having read so many books of foreign authors, this book hit me hard on my face for its Indianness. I am not sure how to express it but the book is absolutely Indian. The author has made sure that the book sticks to the roots of the movie on the basis of the place, characterization and the story elements. From description of the location, to the costumes, to the food and to the language used, Anand has made sure that we stay in Mahishmati and not get transported to our own fantasy world. I wonder if it was easy or difficult to depict Mahishmati in words since the world was already created and shown to us through the movie. Nevertheless, a very well done job on sticking to the flavor of Bahubali.

Now coming to book as a whole. To be truthful, I was more than a little disappointment with the amount of story covered in this book. I expected it the end to connect with the starting of Bahubali movie, but that still has a loooong way to go. Also- I felt the story didn’t really delve into what was put on the back cover? I thought that would be the main premise of the story- Sivagami and her father’s secret book. Apart from her landing her hand on the book, then losing it and then gaining it and then losing it back, there was nothing much on that front. Another thing- which is probably me- which I felt a little ughh was the amount of bloody moments involved. It was too violent for my taste. Yes. The story demands such moments. Those moments portray the courage and bravery of our heroes. BUT. I felt really difficult reading it. Somehow, instead of feeling the pain, I felt cringe.

A predominant section of the book involved Bijjala- the crown prince of Mahishmati, his arrogance, carelessness and weakness for woman. The conspirators uses this to their advantage to destroy the country during Mahamagam. As much as this played an important role to the main story, I felt a lot of time was spent on this. Same goes to the storyline of Jeemotha, the pirate. I wish we had more pages about Sivagami. Special mention to the character of Skandadasa, the Prime Minister. He is the white (not the race color but at heart) character in the story who throws all goodness and positivity at us. He is honest, sincere, hardworking, loyal and all the other good adjectives that can go with the above. The exchange between Sivagami and Skandadasa is very engaging.

To conclude, The Rise of Sivagami starts on a very interesting note. It tickles our Bahubali excitement a lot. We try to connect these happenings with what happened in the movie. But half way through, the plot takes a different route all together and somehow the story lands up being something else rather than what it actually started to be. Bahubali fans can either be entertained or disappointed but I fall into the latter. I am sure more books are on the way, and I still have hope that the story would fall back in place and focus on Sivagami and her path to queendom.