The Rise Of SIVAGAMI _1 : – ‘..And Perhaps that of Indian Fantasy too!’

sivagami being badass
“SIVAGAMI DEVI” as played by ‘Ramya Krishnan’ in the Movie ‘BAHUBALI’

“That is my WORD and my word is LAW!”  ~Sivagami Devi

When you see a character who has just slitten the throat of a traitorous general, ordered the death of all the treasonous nobles in the kingdom, declared that SHE will decide who’s to be the next King, with blood still on her face calmly sitting and breastfeeding two young princes in the throne room, the words “Epically Badass” fell short of doing her any kind of justice. That was how we were introduced to ‘The Queen Mother’ of ‘Mahishmathi’ Sivagami Devi in S. S. Rajamouli‘s blockbuster epic ‘Bahubali‘. The character and her fabulous portrayal was riveting.  And thus i suspect started Rajamouli’s dilemma, the world he created, the characters (specially the supporting ones) he introduced were so complex and had a depth that he just couldn’t cover or satisfactorily show in 2 movies. He wanted the world to know them further to live in that world a little more intimately, so, he approached an up and coming author from the south whose previous works he had enjoyed, Mr. Anand Neelakantan, gave him the designation of “Story Hunter” and let him loose to discover and develop the epic world of ‘Mahishmathi’. And thus came to be “The Rise Of SIVAGAMI“, the first installment in what seems to be a worthwhile Indian epic Fantasy trilogy set in the time period before the story of ‘Bahubali’.

The-Rise-of-Sivagami-by-Anand-Neelkantan-Bahubal

3/5 Stars Goodreads Rating System

This was my second book by Anand Neelakantan, The First one “ASURA“, the reason for his widespread fame, didn’t appeal to me all that much and so i was apprehensive about picking up this one. But curiosity got the better of me and i am glad that it did. I won the book in Goodread’s Giveaways and what a ride it has been. Firstly, Watch the movie (i suspect this was a major reason for the commission of this book), Secondly, even if you don’t this will work just fine (But you will watch the movie afterwards anyway, trust me, these are clever clever people indeed.). Anand Neelakantan has a specific way of writing, he loves being on the bad guy’s side, by his own admission this was his first book where he wrote for a positive character but i felt that his habit of coloring things grey has stayed in this one too. Which, adds a splendid ‘anti hero’ flavor to the book. The world of ‘Mahishmathi’ can be experienced in more detail, with its social and power structures sketched out as well as all that ails that world from slavery to the draconian social norms of the ‘Varna System’. The story focuses not only on the three main characters with which the audience(of ‘Bahubali’) would already be familiar with Sivagami, Kattapa (The ever loyal slave) & Bijjala (the arrogant prince) but adds a host of new ones too like ‘Keki the eunuch’ , ‘Skandadasa the deputy prime minister’,’Gundu ram the lovable orphan’, ‘Shivappa the rebel’, ‘Jeemotha the pirate’ and many more. The book unfolds as a series of POV’s so you get to enjoy different characters in their element. The story itself was good though i feel it could have been better, but considering the 108 days deadline (that’s how long he had apparently) you can’t really fault the author. The writing thus feels patchy sometimes with the characters being too obvious in their dialogues, giving a somehow rough feel to the reading experience. But the imagination and expansion of the world was glorious. We get to know some new kingdoms and the overall picture of the power hierarchy among them and the secret to the success of the kingdom of ‘Mahishmathi’.

Other than the awesome tale of ‘Sivagami’ and the brilliant moral conundrums & struggles of ‘Kattapa’, the element that works for the book or rather for the whole trilogy is the suspense of the unanswered questions. How did a girl who wanted to see all the royals dead, ended up being the Queen Mother?  What happened to Bijjala ? What became of ‘Mahadeva’ the young prince and his crush ? What is the ‘Manuscript’ all about ? And Why in the name of all that is possible and impossible did Kattapa did what he did in the End of the movie ? ( I know i am digressing a bit here but well IT is the burning question).

So, yes, i would read the next two. And yes, i feel that these books are a welcome addition to the Indian Fantasy genre. I just hope Mr. Neelakantan uses a bit more finesse in the upcoming ones. The books are quite alluring, and i suspect after the release of the next and final movie (This April’s end i am told) that allure would go up ten fold. So, read on my dear friends and experience the glory of this fantastical world. “Jai! ‘Mahishmathi'” (Hail! ‘Mahishmathi’).

 

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