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Review – “The Rise of Sivagami” by Anand Neelakantan

The Rise of Sivagami by Anand Neelakantan is the first book in the supposed trilogy of a literary series to be based on the film, Bahubali. A reel-life fictional character seldom inspires a novel but this book has a different tale to tell. Set in the kingdom of Mahishmati, the book trails the backstories of several important characters from the film, the protagonist being Sivagami, along with Kattappa, Pattaraya, Thimma, Shivappa, the royals of Mahishmati and many more to reach to the point where the first of the two films of Bahubali begun…
To review this book is not only a tough task in terms of its enormous plot-line but also unwise considering that not all stories can be re-told by people like us, some are best left until explored by oneself. But still, since it is my duty towards my blog to review the novels I read, I will make a feeble attempt at writing a review for the monstrosity that Bahubali has become.

The kingdom of Mahishmati is ruled by Maharaja Somadeva who is a descendant of Uthama Varma, who centuries ago had chased out the original rulers of Mahishmati, the Vaithalikas and stole the secret of their invincibility. The Maharaja’s son, elder Price Bijjaladeva, and the younger Prince Mahadeva are the complete opposites of each other. While the former is a fearsome warrior and a corrupt person, the latter is a figure of compassion and truth. 
Blessed by the auspicious Gauriparvat, Mahishmati is flourishing in abundance. With the Maharaja enjoying the support from his loyal staff, nothing can even touch them. But is it really the case or the empire is hiding a few secrets of its own? The parvat serves as a source for the Gaurikanta, the stone, which when used in a proper manner with the metals, makes the weapon and the wielder immune to defeat. The residents of the kingdom supposedly know that it is the parvat itself that gives out the stones during the festival of Mahamakam held every 12 years and not the children who are kidnapped/fooled and made to mine. 
Over the years, the royal family of Mahishmati has acquired a large number of enemies, both outside and within the walls of the palace. One such girl is Sivagami. The daughter of a tainted Bhoomipati, a title of great importance in the kingdom, Sivagami is brought by her Uncle Thimma (her father’s friend and another Bhoomipati) to the royal orphanage to serve out a couple of months left until her 18th birthday after which she will be free to go anywhere she desires. Though she behaves like a prick with her uncle for doing so, what she realizes later is that it is a boon in disguise because unknown to anyone but her, she is harboring a dark desire, to ruin the royal family for putting her father on death sentence years ago for a reason she does not yet know. All that she knows is that she is all alone in this audacious journey and for that, she needs to stay as close as possible to the royalty.
While Sivagami is embroiled in the politics of her orphanage warden and being harassed by the other occupants along with undue attention from the younger prince, Pattarya the Bhoomipati plans to gnaw at the kingdom’s roots. He has his own sinister plans, why, we don’t know yet. Simultaneously, Kattapa struggles to bring back his younger brother Shivappa from the Vaithalikas, who attack the palace on the occasion of Mahamakam to kill the Maharaja only to be defeated by a mere chance. 
What will happen next? How will Sivagami survive amongst her harassers and other forces? Will Pattaraya’s plan for supposed regicide be found out? Will the Vaithalikas re-group and come back? Will anyone stand up to the horrors the children of the kingdom face in the name of Ma Gauri on the Gauriparvat? The novel is aptly left on a cliffhanger and for all these questions to be answered, we will have to wait until Neelakantan takes pity on us poor inquisitive souls, and brings out the second book.

The Rise of Sivagami is one of those books whose story is difficult to tell to someone else. One can never ever explain in-depth the complexity and the intertwined sub-stories that play an equally important role. A story is not complete until the author (in this case, the director) wants, in the words of S.S.Rajamouli himself, “When we created Bahubali, we were in a dilemma. The story world of Mahishmati kept growing as we worked on the theme. There were so many stories to be told. The stories of Mahishmati could not be contained within the two-and-a-half hours of films, even with two parts. We did not want to let go of the fascinating story world that was emerging. There were characters lurking in the shadows, waiting for their stories to be told. There were secrets that had to be unveiled, there were whispered conspiracies that could thrill and terrify. We knew if we went back further in time, a series of interesting stories would emerge.” We know that the story of Mahishmati is yet to reach its completion, yet to enchant millions with its larger-than-life portrayal of the background and the characters like the film, but until then, we will have to satiate with the one book that is out for us. Being the impatient soul, I would frankly call it “A drop in the ocean” but something is always better than nothing. Therefore, go, pick up your copy of this enthralling story and tuck in! 

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