Over the course of my Rajnikanth-worshipping years, I have committed many blasphemies. The first, was absolutely disliking Enthiran. The second, wearing my glasses the normal way after a Rajnikanth movie. And the third and most unforgivable of the lot, remembering Ramya Krishnan’s character Neelambari more than Rajini’s in the classic Padayappa. In Padayappa, Ramya Krishnan took on a cliché hell-hath-no-fury-as-a-woman-spurned role and reshaped it to give it a distinctive style of her own. Neelambari spoke her mind, never hesitated to make the first move and matched Rajini’s style swoosh-to-swoosh, glasses-to-glasses. A female lead who has her own agency in a Rajini movie? Sign me up now or know my wrath.
Cut to Sivagami Devi in Baahubali and Baahubali 2. Ramya Krishnan has pulled a Padayappa and Sivagami Devi became the takeaway character, right under the gigantic shadows of both Baahubalis. I wept tears of joy as the camera zoomed to her overlarge bindi and swam in her feisty wisdom of deciding to raise both children equally. The feminist heroine we’ve been waiting for, at last? I couldn’t wait. And then Sivagami Devi bursts my bubble with the katthi (knife) tucked in the folds of her saree. She rejects the throne and resigns to raise the two boys who were “born” to rule Maahismati. I mean, what the hell, Sivagami? I thought we were doing okay here. Over the course of the movie, I came to a slow and poisonous realisation that Sivagami Devi is not my feminist heroine because she has internalised patriarchy. She does not care for the consent of the woman whom she chose for her son. She does not believe she deserves the throne because she’s a woman? My heart broke louder than all those poor bricks in Maahismati that were subjected to ‘masculinity porn’, as Vivekananda Nemana puts it. Instead of taking the throne and breaking shackles of gender-barriers, she decided to unofficially rule the kingdom for 25 years till her masculinity pornstars grew up.
But perhaps we’ll be able to see what made Sivagami Devi the formidable character she is, internalised patriarchy not withstanding. She broke some shackles in an otherwise redundant plotline with her ferocity. So, it’s large drum beats to my ears to hear that a web series spin off about Sivagami Devi is in talks to be helmed by Deva Katta, director of Telugu films like Autonagar Surya, Prasthanam, and Vennela. According to a report, the budget for the series is Rs. 10 crores and it’s likely to hit the floor in 2018. The report states that the web series will focus on the origin story of Sivagami, her early beginnings, life before she married into the Maahismathi kingdom and how she became the formidable Sivagami Devi. It will focus on her childhood and early days of her youth, talking about her maiden home and how she developed into the Queen. It’s still unclear if the part will be played by Ramya Krishnan, as it will focus on the character’s younger self. But a glimpse of Krishnan reprising the role could be enough to give our reluctant fangirling some closure.
I really wanted Sivagami to be the one who redeems the way period films, nay commercial films, represent women. But it was not to be. All we can do is watch Ramya Krishnan own the screen as a could-have-been feminist heroine, in miserable ecstasy. And now hopefully, in the upcoming web series. Too bad. I was prepared to commit more blasphemies for you, Sivagami Devi.