One of many things I still love since my childhood is reading fantasy stories. Glorified Kings, wars, slaves, and magic amaze me. However, most of the books I read were penned by foreigners. Though we Indians have our own Chandamama stories and Amar Chitra Katha novellas excluding Puranas and historical fiction books for many reasons, not many writers in India have attempted to tell a story of a king who was born of their imagination but I would say Rise of Sivagami is a grand beginning.
In the past, it was books being adapted to be filmed, but now it is vice-versa as writers are attempting to create a backstory from movies. S S Rajamouli, a renowned film-maker while he was directing Baahubali movies (The Beginning & The Conclusion) asked writer Anand Neelakantan to pen the story of Mahishmathi.
Writing a prequel to the story of the movie Baahubali: The Beginning which was a spectacle is not an easy task as it is not just another random story. Anand Neelakantan, the writer of Rise of Sivagami must be applauded as he wrote the history of Mahishmathi in just six months, without missing many details. I was personally awestruck when I read, Sivagami saying, “I swear, I will destroy the Kingdom of Mahishmathi!” I kept on reading the book and the pace was brilliant. Despite its flaws and too many characterizations, Rise of Sivagami stands up to the grandeur of the Baahubali movies.
The plot of the book revolves around Sivagami, daughter of Devaraya. Though Devaraya is a noble man, he is executed by the Mahishmathi King for treason.
Mahishmathi was initially occupied by a powerful tribe called “Vaithalis”. Vaithalis gave shelter to an orphan named Uthhama Varma and he steals their secret Gaurikanth which is the source to make invincible weapons. Thus, he hunts the Vaithali tribes with those weapons and the tribals are forced to flee their homeland. Finally, Uthhama Varma establishes the Mahishmathi Kingdom.
The story starts in the era of King Somadeva, grandfather of Amarendra Baahubali. Somadeva is blessed with two sons, Bijjaladeva and Mahadeva. Bijjaladeva, as picturized in movies (played by Nassar) is filthy and arrogant while Mahadeva has the opposite traits of his brother.
Coming back to the Gaurikanth, a blacksmith steals some of it from the arsenal of Mahishmathi years later. With this, the tribals attack the Mahishmathi palace. Prince Mahadeva defends his kingdom and earns the title of Veeradeva. Sivagami whose sole aim is to destroy Mahishmathi, saves the King from an attacker. So, she becomes a bhoomipathi (kind of royal executioner) and the first man she has to execute is the one who fostered her.
The book didn’t answer many questions and I don’t criticise the writer as it was planned to be a trilogy. Hope the author unravels the mystery beautifully. What I like the most is the pace as it kept me glued till the end. I also liked the story as Anand Neelakantan wrote the history of Mahishmathi in less than 500 pages elegantly. Along with the story, there are enough sub-plots to keep the reader engaged. The description of rebellion was awesome and is the first of its kind in Indian writings.
However, what I didn’t like is that it has too much violence. There were rape scenes and the descriptions of molestation which I couldn’t help but dislike. Along with that, there were too many unnecessary characters.
Baahubali movies have got their own identity but in terms of global standard, they lack many elements. However, Rise of Sivagami can live up to the global standard. I personally find it similar to the first installment of “A Song of Ice and Fire”. Now, we have our own George R.R. Martin who writes a great deal of story in less than an year, with same intensity in violence and incest. I really wish that the writer finishes his next book as early as possible since the first one has ended on a cliffhanger.