Nine life lessons we can all learn from Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

    A potpourri of mythology, fiction and dizzying superhero adventures, Baahubali is not merely an experience to be devoured in the theaters, but a dazzling, grand life-map of sorts we can learn immensely from and use in our lives.

    4th May 2017
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    Finally, the nation got to know ‘Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?’, an icy suspense lingering on in the minds of the public since the screening of ‘Baahubali 1: The Beginning’ two years ago. From smashing numerous records at the box office to being hailed for its superior visual effects and high-end technology spelling grandeur in every frame, S.S.Rajamouli’s magnum opus is the one word that has been reverberating across the country since its release.

    If the first movie was a peek into how mythology and modern-day superhero escapades could be creatively blended to give a new edge to storytelling; the second part of the franchise took us beyond mere cinematic prowess on the 70mm display and drowned us in sheer awe and vulnerability - as we related to the power dynamics, the injustice, the jealousy, and the numerous other intricacies of close relationships, even as we sat through being a part of the majestic fictional Mahishmati for a good 2 hours, 48 minutes.

    It would be not be an exaggeration to say Baahubali with its unprecedented success has proven to be a formidable game-changer in the film industry; and while there could be many takeaways from a cinematic spectacle as this, these are the 9 most conspicuous lessons we can take from the movie and incorporate in our lives.

    1. When in combat, it is good to know your strengths, but just as important to evaluate your opponent's weaknesses– In the first half when Pindaris attack the kingdom of Kuntala, Baahubali uses his presence of mind and applies all resources available in the vicinity – from oxen, to water and fire, using these elements as weapons at strategic places and in unique ways where the enemies would have little to defend themselves. His strength lay in making even the smallest and seemingly insignificant object a weapon and using that to quell the opponent. But it is equally important to know when to slow down and back out, and not be rash and impulsive, as Mahendra Baahubali was wont to do in the second half.

    Lesson: Assess your own strengths and weaknesses against your opponent’s and use the knowledge to lay strategies that would work these gaping holes to your advantage. And remember, timing is very, very important. Even the right move at a wrong time can backfire.

    2. Equanimity in the face of changing tides – One of the most beautiful moments in the film was when Sivagami, blinded by an unfulfilled ill-conceived promise made to Bhallaladeva, crowns him as the King instead of the rightful heir, Amarendra Baahubali. What is commendable though, is how Baahubali accepts this literal dethronement with as much grace and humility as he does minutes later when he takes the oath of the Commander-in-chief instead. And in doing so, he accorded the required respect to Bhallaladeva, prepared to fulfil his dharma as per his current role. Sometime later, the same dignity and grace is seen in how he and Devasena step out of the palace. Even in banishment, they had their composure on and a ready smile to face whatever life had to offer them next.

    Amarendra Baahubali held on to this very sense of duty and purpose right up to his death.

    Lesson: You may not have the same position or title as you had yesterday, your fortunes could change overnight for better or worse. Irrespective of whether it is success or failure, keep your composure and focus on doing your duty, whatever it be at that given moment. 

    3. It is character, not reputation that sees you through till the end – In the very scene where Bhallaladeva was crowned the King, you could still hear the loudest cheers for Baahubali, who was already a King in the eyes of the people. His position did not matter to the people who saw him as Mahishmati’s fiercest protector and the most loyal guardian of the kingdom, who was just, right, kind and compassionate and knew right from wrong. This is seen in the way he and Devasena are later welcomed by the people, into their homes and right into their hearts.

    In the eyes of the misguided Sivagami, Baahubali, right before his expulsion had become the tainted rebel and the traitor who had dared challenge the King’s authority, and in turn, threatened the status quo within the nation. These allegations however, could not alter the perception the populace had about Baahubali.

    This immense love in their hearts later became the very reason why Bhallaladeva realized he could never truly own this kingdom till his younger brother was discarded from the scheme of things forever. However, this was also the reason why even after his death, Baahubali’s legacy carried on and became instrumental in throwing the corrupt and vile Bhallaladeva off the throne of Mahishmati forever. 

    Lesson: Reputation is what the world thinks of you; it is like a wave that ebbs and flows and changes with the changing perceptions of the world and may not entirely depend on your actions. This quote here spells it right: A reputation is an animal designed by committee: you give birth to it, but the way it develops depends on the actions of others.

    While your reputation is just as important, your character though, is the true foundation on which everything rests, and has the power to change people’s superficial perceptions about you, even though it may take longer. It may be a tough ride on the way to the destination, but let that not deter you from being true to your core and doing the right thing.

    4. Serve, from where you are, add value wherever you go – Despite getting banished from the palace, Baahubali and Devasena eased into the simple, humble life of the commoners in Mahishmati, and started their life on a new, happy note. They not only saw hope and joy in their current situation, but put in all efforts to serve the people and better their lives, with the minimal resources they had. In doing so, they continued to occupy that special place in the hearts of the commoners and remained the undisputed King and Queen in their eyes.

    Lesson: You do not need to be on a majestic throne to serve and guide people, you can do that even when you’re out stranded in the jungles or dragging your feet on a ruthless, scorching desert. No matter where you are, always know - you can contribute in your own way to the lives around you.

    5. You’re only truly a hero when you lead others to become heroes– Imagine a corporation where the CEO was the only one speaking, the only one deciding on any and all matters of interest, the only one leading each and every operation right down to the tiniest details, and the subordinates languishing on the side lines like tiny minions with nothing to offer to the organization? Do you visualize the company growing and succeeding in this competitive world?

    No, right? Baahubali 2 is a beautiful example of how Amarendra Baahubali, during the attack on Kuntala, motivated doubting and cowardly Kumar Verma to take charge of the situation and use it as an opportunity to realize his true worth and do his bit in pursuance of his true dharma.

    That one moment of belief that Baahubali reposed in Kumar Verma was influential in changing his life around, bringing him closer to who he really was: a leader and a hero in his own right. 

    Lesson: No leader can ever win a battle alone, and the only way you can come out victorious is to teach your followers they could be heroes too. A true leader is one who takes his subordinate’s potential and transforms it into something greater than mere talent or skill. So instead of trying to be in all places at the same time or walking towards a goal alone, dig out the best in each of your men and push them to reach their highest potential in reaching that point. Most importantly, trust, that they will stand up to it when the occasion comes.

    6. Never, ever make promises or take crucial decisions when you are emotional – Sivagami, despite being the powerful, sensible matriarch who mostly did right for her kingdom, failed to see through her own son’s manipulative and evil schemes and fell headlong for it. The biggest mistake she made was to promise her son she would get him married to Devasena thinking it was merely a small gift in exchange of his giant sacrifice of the throne; and unthinkingly, sent across a proposal for the latter which was obviously, rudely, yet justifiably rejected. This was the event that set in motion much of what was to happen in Mahishmati later, as Sivagami kept making one wrong decision after another, all because she could not see beyond her ego and her blind love for her son. 

    Tragically, this very same misconception she had about Bhallaladeva being a righteous,selfless ruler coupled with the indignance she felt at Baahubali not hanging to her every word now (no matter how immoral or unjust) led her to believe Bhallaladeva's words instead, and commit the biggest of all blunders by ordering Kattappa to kill Baahubali. She certainly took that decision in a moment of rage and sadness, which could have been averted had she contemplated it for a while at least. I dare say, she quite deserved that arrow stabbing her in the back later in the movie.

    Lesson: The famous adage goes, “Don’t promise when you’re happy. Don’t reply when you’re angry, and don’t decide when you’re sad.”

    Follow this three-pronged rule and apply it to your life wherever needed, but more specifically, don’t ever decide in a moment’s notice you want to commit murder. If you give it enough time, you will later realize you ought not to have thought of this 'solution' in the first place.

    7. If you have skills, please use them to at least save your life – As impressed as we all were with Devasena’s portrayal in the second part of the franchise, I am sure at least some of us are bewildered as to why she did nothing in all these decades to free herself from that hellhole Mahishmati had become under Bhallaladeva’s reign. She was a feisty warrior herself, skilled and dexterous, and blessed with as much brains as beauty. Why then, did she not make an effort to save herself? It is a movie after all, and it does use some famous predictable cinematic tropes – such as a mother waiting 20-30 years for her bicchhda hua son to come save her from the villains, and while it worked wonderfully in the movie, it will so not work in real life.

    Lesson: Your presence of mind can save you from the most disastrous of situations, and coupled with some basic survival skills every human being has, you can do your fair bit to save yourself as well as others in danger. And if you do know how to land a punch or shoot an arrow (ladies, this is for you), then please don’t wait for your husbands/sons to step in and rescue you; beat the villains to a pulp and show them who the boss is ;). 

    8. It takes a great deal to stand up to your enemies, but a lot more to stand up to your loved ones – Borrowing from J.K.Rowling’s golden words from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone of "standing up to one's friends", I would say, it takes a great deal more to stand up to not just our friends, but also to our parents, siblings, relatives…in short, our family. 

    Amarendra Baahubali did that on two occasions. One, when he pointed out to Sivagami how she had faulted in making a promise to Bhallaladeva without bothering to first find out about Devasena’s consent to the proposal. Two, when he supported his wife’s act of retaliating by cutting off Setupati’s fingers, thereby establishing that no matter what a King’s dictats might be, no man should be allowed to get away with behaving disrespectfully with a woman.

    Kattappa, on the other hand, did not convey his apprehension to Sivagami, even after he had heard Bijjaladeva talking about getting her killed earlier in the plot. Later, despite being ordered to assassinate Baahubali, he did not apprise Sivagami of the conversation he had overheard or share his fears as regards her son’s evil intentions. Most importantly, he did not stand up to her in asking her to first ascertain the real facts, but merely pronouncing a judgment on hearsay. Not doing so on his part, sustained Sivagami’s erroneous belief that Baahubali, had indeed, plotted to kill her son, which ultimately led to her reckless decision.

    Lesson: There will be times in life when you will have to stand up to your parents, siblings or other near and dear ones when they are acting misguidedly and want you too to be complicit in their actions. It will sting them when you disagree with their indefensible ideologies and actions, but you must, because standing by what is right is more important than pleasing the crowd. If you don't voice your opinion at the right time and simply 'go with the flow', you'll have a dangler over your head and possibly, 20-50 people, if not millions, agitated behind your back, like Kattappa did the last two years.

    9. Great things take time, so don't be afraid to put in the hard work and wait- While these are takeaways from the storytelling aspect itself, there is a lot more to learn from what occurred behind the scenes. For all of us whose eyes are still aglow with the sheer scale and detailing of this movie, and for the few who want to be in Rajamouli's position, directing such visual feasts and bringing them to life on screen sometime later in their careers; not many of us are aware that the director and the two leading men of the franchise (Prabhas and Rana Daggubati) gave nothing less than five years of their life to this one project. 

    From investing their all in looking their respective parts, to owning each of their characters fully and to shunning all outside distractions that came their way (from brand endorsements to lucrative film offers), the two actors left no stone unturned to do justice to this massive project. Had they begun weighing their gains and losses and thinking of failure at the very outset, they may never have reached the mark. In addition to their individual focused contributions, powerful teamwork of the remaining cast and crew, and a single-minded passion running through hundreds of those who toiled relentlessly for this dream, is what gave it this kind of stupendous success. 

    Lesson: There are no shortcuts to success. The bigger your goal, the more dedication and sacrifice will be needed of you. If it means you may have to forego those little distractions and superficially tempting offers coming your way as you go along, then do so...because the hardest and longest battles won with perseverance and dedication often fetch the greatest rewards.

    So I end with this famous Shloka from Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita, which is quite apt to the Baahubali franchise and what it entails as a whole:

    karmany evadhikaras te

    ma phalesu kadacana

    ma karma-phala-hetur bhur

    ma te sango 'stv akarmani

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