Psychosinematics: An Introspection of ‘Baahubali’s’ Queen Sivagami
Psychosinematics is a new series where we attempt to break down characters using psychoanalytic theories. In this in depth exploration we endeavour to understand what makes a character tick. Imagine being a fly on the wall of your favourite character’s therapy session! We are by no means subject matter experts but Stacy wanted to put her Psychology degree to good use.
*This article contains SPOILERS for ‘Baahubali: The Beginning’ and ‘Baahubali: The Conclusion’.
Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali: The Conclusion are monumental blockbuster movies in India and around the world. The two-part mega-film is the highest grossing film in Indian cinema history, earning a whopping combined total of 2193 Crore Indian Rupees (S$413 million). Both movies were released across four languages, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.
There are many elements that make Baahubali the roaring success that it is. However, the characters are what stand out most for me. While Amarendra Baahubali (Prabhas) and Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati) make me weak in the knees with their sculpted bodies and chiseled features, Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) is the true hero in my eyes. The fiery passion she lit in my heart with her character was no match for a couple of butterflies in my stomach.
Released in 2015, Baahubali: The Beginning follows the story of Shivudu aka Mahendra Baahubali, who discovers the ancient kingdom of Mahishmati and his prestigious lineage. Shivudu meets his match in the form of arch rival, Bhallaladeva, one of two sons of Queen Sivagami. Baahubali: The Conclusion tells a comprehensive story with flashbacks about the ruling family of Mahishmati and ties both movies together with one epic battle.
The money-minting franchise opens with a wounded Sivagami struggling to save a newborn baby while warding off armed soldiers. Director S.S Rajamouli chooses Sivagami for the iconic opening scene that goes on to set the tone for the rest of the movie – a tale of epic power struggles.
Throughout the movies, Sivagami is seen in elaborate silk sarees, grand jewellery and heavy Kohl-lined eyes, constantly exuding power. However, with her immense power comes the struggle to balance that masculine energy with her feminine motherly instincts.
Sivagami’s Freudian Conflict
Ever wondered where the portrayal of the angel and devil on one’s shoulder came from? Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory of The Psychic Apparatus which comprises Id, Superego and Ego can be used to best explain Sivagami’s struggle to balance her inner turmoil and conflict in energies. Id is referred to as the instinct, think of it as the devil. Superego is morality, like the angel. Ego is what reality is, i.e: you attempting to balance the devil and angel in you.
Sivagami’s Psychic Apparatus comes into question greatly in Baahubali: The Conclusion where her Id completely takes over and she orders the killing of her second and favourite son, Amarendra. Although she was mercilessly manipulated by her other son Bhallaladeva, the Queen gives in to her instinctive – albeit misguided – need to protect the throne, the people and Bhallaladeva. Ideally, her ego would have balanced the angel and devil on her shoulder and resolved the situation without murdering the movie’s darling, Amarendra.
While most of us would never encounter murder for treason like Amarendra, there is still much we can learn from Sivagami’s ruthless decision. Consciously allowing your ego to be the main voice of reason is vital in living a life where morality and pleasure are balanced.
But what caused the regal Sivagami who ruled with a level-head for years to suddenly crack? Only one powerful woman could possibly take another down, right? Enter Devasena (Anushka Shetty), the ethereal princess that Amarendra is smitten by.
Mighty Sivagami’s Inferiority Complex
Although I could write a separate post on Devasena and her strength, she still pales in comparison to the mighty Sivagami. The dynamic between both women is explored in length in Baahubali: The Conclusion, where they clash over the man in their lives, Amarendra.
For Sivagami, Amarendra has been the apple of her eye all his life, perhaps even more so than her other son. He worships her and has never gone against her word, instilling a strong sense of superiority within her. For over 20 years, she did not have to share that space with any other woman – but overnight, that changes.
When Amarendra finds Devasena, he vows to protect her honour from his mother’s wrath. Sivagami begins to feel inferior to the princess and what ensues is a massive power struggle between two very good women that essentially leads to the destruction of Mahishmati.
Alfred Adler, a French psychologist, coined the term inferiority complex in the 1920s. According to him, all humans feel inferiority as children and spend the rest of their lives trying to compensate for those feelings of inadequacy.
While Sivagami’s childhood was not revealed in the films, there is a very poignant scene in Baahubali: The Beginning where a group of royal advisors question her place on the throne because she is a woman. To me, that scene is a projection of the many similar struggles Sivagami would have faced throughout her life where her capabilities are questioned because of her gender. Despite her best efforts, feelings of inferiority would have crept into her psyche.
As Adler explains, feelings of prolonged inferiority often produce a superiority complex which exudes dominance, as seen in the case of Sivagami. She becomes a hyper-powerful and dominant figure throughout the movie, especially in an iconic scene where she breastfeeds her sons while having the blood of her enemies smeared on her face. Eventually claiming the throne, she goes on to lead Mahishmati with an iron fist, awaiting either of her sons to prove themselves worthy of being her successor – again, exerting dominance.
Of course, all this dominance shatters when Devasena enters the picture. In the dynamite scene where both women challenge each other’s beliefs amidst the general assembly in the royal court, Sivagami’s power and composure can literally be seen crumbling. Her powerful stance on the throne is replaced with a defensive standing position. Her silk saree is dishevelled while her big bold eyes are lubricated with tears as she banishes Amarendra and Devasena from the palace – the beginning of the end.
Sivagami’s legendary reign comes crashing down because of her dire need to feel superior, which originates from a place of deep inferiority, in line with Adler’s theory. He also theorised that people who have an inferiority complex feel a need to overcompensate and strive for perfection all the time, which is exactly what we see in Sivagami through the course of both films.
In the end, Sivagami redeems herself in a grand fashion, in a hair-raising moment you must watch for yourself and experience. Her character is a milestone in Indian cinema, just like the movies, as very few female characters have been written to be so unapologetically themselves and unabashedly powerful. “That is my word and my word is the law!” is her signature line that she delivers in a booming voice – enough to rule a kingdom and go down in Indian cinema history.
Watch Baahubali: The Beginning on Netflix.
Image credits: Arka Media Works