Why Kattappa killed Baahubali

Five theories worth chewing on, as the release of Rajamouli’s magnum opus draws closer

With a little more than a week to go before the release of the biggest film of this year, we may as well begin addressing the elephant in the room: The question that has miraculously survived the increasingly small attention span of pop culture, one that has outlasted political upheaval and horrible floods, and one that apparently the film’s director Rajamouli gets asked everywhere he goes, as though he were simply biding his time until the right person came around to ask him the question. Without much ado, in increasing order of plausibility, here’s looking at what I think are some of the reasons that prompted Kattappa to plunge his sword into Baahubali’s back:

Kattappa didn’t

It seems ludicrous that this question that has been sounding across all of the observable universe could be one that’s not valid at all. So far, we have only been shown silhouettes of Kattappa and Baahubali in this all-important scene. Perhaps there’s a calculated reason for it? Perhaps Kattappa’s confession is not to be interpreted literally. Perhaps it’s the lament of a commander who simply rues being unable to save his beloved leader. Admittedly though, I don’t feel too strongly about the possibility that Bhallaladeva got somebody to impersonate Kattappa. The shape and movement of Kattappa in the scene screams Sathyaraj, the actor who played it. So, you wouldn’t be wrong in dismissing this.

That wasn’t me! I was watching TV when he died!

“Kill Baahubali or else…”

Blackmail is as old as humankind itself. Perhaps all Bhallaladeva and his father Bhijjaladeva (played by Nasser) had to do was tell Kattappa, “Stab him in the back, or else!” It could well be that Kattappa did the unthinkable to protect the lives of Devasena, her kid, and Sivagami. Seeing as there’s an arrow in Sivagami’s back during the opening scene of the first film, clearly, Bhallaladeva clearly isn’t above committing matricide. And yet, this doesn’t seem altogether plausible, as it lacks the punch and drama you know Rajamouli has a penchant for.

Sivagami’s mistake

Think about it. Sivagami seems to be grappling with guilt at the beginning. The second part will definitely have a love triangle between Baahubali, Devasena and Bhallaladeva, and it is possible that Sivagami, poisoned by the words of her son and husband, believes that Baahubali is wrong in coveting Devasena, who perhaps was promised to Bhallaladeva. Perhaps she exiles Baahubali, and makes Bhallaladeva the king, only to have the latter act decisively to finish off Baahubali. She likely realises her folly just in time to make a get-away with the new-born.


The fine print

If there is one thing that can be said beyond doubt, it is that Kattappa is loyal to Mahishmathi, like Bheeshma to Hastinapura. In the first film, he says as much when he talks about his ancestors’ oath that binds him to the throne. Perhaps Baahubali is forced by circumstances to leave Mahishmathi and hand over kingly duties to Bhallaladeva, who he deeply trusts, in his absence. It’s possible then that the new king realised he could hold Kattappa to a technicality and order Baahubali’s death. Kattappa has shown that he will go to great lengths to keep the word of his ancestors. Perhaps he did.

Baahubali is Rajamouli’s Dumbledore

Those of us who have read Harry Potter instantly recognise the parallels between Kattappa and Severus Snape. Both are prepared to go to any lengths for their master. Both are forced by circumstances to work under a man they greatly despise. Both are shown to murder their leader under suspicious circumstances. Kattappa perhaps is our version of the Half-Blood Prince, and if so, Baahubali likely forced his hand. The king, who likely becomes desolate following the dark revelations about Bhallaladeva, is perhaps simply looking out for Devasena and the kid he’s begotten with her. It could also be a self-sacrificing ploy to further establish Kattapa’s loyalty, much like in Harry Potter, which no doubt will come in handy at a time of great need. Like, say, if his son were to grow up and some day seek revenge?

This column was written for The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share it.

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