Baahubali – On the Mathematics of Evoking Emotions

Have you ever wanted to precisely know why you love something? The first time one experiences Baahubali, it feels like a gigantic wave crashing on the shores of one’s mind. The end-result is an overwhelming feeling of being drenched in awe. But what if you had that little wish to feel every droplet touching your skin? So, I decided to stand with myself another time, with a pen and notebook, and watch as the wave hit me. Every single time I sensed something stirring in me, I scribbled it quickly in my notebook, much to the puzzlement of a ten-year-old girl sitting next to me. Then I saw those droplets and saw them stringing together to paint patterns within patterns. Here, I try to capture in words these images that flashed before my eyes…

Spoilers ahead…


The Music in the Words

What if you could hear a piano playing or drums beating on just hearing a set of words? And no, it’s not because there’s a rousing score in the background. Just read these words aloud and listen to what you hear:

நீ கூறிய சொல்லால் கூரிய வாளால் உன் நா அறுபடும் என்று அறிவாயா?
nee kooRiya sollaal kooriya vaaLaal un naa aRubadum endRu aRivaayaa?
Don’t you know that your tongue shall be severed with a sharp sword for the word spoken?
வஞ்சகனின் நெஞ்சில் இருக்கும் நஞ்சு கெஞ்சிக் கேட்டால் வராது அரசே!
vanjaganin nenjil irukkum nanju kenji kaettaal varaadhu arasae!
You cannot make a vile man part with the venom in his heart by crooning to him, my lord!
அவள் வாயால் சொன்னதை நீ வாளால் நிரூபித்து விட்டாய்
avaL vaayaal sonnadhai nee vaaLaal niroobithu vittaay
You have echoed her words with your sword!
உங்கள் சாசனங்களை நெருப்பில் எரியுங்கள். 
உங்கள் சட்டங்களை கடலில் எறியுங்கள்.  
உங்கள் விதிமுறைகளை தூக்கில் ஏற்றுங்கள்.
மதிகெட்ட இந்த அரசுக்கு மகிழ்மதி என்று பெயர்!

ungaL saasanangaLai neruppil eriyungaL.
ungaL sattangaLai kadalil eRiyungaL.  
ungaL vidhimuRaigaLai thookkil aetRungaL.
madhigetta indha arasukku magizhmadhi endRu peyar

Throw your charters to the fire!
Throw your laws into the sea!
Hang your rules!
This foolish royalty dares to call itself ‘Makizhmathi’ (Land of Joy and Wisdom)!
பழிதாங்கி உளி வாங்கி
படைப்பானோ எதிர்காலம்?
உதிரத்தில் சினமோடும் 
துளி யாவும் சிவம்

pazhidhaangi uLi vaangi
padaippaanoa edhirkaalam?
udhirathil sinamoadum
thuLi yaavum sivam

Bearing the blame, 
holding a chisel,
will he carve a new future?
In the fury 
of every drop of blood,
all there is, is God.

In the alliterative play of the words above, in the rhythm that resounds, words seem to be singing a seamless tune of exquisiteness and performing a choreographed dance of grace.

The Words in the Music

In a case of reversal, the music could be heard speaking like a seasoned orator. At these moments, you hear a thousand-word description of the character or an in-depth analysis of a situation, in a few notes of music.

Take for instance… the score at the moment Baahubali’s eyes take in Devasena. If you listen with your heart, it will bring back every face you have ever fallen for. It fills you with the tingling sensation that races through all of what makes you and a euphoric joy that makes every pain you have ever experienced, a distant memory. It proclaims in an instant that this is a life-changing moment in not just the life of a man but also the life of a nation, laden with beauty and melancholy.

Contrast this with the score for the first time Balla casts his eyes on Devasena. It’s primeval. It evokes the lustful image of an animal procreating. Something violent, intense and immediate! You understand that this ‘love’ needs no lover to reciprocate it. A classic case to showcase the intensity of unrequited love!

Be it the menacing moment when Sivagami advances towards Devasena or the rousing one when she proclaims the newborn as the new king of the nation, the music speaks to you with an intensity that makes you roar with the crowd.

In the return of young Baahubali, as he soars to defeat his enemies, you hear almost a modern day score, as if the music is speaking in the accent of he who has lived abroad and is returning with the traces of that new nation in his tongue. The music here proclaims that the tide has turned and a new order is born.

Expression of the Outer Elements

Fire, Water, Air, Earth and Sky should be rightfully on the rolling credits! These emote and express the inexpressible. In the ‘Kannan song’, when Devasena, dreaming about Baahubali, showers the lord’s statue with incense water, there’s a dove sprinkling water on Baahubali in the courtyard and when she does the ‘arati’ to the lord, with burning camphor, Baahubali feels its warmth on his face from a firebrand hanging on his window. Here the elements are at their gentlest and romantic best.

In a poetic sequence, when Baahubali and Kattappa enter the Kunthala kingdom, there they see cowherds chasing their oxen with water splashing beneath the hooves. In a stunning reversal a few scenes later, the water under the hooves climbs on as the fire on the horns of the oxen. Baahubali is the master as well as the alchemist of elements.

In a dream sequence of the ‘orey oru ooril’ song, the leading lady starts a storm amidst the waves and this master coolly takes off in air. Like a bird soaring, their love takes a flight of imagination in the breeze.


In the fight against the Kalakeyas, the earth element comes to the fore. As Kattappa stands on those unforgiving rocks, with tears pouring down his eyes, the fire rages behind him, painting the pain and passion of the moment in the confluence of the elements.

As Balla pours oil to kindle a fire, as Sivagami proclaims ‘நாடே பற்றி எரியும் (The nation will be up in flames)’ and many more moments, one can sense the trope of fire running all through the movie. Perhaps that’s why we don’t feel time passing by at all. Like wildfire, it spreads throughout the movie keeping up the pace and never slacking for a moment.

In the final moment of defeat, as Balla is about to burn on the pyre, the image of an elderly Baahubali as he might have looked had he been alive, bursts out amidst the thundering clouds in the sky and Balla’s earthly journey ends with fire lighting up the sky and earth. Or so you would think. The image of his ego and arrogance, the statue of his head still has to hurtle down a mighty waterfall to signify the final end of hubris at the hands of the elements.

Impression of the Inner Elements

How can you etch the minutiae of love, lust, guilt, disappointment, loyalty, and treachery living in those hidden corners of the heart on so grand a canvas? Is it even possible to marry nuance and grandeur? In style, this happens. In the eyes of the performers, you glimpse it all the time. The guilty thorn that irks the throat of Sivagami even though she knows she has done the right thing is the single foundation for the downfall of that empire. The guilt of having favoured the right one against her own!

Devasena, my favourite character in this mythical fantasy, has so much to inspire a woman in modern reality. Even as you are just getting to know her, you see that she wants to be better than her best. There she is trying unsuccessfully to release two arrows from a bow much to the amusement of her family and royal council, who remark that she is already the most skilled archer in the kingdom. She does not care that Baahubali is an heir to an empire. She walks on his shoulders. She cares not for wealth but only for truth and love. The most intricate exposition of the beauty of her character is when she does not want Baahubali by her side, even in her pain, but wants him to do what is right for the nation. She stands alone and as an equal to Baahubali, in every possible way.

Above all, what stretches like infinity in my mind is the singular image of Baahubali’s arrows whizzing past the dangling earrings of Devasena. Here is power and beauty in an ecstatic symphony!

Snakes and Dogs

In the character of Pingalar, be it in the double-dagger-like moustache or be it the hissing sound of his voice or in the way his fingers creep on Kattappa’s shoulder when he is trying to confuse him about who he owes loyalty to, a snake is what you see and hear. A snake that dances to the mellifluous tune of the snake charmer, Balla.

In Kattappa, an image of a loyal dog keeps popping up again and again.

உன் தாயின் நாய் வருகிறது!
Here comes your mother’s dog!

‘நான் நாய் அல்லவா, மோப்பம் பிடித்தேன்’
Am I not a dog? I sniffed it out!

You see the tail-wagging, loving, protecting friend that you wish you had. He enriches the movie with his playful woofs and fierce attacks.

Triangles and Circles

At the very core, there is symmetry in this saga. I see the plot resting on two triangles. Both between one woman and two men! First, a woman and her two sons; Finally, a woman and her two suitors! Ironically, balance and harmony in the blueprint builds this visual structure of contradiction and conflict.

Then again, the story completes in precise concentric circles. When Devasena walks with a fire-pot on her head bringing to you memories of her mother-in-law taking the same walk, one circle closes; When Balla burns on the fire reminding you of the demon’s statue in the beginning, another circle clicks to a close; In that moment when young Baahubali lets his blood flow on the Sivalinga, in his fight to ease the burden of his mother walking there with a pot of fire on her head, the circle leaps to the first part, to the moment when he lifts and places another Sivalinga under a flowing river to ease his other mother’s burden of wanting to shower the lord with pots of water. And finally, when that statue-head of Balla falls down the waterfall, it brings back memories of another head climbing up the same waterfall against all odds and beginning this story of Baahubali. With the aid of elements and emotions, the movie portrays with mathematic precision that evil has nowhere to go but down when good decides to climb up. In you, in me and in our world! And, that is why I love Baahubali.

120 thoughts on “Baahubali – On the Mathematics of Evoking Emotions

  1. Solai selvam

    Excellent ….. great thinking and hats off to rajamouli sir and our own madhan karky for this wonderful movie… superb nandhini……


  2. Rajesh Kannan K

    Beautiful. I have a question. Do you know why was Pingala thevan not punished though he was the master mind behind all of Palval thevan’s actions?


      1. Seeks revenge for his lost family.. in Part 3?

        At the end of part 1, He got use hooked with WKKB
        At the end of part 2, its “Why Baahubali Jr did not kill Pingala thevan?

        Loved the analysis


      1. Rangamani



  3. Had not thought of or considered so many elements and nuances as beautifully narrated –in the making and success of the movie. Wow…
    Did you see Kavan? Though, I have had better opportunity to interact with Madhan Karky, while doing KO, I didn’t get much time with your brother in law.
    the best, as always,
    mani m. mani


    1. Yes, the first time over, all the individual elements unite together and simply overwhelm. But when watching it repeatedly, some of the nuances come out from hiding, smiling shyly.

      Kavan was subtitled by me and my team at Subemy. So, we’ve seen and enjoyed it many times. 🙂 All the best with your projects.


  4. Wonderful write up! Even I wanted to write about all these pure beautiful tamil words in the flim, but I ended up writing all the dialogues in the movie. The entire movie experience was amazing. I have watched it 3times already. The way you put down your words are awesome.


  5. The last two circles I had not drawn out in my head, thank you for adding that into my Bahubali world. 🙂

    “She stands alone and as an equal to Baahubali, in every possible way.” – Loved your articulation and its, imho, aptness.

    In my book, #ShoulderStride and #BowArrowSymphony = #ShaktiShiv.

    #ShoulderStride – “She does not care that Baahubali is an heir to an empire. She walks on his shoulders.”

    #BowArrowSymphony – “Above all, what stretches like infinity in my mind is the singular image of Baahubali’s arrows whizzing past the dangling earrings of Devasena. Here is power and beauty in an ecstatic symphony!”

    2 reviews I found sincere, bias-free and endearing:
    1) Gushing Skye:
    2) Mediamatters:


    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and to quote my words. Glad you could connect with my thoughts on the movie. And, thanks for sharing the video reviews. Looking forward to knowing what the world has to say about our Indian magic.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The #ShoulderStride : That was a potent image of an empowered woman, beautifully redefining the age-old concept of chivalry. It invoked images of a medieval world where the knight in shining armor laid his cape down on the ground for the damsel in distress to walk on. But Devasena is no such damsel in distress. She displays a healthy sense of self respect bordering on supremacy, that can be summed up in a single Tamil word ‘அகந்தை’ , as Sivakami points out later. It’s particularly ironic that she steps over Baahubali’s shoulder. He’s after all Baahubali, the man who is named so for his strong arms. There’s poetic justice in this moment, like in numerous others in this magnum opus.


  6. Kishore Polaki

    I have to watch again with this article in my mind…
    Brilliant job Mrs. Karky..
    I couldn’t figure out this beauty with my bare eyes..
    Thank you for lending me your eyes in guise of this article for free to experience the epic… 🙂


  7. Rahul Krishna

    Mrs. Karky, quite a felicitous write-up. You have unraveled interesting perspectives with symbolic interpretations. Befitting description of Devasena’s character. Glad that I could match some of your observations in my second viewing. More power to you!


  8. Swathi Rajinish

    I watched the movie twice and its been a week I saw it for the forst time, Devasena and Baahubali isnt draining out of my mind! Indeed their characterization is something I never seen or experienced this impactful… thank you mam for exactly bringing out the details which I had in mind for the past one week. Ur narration and style is much appreciative!!


  9. Beautiful synthesis of your poetic conceptualization. The allegories of beauty and loss, of triumph and defeat, of cowardice and courage, and above all, of love and loyalty that make up the epic narrative that is Bashubali are universal yet very Indian. I couldn’t help but notice how this connected with the archetypes we have all grown up with in Ramayana and Mahabharata.


    1. Word. You have summed up the experience succinctly. The strongest I felt the Mahabharata-Ramayana link was at that moment when time slows as Balla and young Baahubali soar in the skies to throw their spears at each other, only to have Balla’s spear shattered to smithereens by the power and virtue of Baahubali’s.


  10. Suri

    Beautifully Orchestrated Words that made me feel like going back to theatre again today and experience the moments all over again.


  11. Prajna

    Wonderful article… mathetically made movie…but it was just like a beautiful painting… going to watch it once more…thanks for the article..


  12. nidya

    Your insight on the movie is awesome. Even better is your command in language; your choice of words and style of writing. I get to recall all the goosebumps I have got while watching the movie just through your mere article. Thank you for the enlightenment…I will definitely remember your article the next time I watch the movie.

    Karky’s lyrics and dialogues leave such a powerful impact…hats off to him! It’s one of his masterpiece. I’m truly mesmerised.

    For the past 1 week….Bahubali 2 has been lingering in my mind unendingly for all its grandeur. It’s an epic definitely worth watching for many more times…

    Thanks again sister….


  13. Lalitha

    Started reading the post without knowing u. Omg. Seriously, I fell in love with ur explanation of each scene. I don’t know how ur family have passion towards tamizh. God bless u al.
    Now, to the story, does those things were previously planned by as rajamouli sir and his father, it just ur view?
    Thank you for the article.


    1. The words in Baahubali actually made me fall in love all over again with my language. It was an excellent medium to showcase the beauty of our Indian languages.

      The creative process usually does not follow planned and sequential steps as I have inferred. It is spontaneous and magical even, in how the experience tells different things to different people.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Awesome.. No words to explain.. Will go for the 2nd and 3rd show to verify them:)

    Wish u could have added the other dialogues that inspired me.. “நீர் என் அருகில் இருக்கும்வரை என்னைக் கொல்லும் ஆண் மகன் இன்னும் பிறக்கவில்லை மாமா” and the “வெட்ட வேண்டியது விரல்களை அல்ல, அவன் தலையை”..

    1 doubt though.. Couldn’t send u a direct msg via twitter to clarify.. and this may not be the right forum to ask, but yet am eager to learn – இங்கு வல்லொற்று மிகுமா –
    “மகிள்மதி என்று’ப்’ பெயர்” (- உச்சரிப்பில் மிக வில்லை.. என் உச்சரிப்பில் தவருண்டா என அறிய வேண்டும். Since it has been 7 years since i lost touch with tamil grammar and also the contact of our tamil teacher too.. )


    1. Both dialogues, you mention, are intense and impactful, coming at crucial points in the movie.
      Likewise, another favourite of mine is the one in which Baahubali swears himself for life to Devasena.
      ‘இக்கணம் முதல் மரணம் அணைக்கும் வரை
      நான் உன்னுடையவன் தேவசேனா’
      [From this moment till death embraces me,
      I am yours, Devasena]
      A poignant and intense reply to her moment of hesitation.

      Considering the point of view of this article was on the musical nature of the dialogues, I chose to present the ones that sang to my ears.

      You are right. Thanks for pointing out. Will correct the same,


  15. Yesh

    Beautiful words, connecting the dots, forward and backward thinking – awed by your article. Makes to watch the move AGAIN!


  16. Santhosh Prasannah

    Excellant article mrs.nandini karky u have given vivid descriptions even for meticulous elements particularly the triangles and circles of emotion is simply superb great job


  17. BV

    For me the highlight of this article:
    The guilty thorn that irks the throat of Sivagami even though she knows she has done the right thing is the single foundation for the downfall of that empire. The guilt of having favoured the right one against her own!

    This is a great lesson one has to rehearse many a times in ears of children who watch this movie along with other things like “follow the dharma” no matter what.


    1. This is indeed a deep dilemma for any human, to decide between what’s right objectively and what’s right subjectively. Fascinating the way the creators have weaved in the many intriguing and universal conflicts of humanity.


  18. Sachin

    I am short of words to describe how beautifully you have captured (and shared it with us) the characters, emotions and the story. Really beautiful and precise.


  19. Kathir

    Just back from watching Baahubai! 2nd week, and a houseful show in a remote theater near Phoenix!!! What an experience, what a sensational movie! SS.Rajamouli has gone to a level where others can only dream of. Extremely proud of Karky.

    Am now trying to read every few detail on Baahubali, and came across this article. Wonderfully written. Your command over 2 languages, and the artistic detail in this article speaks volume about a creative conglomeration that is there in your surrounding all the time. Keep up the good work.


  20. Anonymous

    Reading up, your words acts as sharp as a sword in Baahubali. Beautiful read up and I would love to write as you’re. Perhaps, you’re an inspiration too. Had a very good read because of you. A loyal fan of yours and Baahubali!


  21. Sathya

    Awesome writeup mam. I have already watched the movie.your writeup inspired me to watch again to feel many of your insights from the movie. Mindblowing dialogues and wonderful casts.


  22. Extremely well written Ms. Nandini Karky. Believe it or not – I watched the movie twice at a premium price at the theaters in US while my wife watched it thrice ❤️

    Your write-up is so beautiful and catches very nice details that I enjoyed. I’ll have to add though that the dialogues, their delivery, lyrics and music are so grandeur and soulful and Kudos a ton to Madhan Karky! His stamp is all over. I missed the Baaha Kilikki in Part 2 movie though 😊


    1. Thank you for your appreciative words. There is that something in the movie that makes us want to see it again and again. Happy that I could glimpse a little further into what it meant to me.
      I heard that the Kilikki segment was cut short for want for time. More in future, perhaps. 😊


  23. Uma

    Hello Nandini,

    I have watched the movie thrice and it took this reading to know exactly what I was feeling inside the feeing of overwhelming regret for lives lost and happiness when they were regained in a measure….congratulations on your power to articulate what most people only feel…..


  24. Such an in depth article. appreciate your observation skills ma’am. One more aspect you have not touched is the transformation of Avantika, another strong character in first movie. However she had little screen time in Bahubali 2, which was kinda disappointing….


    1. Thank you for the appreciation. I believe the intensity and beauty of her character was done justice to, in the first part. This was the story of the past and guess the makers wanted the light to shine upon, without deflection, on that generation that began the beginning.


  25. The best piece on Baahubali i have read so far mam! Your intricacies walked me through the movie yet again and luckily without struggling to get hold of a ticket for this insanely spectacular soulful epic! Devasena – No better words than yours to express how much i loved her!

    It was Karky sir who ensured the power and strength of tamil language into this great movie ! Many thanks to him for that! Great work!

    I would like to add two things which hit me strong…..

    The last moment of Amarendra Baahubali …He doesnt simply gets killed but dies a warrior death with “Jai Maghizhmathi” and in a mighty King’s posture! I get goose bumps even when it flashes in my memory!

    “Nee veetridum thoranayaale paaraigalum ariyaasanamaai!”
    This line exactly sums up Pingalathevan’s dialogue-“Wherever he goes he is a King as long as he lives”- He literally showed what being a king is and proved fort, weapons, title doesn’t make a King but his true love and concern for people and honesty!

    Great work mam! Looking forward to further intricate articulations from you!


    1. Happy that my words made you relive the movie.
      That’s an exquisite moment you describe. There’s so much poetry and majesty even in the death of this unforgettable character.
      No better way to illustrate, ‘It’s not what you have, it’s what you are, that matters in life!’


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