As the end credits of Rudhramadevi roll, it’s tough to not smile at the delicious irony of such a film being made in an industry in which, to a large extent, a few male stars hold sway. Here’s a film that has dusted history books and taken some cinematic liberties to tell us the story of a queen who had to prove herself and rise above gender stereotypes.
In Orugallu, erstwhile Warangal, a baby girl is born to Ganapati Deva (Krishnam Raju) and his wife. Minister Shiva Devaiah (Prakash Raj) convinces the royal couple to introduce the child to the world as Rudhradeva. Reason: A male heir would help silence contenders to the throne within and outside the kingdom.
Thereon, the child is raised like a boy, trained in warfare and meets two characters who’d grow up to play a pivotal role in the kingdom — Chalukya Veerabhadra (Rana Daggubati) and Gona Ganna Reddy (Allu Arjun).
Anushka Shetty ends up playing two roles, that of Rudhradeva and Rudhramadevi, switching easily between the two modes. The portions in which she gazes into the mirror, bemoans her predicament only to bounce back at the call of duty are deftly handled.RudhramadeviBaahubali
Director Gunasekhar tries to make up for that lack with the story and characters. He gives the best lines of the film to Allu Arjun. The Robin Hood-like character of Gona Ganna Reddy mouths smart, apt lines and draws whistles.
Rana Daggubati is the loyal friend to Rudhradeva and smitten by Rudhramadevi, graciously plays second fiddle. It’s hard to think of a historical without Anushka and Rana, who have the physique and screen presence to play these regal parts. But the romantic portions between them are a dampener to the film’s pace.
The tale also presents smaller characters — Anamika (Catherine Tresa), Mukhtamba (Nithya Menen) and Mandakini (Hamsanandini).
Nithya Menen shows once more that she can leave an imprint on any character she plays. She is an endearing addition to this film, filling the frame with her impishness at one moment and making us empathise with her plight at another.
There are bound to be comparisons between Rudhramadevi and Baahubali . This is a historical set in the 13th century while the latter had the advantage of unfolding in a mythical kingdom and not adhering to a time frame. The ingenious weapons and the long drawn battle sequence added to the visual spectacle. The war portion of Rudhramadevi has a few moments of high — the attack and defence formations and a spirited Rudhramadevi tearing into her opponents — but don’t go expecting another spectacle.
Ilayaraja’s music and the narration by Chiranjeevi are an asset.
There are several shortcomings, but Gunasekhar piques the interest to go back and read up more about this warrior queen.