Filmmaker S. S. Rajamouli is already a success story in his home turf of India. His 2015 film, BAAHUBALI: THE BEGINNING, and its 2017 sequel, BAAHUBALI 2: THE CONCLUSION, are two of the country’s highest grossing films to date. They’re also its most expensive. His new film, RRR, is joining both those lists. Made on a budget of US$72 million, it has already taken in US$160 million in the worldwide box office. Since its release on Netflix in May, RRR has become a global phenomenon.
RRR, which stands for “Rise, Roar, Revolt” or “Rage, War, Blood” in the film’s original language of Telugu, tells the fictional story of two real-life Indian revolutionaries, Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, who each waged armed campaigns against British colonial rule in India in the 1920s and ’30s respectively. Though its doubtful that the two men ever met, in this story they not only meet, they become the best of friends.
Set in 1920, the story begins with the forced abduction of a young girl from an impoverished village located in the central part of the country, by Catherine, the sadistic wife of the area’s colonial governor, Scott Buxton. Determined to get the child back, the tribe’s guardian, Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.) heads to Delhi to search for her. Meanwhile, when a protest outside the gates of the administration’s compound turns violent, A. Rama Raju (Ram Charan), an ambitious officer in the Indian Imperial Police singlehandedly quells the disturbance. Buxton is informed of a group led by Bheem that seeks to oust the Raj and he tells Raju that if he can find Bheem, he will be promoted. As fate would have it, Raju does find Bheem but he doesn’t know it because Bheem is posing as a Muslim named Akbar. Bheem, for his part, doesn’t know that Raju is a policeman in the employ of the hated British. After the pair save a child from an inferno, they become best friends, and Raju introduces Bheem to Jenny, who is Scott’s niece. Eventually the two do find out who the other one is, which leads to one and then the other getting captured and tortured. When they learn that they’re really on the same side, they join forces to dole out some serious whoop-ass on their common enemy.
RRR is three hours of over-the-top spectacle, complete with songs, a show-stopping dance-off – a frenetic and infectious number called “Naacho-Naacho” – plenty of John Woo-style slow-motion mayhem, and wild animals galore – all CGI’d, of course. Certainly, the story could have easily been trimmed down to a more palatable two hours in length but Rajamouli probably thought that if the folks at MARVEL can make three-hour superhero films, he can too. Fortunately, RRR is never boring, for just when you think you’ve seen it all, Rajamouli stages another jaw-dropping set action piece that’s even more outlandish than the one before it.
Equally enjoyable to watch is Ram Charan, whose smouldering eyes and ripped body are very easy on the eyes, according to one of my female colleagues. To be fair, Jr NTR is no slouch either and the story offers the men numerous opportunities to display their buffness. Both actors are something of acting and political royalty in India. Charan is the son of Telugu film actor and former politician Chiranjeevi and the grandson of Telugu comedian Allu Ramalingaiah. Jr NTR is the son of actor and politician Nandamuri Harikrishna and grandson of Telugu actor and former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, N. T. Rama Rao, or NTR.
RRR is currently streaming on Netflix with, unfortunately, a Hindi dub (and English subtitles) instead of leaving it in the original Telugu. It’s big, bold and delightfully bonkers. It also might just be the best international film you’re going to see this year. Check it out!
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