Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: S. S. Rajamouli
Writer: S. S. Rajamouli, Vijayendra Prasad, Sai Madhav Burra, Madhan Karky
Cast: N. T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt
Screened at: Crescent Theater, LA, 11/25/22
Opens: March 22nd, 2022
Every country’s film industry looks somewhat distinct and different, and in those with thriving cinematic output, there may be multiple or even many types of productions. A film’s true success is not measured only by its domestic performance but by how it’s received around the world, opening the eyes of unsuspecting audiences to the way that its country makes movies. One of the best examples of an international export that has become a smash hit is RRR, a stunningly action-packed epic Tollywood film that more than earns its three-hour runtime.
RRR opens with several introductory scenes to showcase its two protagonists in 1920 India. One is Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan), an eager soldier who astounds – and terrifies – the British commander who demands the arrest of a protester among a giant mob by fighting off dozens of people by himself to retrieve the culprit. The other is Komaram Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.), guardian of the Gond tribe who has pledged to rescue Malli (Twinkle Sharma), a young girl taken by the sadistic wife (Alison Doody) of British Governor Scott Buxton (Ray Stevenson). After working together to save a young boy’s life, Raju and Bheem become best friends, both unaware of the other’s true intentions, which will ultimately pit them against each other.
This film’s story isn’t as important as how it’s told. There is a remarkable style to all the film’s events, and there’s so much packed into every scene that it feels like several films strung together and packaged for ultimate enjoyment. The hand-to-hand combat is dazzling, as are the logic-defying jumps and stunts that in some cases involve animals. It shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that this is the most expensive film ever made in India at $72 million, but the results are evident, not only in its staggering box office but also the finished product, which is being shown on the big screen as a recommended alternative to its streaming home of Netflix given the eye-popping grandeur of its content.
Picking out the film’s best scenes is an arduous task since there’s so much contained within it. The fact that both Raju and Bheem were real people serves as an inspiration for this story, yet its content is heavily fictionalized and invented. This is a film that works best when it reaches far and goes for something truly over-the-top, and in-person screenings will certainly prove more satisfying than home viewings if only for the energy and frequent applause to celebrate the absurdity and wonder of numerous moments. More is absolutely better, and this film delivers plenty.
The technical elements of this film deserve tremendous praise, with the construction of scenes enhancing them by playing to audience expectations and then defying them over and over. Its two stars are also very talented, not just at engaging with the physical demands of their roles but also incorporating the emotional elements that serve to build their characters. Raju is determined and organized, and it’s enjoyable to see him lighten as he bonds with Bheem, while the strong and capable Bheem, in his undercover identity as he tries to find Malli, is considerably more sheepish and soft-spoken, particularly when he sees and tries to talk to Jenny (Olivia Morris), Governor Buxton’s kindhearted niece.
Because this is a Tollywood film in the Telugu language, many American audiences may be unfamiliar with what to expect. While this should hardly be seen as a definitive picture of Tollywood or Indian cinema in general, it absolutely is a formidable example, and incorporates many entertaining elements, such as musical dance sequences in which Ram and Rao eagerly participate. There’s much to enjoy, process, and fondly remember about this film, one that has to be seen – ideally on a big screen – in order to be truly understood and believed.
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+