The sheer amount of disclaimers up front for RRR – a movie that mashes together the stories of real people, places, and situations – lay the groundwork for what is to follow.
After an assurance to audiences that everything within should be taken with a pinch of salt and that all animals are CGI (so calm down) thereafter is unleashed one of the most joyously delirious experiences ever committed to film.
The above sentence is to be qualified by this reviewer stating that Indian cinema is somewhat of a personal blind spot, occasional Bollywood film notwithstanding.
RRR is, in fact, ‘Tollywood’: a term for movies made in the Telugu language (the 4th largest in India after Hindi, Bengali and Marathi). Stylistically there is a genetic similarity to the Chinese ‘Wuxia’ genre of storytelling (see: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Hero; and House of Flying Daggers as modern examples) in which historical backdrops and larger then life characters fulfil exuberantly choreographed feats of superhuman splendour.
RRR is a dramatic exploration of the ‘pre-fame’ periods of real-life Indian revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, taking dramatic licence to imagine what it would have been like had they met and joined forces.
Both represent very different means of resistance to colonial British rule, the former seeking to infiltrate with a view to the larger goal whereas the latter engaging in goal driven brute force.
Both characters seek revenge against overwhelming numbers of one-dimensional British racists, thugs, and upper-class nasties. Raju (Ram Charan) battles his way up the ranks so as to steal guns in revenge of a brutal slaying of his village and family. Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.) erupts from his nomadic life to retrieve a child nonchalantly stolen from his tribe by the vicious Governor Scott (Ray Stevenson, Vikings) and his snooty wife (Alison Doody).
These revenger stories are delivered with aplomb that isn’t so much ‘larger than life’ than ‘larger than Earth’. Through CGI animals and glorious fight (and dance) choreography, the foreboding 3-hour run time whips past like events in your own life where you were happiest, believing it to be mere minutes when in fact hours had snaked past you unbidden and undetected.
If director S. S. Rajamouli had simply thrown unending spectacle at the screen it would have quickly become tiresome, no matter how kinetic. RRR is skilfully crafted so that the outstanding performances from Charan and Rao Jr can fill the screen with staggering presence.
Sure, as characters they undergo little development (both starting and ending the movie with virtually superhuman strength and endurance), but their wholesome friendship takes that tired term ‘bromance’ and injects it with a rainbow of radiant sunbeams.
This makes the inevitable shattering of circumstance all the more heart-breaking as we take a breather before diving into an explosive final act.
RRR Official Trailer
Is RRR Worth Watching?
Unfortunately, if you are looking for solid female characters – or indeed any women of note at all – then you will walk away unfulfilled. RRR relegates women to plot devices, be it the rescue of a little girl, the stoic desire to return to a long separated love, or the only non-racist British upper class lass in Delhi.
RRR is so caught up with spray painting spectacular feats of astounding maleness across the screen that women disappointingly can’t crowbar a single moment of note into the three hour runtime.
The unmistakable division between the sexes is the absence that prevents RRR from truly being an all-rounder, but the heart of the story it wants to tell is of two men personifying national pride and historical resistance.
There are so many dizzying set pieces it would be unwise to list them as doing so would miss out others, although I would say that fleeing a tiger has never been so exhilarating, saving a child from a fiery river so grin-inducing, or execution of a wildlife saturated heist so jaw droppingly chaotic.
RRR is the kind of movie you watch and then immediately gather everyone you know around you to watch it again, which is quite astonishing for such a long feature.
It puts the likes of Michael Bay spectacles to shame, rivals peak-era John Woo for testosterone-soaked cool, and does it all with an unmistakably Indian explosion of unabashed rapture.
Strap yourself in, your new best friend is ready to hoist you up on his shoulders.
Words by Mike Record