FILM REVIEW: RRR (2022)
Directed by S. S. Rajamouli
Screenplay by S. S. Rajamouli and Story by V. Vijayendra Prasad
Produced by D. V. V. Danayya
Cast: N. T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt, Shriya Saran, Samuthirakani, Ray Stevenson, Alison Doody, Olivia Morris, etc.
Cinematography: K. K. Senthil Kumar
Music by M. M. Keeravani
I have a couple of confessions to make before reviewing the exhilarating action-period-musical-drama-martial-arts-hybrid extravaganza that is RRR (2022). Firstly, I did not see it at the cinema. It was only a recommendation from a work colleague that there was an amazing and spectacular three-hour Indian-produced epic film on Netflix I should watch! I am so glad I did as it is a tremendous work of genre entertainment.
My second confession is, that while I call myself a film fanatic, I have not watched many films that could be classed as part of the Bollywood oeuvre. This is a massive admission of guilt because initial research reveals that Bollywood, the informal name for the vast Hindi-language cinema, is one of the world’s largest film producers. Yet, it is important to state that RRR (2022), the most expensively budgeted Indian film of all time, is not technically Bollywood, but rather ‘Tollywood’, being an Indian Telugu-language film.
Further research reveals the traditional Bollywood-style film will most certainly be a musical, full of scenes with joyous singing and dancing. Moreover, standard narratives involve family dramas, unrequited love, rich-girl-poor-boy romances, dividing settings between urban and rural landscapes. Conversely, RRR (2022) certainly has stunning song and dance set-pieces, but it is so much more than that. It is stupendously energetic and inventive, with so much amazing action I was left breathless. Arguably the songs get in the way of the high-octane brilliance, although one spectacular dance sequence at an English garden party left me with a massive cheesy grin.
The story is set in India, 1920, during the British Raj. This, if you were not aware, was part of the Empire, with the Crown ruling in India from 1858 to 1947. Safe to say that the British, aside from one main sympathiser, encapsulated within monstrous characters portrayed by Ray Stevenson and Alison Doody are the big baddies. Because, this is a film about overcoming oppression through the heroic and revolutionary acts of two larger-than-life characters named Komaram Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.) and Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan). The inventive, if at times predictably structured screenplay, is inspired to incorporate the lives of these two real-life Indian rebels, who never met, but challenged the Raj and the Nizam of Hyderabad, respectively.
RRR (2022) is not an accurate historical epic. Who cares! This three-hour behemoth is a thrill-ride that successfully establishes not one, but two, kick-ass heroes. Bheem, who takes the name Akhtar, is introduced fighting a tiger in the jungle, while Ragu, an Officer in the British Army — for reasons which are revealed in a tremendously moving flashback later in the film — is launched into the story fighting a baying crowd of insurgents. The two action men are initially on opposing sides as we get plot strands which echo Infernal Affairs (2002) / The Departed (2006). As the two form a bromantic friendship we know that the script is building to a big face-off between them. It is certainly worth waiting for as S. S. Rajamouli and his production team deliver a gob-smacking action centrepiece midpoint that involves Akhtar and Ragu battling amidst wild animals, vehicles, British soldiers, explosions and bullets aplenty!
RRR (2022) is not without issues. The boo-hiss stereotypical British colonialists simplify the complex politics of the era. Having said that, the British did asset strip India of valuable resources, essentially enslaving and murdering the Indigenous population during its rule. So, any negative emotions against the British are deserved. The female characters, aside from one, were a tad one-dimensional. Moreover, the film is way too long with one or two songs too many. Finally, the CGI, while actually impressive in its own way, did not always gel perfectly with the live action. However, the scale and ambition of the film is to be totally admired, as is the vibrant direction by S. S. Rajamouli. N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan, as the lead revolutionaries, are bona fide film stars. Their energy, physicality and charisma on screen really grabbed me and never let go with fight scenes reminding me of the heart-stopping acrobatics of Tony Jaa . Amidst the kinetics there is an emotional heart within RRR (2022), but where the British once ruled India, now it’s the spectacular that reigns.