Unafraid to go big, from its grand musical numbers and over-the-top violence to tender depictions of friendship, RRR (Rise, Roar, Revolt) is a Tollywood movie that will win over audiences everywhere, even those totally unfamiliar with Indian cinema. Directed by S.S. Rajamouli (probably best known for the Baahubali movies), RRR overflows with energy and heart. Anchored by performances featuring Ram Charan and N. T. Rao Jr, as they embody two real-life historical figures who find themselves on opposing sides of India’s conflict against the British in 1920. It’s an extravagant, action-packed adventure packaged with larger-than-life patriotism, powered by a bond that will transcend modern blockbuster fare. RRR is here, and it’s not holding back.
The movie follows Alluri Sitarama Raju (A.K.A. Rama) and Komaram Bheem, who were involved in conflicts surrounding the British Raj in India during the early 20th century. Yet these historical figures never actually met. The film reimagines a part of their life when they were away from their homes, meeting in Delhi and developing a deep, meaningful friendship that even gets a showstopping song number or two. Bheem and Rama’s friendship is one of the most striking aspects RRR, a film that narrows in on a platonic romanticism between two men at a world-changing crossroads. We see Bheem and Ram joking, supporting each other in their romantic pursuits, and even participating in a giant dance-off.
RRR also showcases extraordinary action set pieces with dramatic angles and slow-motion shots that are borderline cartoonish. The film has no intention of being “realistic,” and that’s one of its strengths. It’s grounded in its emotional undercurrents more-so than pesky limitations like physics and logic. Our protagonists engage in daring trapeze moves under bridges of fire, do battle against and sometimes with an entire’s zoo’s worth of wild animals. Despite being so outlandish, the action serves a purpose. To get across the struggle of British imperialism encroaching upon the people of India, which demands no less than a worthy revolution.
If that wasn’t enough, RRR goes even further by adding massive musical numbers to its repertoire. The impeccable choreography and catchy nature of “The Naatu Naatu” is an instant hit, as Bheem and Rama have to sing and dance, hilariously, to prove their skill and clout to stuck up British partygoers. More dramatic, serious moments of the film, including an extended torture scene, also use music to make RRR as operatic in its sound as it is in presentation.
Put simply, RRR is a near-perfect combination of action, drama, and musical staging. It’s impressive to see how all these disparate styles come together seamlessly to create an event film unlike any other in 2022 (and possibly one of the rare blockbusters this year to unite critics and casual moviegoers). It’s a testament to Rajamouli’s bold vision as director, even to a fault. The film’s runtime will be quite onerous for some, as it clocks in at a weighty 182 minutes. But for the most part, this excessive length can be hard to notice admidst so much rapid, earned escalation in its plotting, with the only exceptions being a handful of oddly placed flashback sequences. There’s also a gap of quality when comparing the performances of some of the British actors, which is only a slight miss for a film that hits almost all its other targets.
For many throughout the west, RRR will be the first Indian movie they ever see, and what a movie to start with. Its cultural specificity is paradoxically what makes it as accessible as it ultimately is, with a charming, energetic crescendo of unstoppable blockbuster action that will be hard to beat in terms of both quality and runtime during the rest of the year in film.
RRR (Hindi version) is now available to stream on Netflix. Watch the trailer here.