Written by: S. S. Rajamouli
Starring: N. T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt, Shriya Saran
Friendships vary in what type of conflict they can survive. For some, they are inseparable no matter the indiscretion while others can be splintered by a wrong passage of words. The friendship at the very core of this feature sits right in the middle of Indians seeking independence from the British Empire. Something that sounds promising and then gets ratcheted up with some of the most absurd and incredible collection of action set pieces put to film and it creates such an unforgettable film experience.
With his sister being taken away by British colonizers, Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr,) makes his way to Delhi where he hopes to get her back and bring her home. While there he forms a strong friendship with Raju (Ram Charan), who he does not know is working undercover as a British loyalist officer trying to climb the ranks.
Sitting at a hefty 187 minutes, RRR promises to bring a lot of movie and while many films of this length typically do not earn the exorbitant runtime, this feature definitely makes a strong case as to why it deserves it. The feature certainly drags in parts and you do feel the length of it but what this film manages to pack into its runtime is nothing short of incredible and solidifies what makes it such a sensation. Over-the-top action films are nothing particularly rare as some have to resort to this method because of budgetary reasons, but this feature brings a level of earnestness to its story that creates something engaging to enjoy on top of all the craziness happening.
You almost have to laugh in moments because what director S. S. Rajamouli packs into this feature is absolutely insane yet it works to an astounding degree. When you have an assault on a British palace with a hoard of wild animals, you’re just left screaming trying to figure out what is going on and comprehend what insanity will happen next in the story. This film certainly keeps you guessing throughout and it allows it to be such a singular experience in that regard. You’ve never really seen anything like it.
For all of the bombast in the story, the true special sauce of this film is the relationship between Bheem and Raju. Two individuals with unknowingly similar goals and will stop at nothing to achieve them. The moment where they first meet each other is an outrageous set piece where they save a young child from a perilous situation. From there they strike something absolutely special and they capture a bromance that rarely gets depicted with its level of earnestness in Hollywood or any other corner of world cinema. You immediately fall in love with them as friends and it makes for the reality of their real identities boiling up to realization to be that much more painful. Not enough can be said about how the love these two men grow for each other helps elevate the film and no matter how outrageous certain scenes get, this core never gets lost.
Everything in the plot falls within the British occupation of India and this feature pulls no punches in showing just how evil the colonizers are to the people of the Asian country. There’s even a scene where a British officer explains how a British bullet is not worth being used on an Indian as it’s worth more than them. That’s as despicable as it gets in the way they value the life of another person. The British are quite obviously the big bad of the feature and to a cartoonish degree. It runs into the issue of almost making a joke out of them and taking away the seriousness of the incredible damage they’ve done to Indians. The film does a good job of walking that fine line and it depicts the brutality without getting exploitative either. It brings a tremendous balance that works incredibly well overall.
One of the criticisms that can be levied towards action films is the lack of stakes where you know the hero will survive in the end. It makes perilous situations a bit less tense because you know they will survive. For Raju and Bheem, it reaches a bit of an extreme where these two are invincible fighters to a hilarious degree. No scene exemplifies that more than when Raju makes his introduction to the film. It certainly sets the overall tone for the film, but you just know that these two men are not in any peril, especially when the two of them can take out a hoard of well-armed soldiers through the use of arrows and their fists. You just have to sit back and get ready for them to do the impossible. A level of absurdity that, in a way, pretty much matches the vibe of the film.
Admittedly, my experience in watching Bollywood films is incredibly limited, so I cannot speak to the previous work by N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan, but they are both fantastic. They know exactly what they need to pull off in this feature and absolutely nail it. They both run the gamut of emotions taking place in this story and it makes the experience all the more enjoyable as they flex when they need to and cry as well. Fully lived performance and the overall success of the feature would not have worked the same way without them.
While carrying tropes seen before, RRR feels incredibly singular, at least to the eyes of this American film lover. This feature contains pretty much everything you could want from a film. Action, drama, history, romance, friendship, music, impeccable dance choreography, and comedy. A complete meal of a film and even if it sits at over three hours, this feature will assuredly entertain. My hope is that the incredible success will open the world of South Asian cinema even more to individuals, including myself because there’s some incredible talent there and if they’re anything like this film, there’s a treasure trove that deserves to be celebrated.