Two bearded men wearing pale shirts, brown pants and suspenders strike energetic dance poses before the large letters "RRR."

‘RRR’ Unites People From Different Cultures

This film recaptures blockbuster excellence with its action, musical numbers, comedy and fictional bromance between two Indian revolutionaries.
April 24, 2023
9 mins read

Almost one year ago, director S.S. Rajmouli released his highly anticipated film, “RRR,” worldwide. It is considered the most expensive Indian film ever made, with a $72 million budget. The film is led by two Tollywood movie stars, N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan. They had never been on screen together, which makes “RRR” significant. As expected, the film achieved critical acclaim and received $160 million at the worldwide box office. It scored a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and an average 4.2 rating on Letterboxd. Recently, composer M.M. Keeravani and lyricist Kanukuntla Subhash won “Best Original Song” at the 2023 Oscars for their work on the film’s song “Naatu Naatu.” It became the first song from an Indian movie to win the award. Despite this critical success, the praise from mainstream audiences is what defines “RRR” as a cinematic achievement.

On March 1, independent film organization American Cinematheque and Beyond Fest held the world’s largest screening of “RRR” in Los Angeles at the Ace Hotel. The venue sold out all of its 1,600 seats. Audiences were already screaming out of excitement when Rajmouli came on stage to introduce the film. Shortly after, the lights dimmed to black. The beaming light from the back of the theater projected the film on the wide screen. The opening credits rolled up. It was time for the main event. The audience cheered when every actor’s name appeared on screen. The screening felt like an immersive play. Viewers booed at the antagonists. They cheered for the protagonists. When the film’s upbeat musical numbers came on, the audience stood up from their seats and danced. Like traditional Indian films, “RRR” included an intermission portion, which allowed viewers to use the restrooms or purchase concessions. As the film resumed from its cliffhanger, the audience’s enthusiasm continued. If this screening was a viewer’s first time watching “RRR,” they were in for an unforgettable theatrical experience. “RRR” feels like traditional epic films from the Golden Age of cinema, such as “Ben-Hur,” which only adds to its appeal. It is an action-packed, heartfelt and fictional take on historical events told in a three-hour run time.

“RRR” is a fictional spin on a friendship between two revolutionary Indian heroes, Alluri Sitarama Raju (Charan) and Komaram Bheem (Rama Rao). Even though these legends never met, the film imagines what could have happened if they had. The film follows their journey to defeat the British Raj in the 1920s. Their methods, however, are different. Raju is working for the British Empire and must bring Bheem to Governor Scott Buxton (Ray Stevenson). He is willing to do this to receive Buxton’s favor and gain control of the empire’s weapons. Raju plans to betray the empire by using their weapons to fight them and end their colonization. Meanwhile, Bheem is on a mission to rescue the child Malli, who was abducted by the empire. When these characters finally meet, they are both unaware of the other’s identity and goals. As a result, both develop an unexpected bond that is jeopardized when they eventually reveal their truths.

One element that increases the entertainment value in “RRR” is the over-the-top action. The protagonists have immense strength, which they use to take on multiple soldiers and predatory animals by themselves. The film introduces these revolutionaries through such action sequences. In one scene, Raju volunteers to go into an angry crowd outside of a British base camp to fetch a protester who threw a rock and destroyed a framed picture of Governor Buxton. When Buxton approves his request, Raju takes off his brown cap and places it on a wooden pole. He grabs his baton from his waist. Then, he runs and jumps on a barrel, leaping over the base camp’s barbed wire fence and landing in the huge crowd of protesters. Raju fights his way through the entire angry crowd with his baton until he reaches the protester, then successfully brings him back to the base camp. Even though single-handedly fighting an entire crowd is unrealistic, “RRR” avoids criticism by depicting these revolutionaries as God-like warriors. Since the early ages of cinema, Indian films have been known for telling mythological stories of gods and kings. In addition, these filmmakers told these stories in visually dramatic and operatic ways. “RRR” follows this tradition by exaggerating its action sequences. In the screening, audiences were cheering and whistling as Raju fought against the crowd by himself. These reactions were arguably louder and more emphatic than any of the responses to action scenes in superhero blockbusters such as “Avengers: Endgame” and “Spiderman: No Way Home.”

The film’s high-level action sequences are balanced by its musical numbers. The one that is gaining the most attention from social media is the performance of “Naatu Naatu.” This scene also significantly enhances Raju’s and Bheem’s friendship by having them sing the song together. The musical number starts when British colonial, Jake (Edward Buhac), harasses Bheem for attempting to waltz with his love interest, Jenny (Olivia Morris). Raju sees the situation and decides to take over the drums and start off the beat to the song. He unites with Bheem and both perform the advanced dance choreography. Later, the court women learn the routine from Raju and Bheem and join in with the duo. Jealous of Bheem and Raju stealing the attention, Jake and the men join in the dance as well. The dancers compete to see who can dance the longest without getting tired and falling onto the floor. “Naatu Naatu” is an upbeat song that is difficult to not sing and dance to. Viewers were not afraid to dance along in the aisle of the theater. The screening went from a filmgoing experience to a concert.

Another factor that amplified people’s reactions to these action scenes was the star power of the actors. For example, Charan is one of the highest-paid Telugu film actors. Indian cinema still uses the “star system,” where film studios glamorize actors as icons for audiences to look up to and obsess over. As a result, actors are guaranteed to make a profit for their studio. Though Hollywood abandoned this system in the 1960s, Indian cinema still successfully uses it today.

“RRR” has the power to unite people in theaters and have them physically express their love for the film. Director Rajmouli understands that cinema can be an art form that tells entertaining and visually appealing stories on screen.

Daniel Guerrero, College of the Canyons

Writer Profile

Daniel Guerrero

College of the Canyons
English and Filmmaking

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