On December 2, SS Rajamouli’s RRR, a colonial era-set Telugu fantasy drama, won him the Best Director award at the New York Film Critics’ Circle Awards. It’s a big deal — the NYFCC, founded in 1935, comprises more than 50 journalists from publications such as Variety and Vanity Fair. It’s one of the first critics’ groups to decide on their frontrunners for the American awards season. And previous NYFCC Best Director awardees include Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), all of whom went on to win the Best Director Oscar.
This is just one of several accolades that the film, starring N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan, has been nominated for in the past few months. RRR won Best International Film at the Saturn Awards in October. Rajamouli was also nominated for Best Director and the film received a second nomination for Best Action or Adventure Film. Last month, composer MM Keeravani was nominated for Best Original Score in an Independent Film (Foreign Language) at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards, while playback singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava were nominated for Best Song – Onscreen Performance (Film) for ‘Naatu Naatu’, a pulsating dance number in which Charan and Rama Rao Jr., as real-life Indian revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, let loose at a British mansion. The film has appeared on several ‘Best Of’ year-end lists, including Rolling Stones’ Best Movies of 2022. “This fit-to-burst story of Rise, Roar, Revolt felt like you were mainlining a century’s worth of cinematic epics in one three-plus hour rush,” writes David Fear.
RRR isn’t India’s official Oscar submission — that would be Pan Nalin’s Chhello Show — but the NYFCC win has bolstered its awards campaign. “Spoke to several Oscar voters at an event tonight. Older, white voters in the international committee. Perhaps people you wouldn’t expect to love a movie like RRR. Well they all love RRR passionately. This movie is getting some Oscar nominations for sure,” tweeted film critic Carlos Aguilar.
In June, Variance Films president Dylan Marchetti, who is running the film’s Oscars campaign in the US, and Josh Hurtado, the founder of Potentate Films, re-released RRR for a one-night-only screening across the US in a campaign titled encoRRRe. Since then, James Gunn, the Russo brothers and Edgar Wright have all spoken of it effusively. In September, Rajamouli delivered a keynote speech at the Toronto International Film Festival. That month, a retrospective of his work screened at Beyond Fest in Los Angeles. For Your Consideration campaigns for the film are seeking Oscar nominations in 14 categories, including Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor.
“Obviously, we were disappointed when RRR was not selected (as the official Oscar submission) because of the kind of buzz the film generated in the west,” Rajamouli told Screen Daily. “It was like almost everyone knew RRR was the best shot from India to get the award. But we’re not the kind of people who sit on it and discuss why it wasn’t selected. We think about what our next step is.” Now, following the NYFCC Awards, Variety’s Clayton Davis has Rajamouli as his seventh pick for a Best Director Oscar nomination. He also predicts that VFX supervisor V Srinivas Mohan will secure the fifth nomination slot in the Best Visual Effects category.
The Oscar nominations will be announced on January 24, 2023.