In its three hours plus runtime, RRR gives us a patriotic saga set in British India in the 1920s, proving several things in one go. One of them is that for the Indian audience, there will never be a greater, more durable fount of stories than the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. SS Rajamouli re-imagines the real life journeys of two freedom fighter revolutionaries – Telugu tribal leaders Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem – in pre-independent India as their paths cross; the two lead characters come from totally different hierarchical backgrounds- creating a perfect recipe for conflict and dilemma. Even when the easily predictable plot points unravel, it never makes those moments any less exciting; it’s a testament to the older way of storytelling where logic can be forgotten when the purpose is revelation.
Rajamouli, who wrote the story along with his father K. V. Vijayendra Prasad, imbues his trademark style and the mythological template to tell a freedom fighter fantasy actioner; the film overflows with fantastical silliness, both visually and from dialogue. Ram Charan smolders as Ram, a fearsome police officer who is underestimated by his white superiors. The actor carries himself with the authority and assurance of a deity, living upto his name. It’s the best larger-than-life character I’ve come across in any film recently, quite honestly. He fiercely determines his insurgent persona of a firebrand from Andhra Pradesh, who goes undercover as a member of the British army in the hope of arming his compatriots; you don’t come to know of his true intentions till the film’s exciting second act. He demonstrates his faux loyalty to the Crown by single handedly punching, kicking and beating. In a stunning introductory sequence, we witness him manhandling what appear to be thousands of protesters to seize a guy who tossed a rock at a portrait in a police outpost. He furiously tunnels through the strong mob outside his garrison, without any hesitation.
After introducing us to Ram Charan’s Sitarama Raju as the police officer in the film’s heart-thumping first act, RRR lets the hulking physicality of its leads do the bulk of work for the story. The abduction of Sita is the central theme of Ramayana. Similarly, in the movie, the abduction of a young girl from a tribal community in the first act, triggers a chain of incidents leading to Rama’s imprisonment. In the original epic, Hanuman becomes Rama’s courier and takes a message to Sita, who is kept in confinement by the Ravana in Lanka. In Rajamouli’s epic, however, this episode has quite adroitly been reversed. Along with that, while Bheem generally demonstrates the qualities of Bheema from Mahabharata, here he also doubles up as Ram’s trusted lieutenant. Thus, Bheem is also Hanuman.
Rajamouli intertwines two elements of matter — fire and water — in the form of Rama and Bheem into his lavish visual storytelling. The film in all sense is an opulent piece of grandiose entertainment that must be watched on the big screen. The vistas that unfold have a digitally enhanced grandeur and the stunts, by Hollywood stunt director Nick Powell, make the execution by Rajamouli and team feel even more thrilling. When the two men hang from a railway track, swinging on ropes to save a young boy from the river as the two elements quite literally merge on screen, I knew I was getting exactly what I had paid for.
The film is a textbook example in proving how this type of old-fashioned entertainment can always work, as long as you don’t reduce it to being a throwback or an homage to a preexisting work of popular art. RRR is a big-budget action extravaganza; a roaring and rousing mix of various genres – epic, mythological, action, superhero, bromance – that special SS Rajamouli concoction. We, as the audience, are invited into its high octane scale to swallow it all in one humongous gulp. The film always moves at a bristling intensity towards its climactic explosion.The movie sticks to that and plays around those ideas to their maximum effect. The filmmaker, along with his crew, surprises us with entrances that cannot be explained by the practical geography of his shot. We, as a viewer, can’t seem to get enough of it.
The movie has one of the most well thought out three-act structures I’ve seen in a big-budget film recently, and a first act that wastes little to no time in setting up its simple narrative. Unlike in Baahubali, this one doesn’t really alternate a lot between vastly contrasting landscapes. SS Rajamouli’s ambitious and skilful command over his storytelling craft echoes in how seamlessly he blends the tale of old school palace politics with modern VFX in order to deliver a consistently watchable blockbuster. The blessedly short flashbacks and fittingly bombastic expository dialogue underline a national unity that’s much needed right now.
RRR rests on your shoulders as an audience and whether you can suspend disbelief. Even though you know what’s about to come, it doesn’t make the revelations in the film any less impactful. The film, needless to say, is also deafeningly loud. But at every step, it compels you to stay with it, as it knows you’re having fun buying into its larger than life approach. Rajamouli is quite possibly the only Indian director, who makes high budget masala films that people go to, primarily because of his name being attached to it. And that’s something quite unprecedented, at least for the masses, in our country.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.