RRR – Rise. Roar. Revolt. (Hindi)
Director: SS Rajamouli
Cast: Ram Charan, NTR Jr, Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt
Released in theatres.
I had walked in the theatres to watch RRR with zero expectations. I might be one of the few people who still haven’t watched Rajamouli’s Baahubali franchise. I had watched only one Rajamouli film i.e. Eega, which for its sheer absurd idea of a dead lover being reincarnated as a fly, made me not think of any logic and just see to what extent the filmmaker’s imagination (and conviction) goes.
In RRR, set in British-ruled India, Ram Charan and NTR Jr not only fight and beat the British, but also fight animals and beat logic. Filmmakers taking cinematic liberty is one thing but putting together a film made of set pieces is another. The story goes: A young girl is bought from a village to be a servant of a British royalty. Her brother Bheem (NTR Jr) wants to bring her back to her village and mother. Bheem, in his intro set piece, fights with a wolf and a tiger. A flamboyantly shot sequence shows that he can tame a tiger but also says sorry to him once the tiger is dead. Mass cinema is big on morality and self-righteousness. The hero can do wrong only unknowingly just so that he can seek redemption in the climax.
Anyway, there’s also an Indian man (Ram Charan) serving in the British police force. He is a policeman who single handedly can fight a mob of hundreds as seen in his intro set piece. The two lads become friends, bromance blossoms as they hang out, eat and dance together to a superbly choreographed and performed song. Ram is Fire and Akhtar aka Bheem is Water. All of their action sequences are excessively symbolized with use of fire and water throughout the film.
Also read: ‘RRR’ team visits Golden temple in Amritsar to seek blessings for SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus!
All hell breaks loose just before the interval. The twists and turns and backstories are oversimplified in this 3-hour extravaganza. Everyone is so alert that they remember things from a mere cue of a paint or a pendant. At once RRR looks like Mard or Kranti made with special effects. That brings me to give credit where it’s due. Rajamouli aims at creating every frame a painting. Sure, the work shows in beautifully blocked and shot frames. But RRR loses itself in these frames that it leaves the story lagging behind somewhere. You’re more invested in admiring the craft of the maker than the story or characters.
For instance, when Bheem is being beaten at a square with a hunter, Rajamouli is busy showing how cinematically he can make a river of blood flow, instead of what the character is going through. Bheem sings a song while he is getting beaten by Ram. Amidst the shenanigans, RRR loses its soul. It’s a common sight in such mass entertainers that there are quite a few scenes with a crowd which reacts on cue, as if guiding the audience on how and when to react. It’s really pathetic to watch. I watched the Hindi version. The Hindi dialogue is just about average. Music by M.M. Keeravani, Production Design by Sabu Cyril, and cinematography by KK Senthil Kumar are the film’s strongest aspects.
As for the performances, Ram Charan and NTR Jr play their roles sincerely. I’m least interested in someone’s physicality w.r.t whether they can fight a tiger with bare hands or uproot the grill of a solitary cell in a prison. If their characters don’t appeal to me, nothing else does. None of the characters in RRR leave an impression. Alia Bhatt as Ram’s fiancée Sita and Ajay Devgn as his father are wasted in their roles. The reason behind their casting is simple – so that the film caters to a larger group in the Hindi belt. Because neither of these characters seem like they could not have been played by anyone else. Alia is there in the film for 3-4 scenes and this will be the actor’s worst performance till date. Oh yes, there’s also Shriya Saran in a cameo. If the makers didn’t get enough of making the film pan-India, they plug a end credit song saluting freedom fighters from every region/state of India.
The foreign cast include relatively known faces as the British. We have seen these actors playing different small roles as umpires, cricketers, businessmen in numerous series/ads. They are mere caricatures in the film. What worked best for Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan was that the British cast was completely unknown. They looked like actual Brits. In RRR, they have only casted whoever is white and available in India as the Brits. RRR starts out as a periodic film and by the end turns into drawing parallels with mythological characters. The world of RRR looks cinematic and beautiful but makes one wonder, when will the movie end?
All said and done, RRR truly belongs to its maker SS Rajamouli. Whether you like the film or not, you will wonder from where does one get such conviction to pull off something which sounds ambitious and ridiculous at the same time. In Rajamouli’s universe, conviction speaks louder than words and action. RRR is made for the mass audience and it might fetch all the taalis and seetis from its target audience. I wanted an evening away from all the world cinema and series that I consume otherwise (Having grown up on Bollywood, causes such trips once in a while). I just wanted to be entertained for what it’s worth. It only happened in bits and pieces.