RRR is a roaring, rearing, rousing mix of genres — epic-mythological-action-superhero-bromance, that very SS Rajamouli concoction, which we are invited to swallow in one humungous gulp. It is also, needless to say, deafeningly loud. But given that the film compelled me to stay with it, and granted me much fun while at it, I was happy, for once, to sacrifice my ears temporarily. The three hours plus film, a patriotic saga set in British India in the 1920s, proves several things in one go. That, for Indian filmmakers and viewers, there will never be a greater, more durable fount of stories than the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. That, if you want to be really safe, you cast not just one super-star, but two of them. And that if you want big, you go only to Rajamouli, the biggest super-star of them all: the loudest ‘taalis’ were reserved for his blink-and-miss in the final credits.
RRR also proves that while the overarching iconography of his films is Hindu, just like in ‘Baahubali’, it is entirely possible to use it without demonising, or othering minorities, even giving the latter a brief look-see in the proceedings. One of his heroes is not just called Ram aka Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan), he also appears in the ‘dhanush-baan-teer-kamaan’ avatar, to vanquish the evil invaders of our beloved land. And the love of Ram’s life is called, what else, Sita (Alia Bhatt). The other hero goes briefly by the name of Akhtar (let no one say there were no Muslims in this tale, see) before switching to his original, Komaram Bheem (Jr NTR), a Gond tribal who turns into a revolutionary.
Apparently these two gentlemen were real people, but Rajamouli’s plot is not just fictional, it is fantastical, teeming with wild beasts who come racing out of cages to trash a party the ‘goras’ have thrown, mortals who are flogged and beaten mercilessly, bitten by venomous snakes, pierced near the heart by bullets, but who stagger to their feet, living to see another day. The secret of making us believe is the filmmaker’s complete conviction, and Rajamouli is a dab hand at it: at one delirious point, Ram and Akhtar clasp hands across a burning bridge, with a banner running across the screen: India, 1920. Bhai, bhai, see?
But these are mere plot points. The real deal is the physical-fetishistic sparring of the two heroes, in a series of set-pieces which give them a chance to dance (‘Naatu Naatu’ is one of the most exhilarating song-and-dance sequences I’ve seen in a while), romance, chance their luck, and join hands to go after their common enemy.
The array of the red-faced Britishers feels like a flashback to ‘Lagaan’, especially the presence of a pretty girl (Olivia Morris) who has a soft spot of the rough-hewn tribal, reminding us of the miss who liked Aamir Khan’s Bhuvan. But the rest of them are proper monsters, especially Lord and Lady Scott (Ray Stevenson and Alison Doody), who are made to say lines like ‘those brown buggers; will roast the swine on a bed of coals’, and ‘I want to see blood, more blood’, while handing out whips with nails and smacking their lips in an orgy of ecstasy.
Ajay Devgn comes on as a brave rebel who teaches the young Ram to aim straight and true, Shriya Saran his equally brave wife, and Makrand Deshpande in a walk-on without much to do. Alia Bhatt has just a bit more screen space, but manages to look her part. These occasional darts aside, the film keeps homing back to its two Rs, lovingly slavering over their rippled bodies performing undying valourous acts. R and R shoot and scoot, and end with a triumphant pan-India, mera Bharat mahaan anthem, with that glimpse of the third R.
RRR movie cast: Jr NTR, Ram Charan, Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt, Olivia Morris, Ray Stevenson, Alison Doody, Shriya Saran
RRR movie director: S S Rajamouli
RRR movie rating: 3.5 stars