“Delirious” is the word to describe SS Rajamouli’s Indian action-adventure film, which has been a worldwide phenomenon in theaters and on Netflix since its summer release.
Starring Tollywood superstars NT Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan as revolutionaries fighting the British Raj in 1920, this Telugu-language big-budget show features dizzying over-the-top action sequences and peppy musical numbers that send the audience into a frenzy. . Wildly entertaining for every minute of its three-hour-plus running time, RRR One of India’s highest grossing films of all time and now creating Oscar buzz.
The bottom line
You won’t be bored for a nanosecond.
Cast: NT Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt, Shriya Saran, Samudrakani, Ray Stevenson, Alison Doody, Olivia Morris
Director-screenwriter: SS Rajamouli
3 hours 7 minutes
Although the central characters are based on real-life historical figures, RRR (the title suggests “Rise, Roar, Revolt”) is strictly fictional, as one of the most sweeping early disclaimers ever seen on screen takes pains to emphasize. (We’re sure all the animals in the film, and there are plenty of them, are strictly CGI. It’s definitely good for them.)
We’re introduced to the main characters in two daring action sequences before the opening credits, which don’t appear until some 40 minutes into the film. Ramo Rao Jr. plays Bheem, an impetuous member of the Gond tribe who tries to trap a wolf, who manages to capture him through a combination of cunning and superhuman strength. Charan plays Raju, a superhuman Indian member of the British police who, at first sight, dives into an angry mob of what appear to be thousands of rioting Indians to subdue a criminal and somehow manages to successfully fight them all off.
When a little girl from his tribe is kidnapped by an evil British governor (Ray Stevenson, looking more like his cartoon character) and his equally evil wife (Alison Doody) who considers Indians “brown trash” Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), Bheem leaves for Delhi on a rescue mission. There they encounter Raju in the action-movie version of “Meet Cute”, the pair making their acquaintance by jointly saving a boy from a fiery river in a daring sequence that rivals anything devised by James Cameron or Steven Spielberg.
Together, the two conspire to further their revolutionary cause, unaware (at least, for a while) of Raju’s true role as a secret agent for the British Empire. There are many, many plot machinations going on, but they go so fast and furiously that you won’t particularly care if you don’t keep up with them. There’s a subplot involving Bheem’s romance with the governor’s unprejudiced niece (the charming Oliva Morris), which provides some comic relief, but the film isn’t meant to take anything seriously.
And, of course, there are the musical numbers, including the instant classic “Natu Natu,” in which Raju and Bheem engage in a wildly athletic dance-off with the rhythm-challenged Brits that would make MGM’s Arthur Freed proud. (I watched the movie on Netflix and can only imagine the frenzy the scene must have caused in theaters.)
Already responsible for three of India’s highest-grossing films of all time in just seven years, director Rajamouli displays his obvious love for popular cinema in every wildly colorful, packed frame. It doesn’t matter if CGI or aerial wire work is sometimes too obvious or the frequent use of slow-motion borders on satire. Everything is presented in such a visually stunning fashion that your eyes are completely satisfied before your brain makes any objections.
And the two endlessly charismatic lead actors display such dynamic physicality in their hyper-muscular performances that they fairly burst off the screen. Their characters provide the most riveting screen bromance since Butch and Sundance.