RRR or Rise Roar Revolt sets its tone right from the start. Catherine Buxton (Alison Doody, We Still Kill the Old Way, Division 19) is in a small village, one of the local women painting a design on her hand as she waits for her husband Scott (Ray Stevenson, Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday, Cold Skin) the British regional governor to return from hunting. As if the balance the trophy he brought back, she decides to take Malli (Twinkle Sharma, Lay Your Head on Me) one of the village girls home with them. When her mother tries to stop it she has her head smashed in as the terrified girl watches.
Komaram Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr., To Father with Love, Temper) takes it upon himself to rescue Malli and heads into the city of Delhi disguised as a mechanic. There he meets Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan Teja, Bruce Lee – The Fighter, Orange) when the two men save a young boy from a flaming train wreck. Bheem doesn’t know that Raju is a cop, and Raju doesn’t know that Bheem is the man he’s looking for.
Written and directed by S.S. Rajamouli (Baahubali: The Beginning, Chatrapathi) RRR is a three-hour epic that has gotten an intense amount of praise for its action scenes. Enough that I was curious about it despite its length and my dislike of the way Bollywood films stuff musical numbers into seemingly everything. So when it turned up on the schedule for this year’s Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival I took it as a sign to finally watch it.
And he does lay the action on thick, unfortunately, it’s frequently in the kinds of scenes that usually involve someone wearing a costume. Raju is first seen vaulting a barbed wire fence and clubbing his way through literally thousands of protestors to make an arrest. It’s like a scene from a Judge Dredd comic. For his part, Bheem is first seen hunting, first outrunning a wolf and then going hand to paw with a huge tiger. If you’re expecting a serious action film forget it, RRR’s plot is every bit as cartoonish as its CGI.
Cartoonish is also a good way to describe the RRR’s characters as well. Despite using the names of two real historical figures, this is a complete work of fiction as the two leads never met in real life. And, along with historical facts RRR also strips away any nuance or shading from its characters., “real” or otherwise. Our leads are hypermasculine to the point of being Gods among mortals. And apart from Scott’s niece Jennifer (Olivia Morris, Hotel Portofino), all the Europeans are such ridiculously cartoonish villains they should have Snidely Whiplash mustaches to twirl as they plot their next atrocity against the noble Indian people.
And yes, I know the British did commit atrocities in India and most of their other colonies for that matter. But reducing it all to such a simplistic level as this took any kind of drama or feeling of danger out of it for me. To me RRR’s big question wasn’t if they’d come out on top but why theses two superheroes didn’t drive the British out of India by themselves.
If you can deal with one of the most convoluted chapters of history reduced to the level of an episode of Schoolhouse Rock and not roll your eyes at the scene where the rebels unleash a truckful of wild creatures in the midst of one of Scott’s ceremonies or a public flogging that turns into an S&M musical number, then you’ll probably love RRR’s spectacle and heroics.
But for me, it was a collection of fair-to-bad CGI and fight scenes that make the John Wick franchise look realistic. All of it held together by a wafer-thin plot that leans heavily on shots like an English soldier casually shooting Indian women and children. It’s audience manipulation of the cheapest and most obvious variety, but judging by it’s reception that seems to be what a lot of people want. All it gave me was a headache.
RRR will screen on November 23rd at 8:00 pm as part of this year’s Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival. They’ll be showing the Telugu language version with English subtitles. It’s also available on Netflix in a variety of subtitled and dubbed versions.