If you’re an American like me who doesn't pay much attention to foreign media, “RRR” may have flown right past your radar. This film was massive beyond massive in its home country of India, but pop culture in the United States has been almost silent. There is no excuse now because I am here to make sure you watch this movie. Do not let yourself miss out on “RRR” because for whatever reason you think it isn’t your thing. Give me the courtesy to convince you this is a must-see.
“RRR” is the most expensive Indian film ever made. The three R’s, while amended to stand for “Rise Roar Revolt” in the United States, actually stand for the names of the two stars and the director. That’s not something you see a lot of. What movie could be so bold as to name itself after the people involved? This one.
The director, S.S. Rajamouli, can only be compared to something like Stephen Spielberg in the nineties. He is not only the biggest director in India but a celebrity in his own right. He has directed the second, fourth and ninth highest grossing Indian films ever, making his name the only one that appears more than once in the top ten.
The stars, Ram Charan and N.T. Rama Rao Jr., have no comparison among contemporary U.S. actors. They joked that they had never co-starred in a film before this because no one could afford both of them. Around a sixth of the $72 million budget is split between the costars.
Remember when “Avengers: Endgame” was in theaters, and fans were calling it “the biggest crossover event in history”? “RRR” is that, but with only two people. The closest comparison I can think of is a team-up flick of Keanu Reeves as John Wick and Tom Cruise as Ethan Hawk. It could be called “Mission Impossible: The Revenge of John Wick.” Imagine how insane that would be, then multiply that times ten and you’ll be close to understanding why this is a film that’s hype caused entire audiences to record the announcement trailer as it played in theaters.
So what is “RRR”? Quite simply, it is an epic. Set in 1920 during the Indian resistance against the British, the two stars play men who can only be described as demigods as they fight for their own causes. While taking place in a real period and playing a version of real figures in Indian history, the story is entirely fictional. The opening scene has a child being kidnapped by the British governor, and it is the goal of N.T. Rama Rao Jr.’s character, Bheem, to rescue her. Ram Charan’s character, Raju, has his own complex arc beginning with him as a member of the British military. The two characters meet, do a dance number and become the best friends the world has ever seen; the story continues from there.
I haven’t followed the film’s reception, so I don’t know if there is a “Team Edward”/”Team Jacob” situation like there was around the “Twilight” series, but I am definitely a Bheem-head, even though I find Ram Charan to be the hotter dude. Sorry to all the Raju-stans out there.
Unlike American blockbuster actors like Dwayne Johnson, whose persona revolves around his existence being ridiculous, these actors are entirely sincere. The film is amazing, knows it’s a spectacular, but never teases itself for being so. There are dance sequences, romantic comedy meet cutes, flashbacks to traumatic childhood experiences and at one point, one of them attacks a British soldier by throwing a leopard at him. None of this is played off as campy, silly or inherently ridiculous, and the movie never feels like it is being any of those. I did not laugh at the film’s expense, as the Joss Whedon-ification of Hollywood has made us think movies should. When I witnessed that leopard being launched, I shouted like the kid in “The Incredibles.”
When Martin Scorsese called Marvel films “roller coasters,” I disagreed because roller coasters are fun. Marvel movies are like if “It’s a Small World” had speakers in each car playing sarcastic commentary from Matt Damon about how silly the ride is. “RRR” is thrilling, and genuinely so. Just like a roller coaster, it dips, twirls, pauses, launches, zips, zags and makes me cry.
This movie quite simply rules for the entire three hour runtime. Wait, I can hear that I just lost you. If being a foreign film didn’t turn you off, hearing that “RRR” goes for 187 minutes just did. Don’t let it. I have sat through my fair share of tedious three hour films, and this is not one of them. I started the film at eleven at night out of curiosity, thinking I would give it a taste. I told myself I would turn it off halfway through at the latest so I could go to bed. I did not. At one in the morning, I was two hours into a three hour movie and not tired or bored, but absolutely engrossed.
As an American, there are references you will not get. It doesn’t matter. Watching a movie from a culture you’re not entirely familiar with is like watching an Olympic event you know nothing about: after about ten minutes you’ve got enough to enjoy it. Just as an American film would use imagery of Jesus in depicting its god-like heroes, “RRR” portrays its heroes using imagery of Hindu gods. A criticism of the film is that this imagery is also currently being used by India’s growing far-right political party. I don’t follow Indian politics, so it was easy to watch without questioning the possible political implications of the imagery. Being a film about hating the British Empire — even if that currently has nationalist undertones in India — is a welcome change from most American blockbusters that, despite evidence to the contrary, consider the U.S. to be a force for good in the world.
Lastly, if you are still somehow tentative to watch this movie simply because it is not in English, there are a couple things you should know. First, much of the film is in fact in English because there are British characters. Second, no one thinks you’re cool for not watching movies with subtitles. You are admitting you are a grown adult who either struggles to read or is so immature that you are willing to miss out on something amazing simply because you refuse to give it a try.
This isn’t mushy peas; it is one of the most fun films you will see. Watch this movie or I will do nothing because I have no way of knowing you didn’t watch it — just know that you are making a dumb decision.
I say in no uncertain terms that this will be the most incredible movie, not only of the summer but that you have ever seen. It hits every note and does so with precision. I was riveted for three hours and would be riveted for hundreds more. “RRR” is inventive, exciting and genuine. I laughed, I pumped my fist, I danced, I cried, I jumped with glee and I shouted expletives in every emotion imaginable. If someone were to tell me this was their favorite movie of all time, I would say, “yeah, good choice.” I feel so confident making these grand declarations of how amazing this movie is for the same reason Muhammad Ali said he had “handcuffed lightning” and “thrown thunder in jail.” That being, it is so good that it will follow through on absolutely any promise I make no matter how outlandish it sounds.
If “RRR” is in theaters near you, go watch it there. For everyone else, “RRR” is as easy as it gets to type into the Netflix search bar. Don’t let yourself miss it.
A Netflix subscription was provided to the writer by his mom
Jeffrey Brown is an Arts Editor for the Daily Cardinal. He also writes for the Beet.