It’s been 10 months since the action-fantasy movie RRR hit theatres in India, and the conversation around it hasn’t stopped. As the film hits Hollywood’s awards season, BBC’s Meryl Sebastian explains why the film has captivated audiences around the world.
Director SS Rajamouli said that RRR was created primarily for Indians, people living in rural areas and diasporas. But the film, starring Telugu stars Ram Charan and Junior NTR and telling his fictional tale of two real-life Indian revolutionaries fighting against British rule, has crossed many boundaries since its release.
It grossed over 12 billion rupees ($146.5 million, £120 million) worldwide, entered the top 10 on Netflix in the US for several weeks and is currently breaking box office records in Japan. Several have been included in authoritative lists of the best films of 2022, including the British Film Institute and the US National Board of Review.
Last week, Naatu Naatu, the film’s catchy and frenetic musical number, won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. Both the song and the film won awards at the Critics’ Choice Awards in Los Angeles this week. BBC Culture film critics Nicholas Barber and Caryn James included the film in their top 20 films of 2022.
During a performance hosted by director JJ Abrams at the legendary Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, people flocked to the stage to dance to Natu Natu.
“RRR introduces audiences and filmmakers here to a different kind of movie-going ritual that they may not be familiar with. Part of the reason,” says Adlakha.
The film’s storytelling and confident directing drew viewers in, but the timing also helped.
“RRR is loud, sassy and over the top. This was the movie people were waiting to see again – in theatres or even at home on Netflix,” said TV host, Entertainment News Elaine Lui, founder of the website LaineyGossip, said. While RRR is not an official entry to the Oscars in India (it lost to the Gujarati film The Cello Show), the hype surrounding it has earned its endorsements from many Hollywood directors and stars, ensuring a nomination.
RRR’s success in India was no surprise. Rajamouli was already a household name thanks to his previous blockbuster, Baahubali, and expectations were high for his star-studded new epic.
However, the film received mediocre reviews from several critics who noted its problematic politics, use of Hindu iconography, and appropriation of tribal culture.
In India, the film medium is highly politicized, says author and film critic Soumya Rajendran. RRR’s plagiarism of her two real-life activists who fought for tribal rights and reinterpreting them as heroes of Hindu mythology inspired her to take a closer look here, she said.
But Western audiences mostly see RRR “as an anti-colonial narrative because it’s politics that’s immediately obvious to them,” adds Rajendran. A few publications in the US have attempted to address this.