RRR (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): An energetic nationalistic buddy action flick from India

As your average seasoned moviegoer, I am not that easily impressed by whatever is shown on the screen, but Indian film “RRR” actually impressed me more than once with how wildly it tries many things during its 3-hour running time. Although I must confess that I often rolled my eyes at its unashamedly nationalistic stance coupled with overblown melodrama, I also appreciated the considerable technical efforts put into a number of big entertaining moments, and I gladly went along with its spirited mood despite some reservation.

Set in India during the 1920s, the movie revolves around two different heroes who are actually based on two real-life Indian revolutionaries, but, as far as I know, it is as historically accurate as “Inglourious Basterds” (2009) or “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (2012). After all, you cannot possibly expect any historical accuracy from a movie which features lots of crazy and exaggerated actions including the one involved with a bunch of wild beasts bursting into the manor of the British Governor of India to terrorize his guests and soldiers.

Anyway, the movie begins with no less than three prologue parts for introducing its two heroes and a rather complicated situation surrounding them. After showing how one young little girl of a certain rural tribe is taken away from her family just because of her singing ability, the movie introduces us to an Indian British military officer named Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan), and we see how much he is determined to distinguish himself enough to impress those British superiors of his. Just for catching one guy as ordered, he willingly charges into angry local protestors surrounding his military post, and, after injuring so many unfortunate protestors in the process, he eventually catches and then takes the guy into the post.

Nevertheless, promotion still seems to be out of reach for Raju, and then there comes another good opportunity for him. After notified that someone from that rural tribe came into Delhi for looking for that kidnapped girl, the governor demands that that figure should be arrested as soon as possible, and Raju immediately comes forward once it is promised that whoever captures that figure will be promoted.

Meanwhile, the movie also shows what is going on the opposite side. While quietly staying at the home of a Muslim family living in Delhi, Komaram Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.), who is incidentally that figure in question, is already working on the plan for rescuing that kidnapped girl, and he also does some daily reconnaissance on the manor of the governor, which is certainly guarded heavily every day.

And then, of course, Bheem comes across Raju by sheer coincidence. When a little young boy is suddenly thrown into a serious danger under one big bridge, both Raju and Bheem hurriedly come to the rescue, and, though they are total strangers to each other, they somehow click together well enough to save the boy together without any physical injury despite their daredevil action under the bridge. What follows next is a long musical montage sequence, and that is probably enough for you to sense how quickly their accidental friendship is solidified during next several days.

Of course, both Raju and Bheem still hide their respective missions from each other, while having no idea on what they are respectively doing behind their back. The mood occasionally becomes tense as Raju keeps pursuing his target with Bheem heading toward the final stage of his plan, but the movie does not lose its sense of fun and humor at all, and we get a decidedly anachronistic moment of song and dance when they happen to be invited to a dance party via a young British lady Bheem comes to befriend. I will not go into details here for not spoiling any of your fun and entertainment, but I can tell you instead that I mused on how wrong I was to think I have seen it all.

During its last hour, the movie eventually becomes more serious as expected with several narrative turns, and we are surely served with a series of blatant melodramatic scenes to touch and galvanize its local audiences. The part involved with Raju’s hometown sweetheart feels rather obligatory, and what happens between her and Bheem later in the story is pretty contrived to say the least, but you will probably forgive that and several other shortcomings of director/writer S.S. Rajamouli’s screenplay, which is based on the story by V. Vijayendra Prasad, when the movie goes wilder during its climax action sequence. While Ram Charan and N. T. Rama Rao Jr. are effective with their intense physical presence, Ray Stevenson is also solid as the main villain of the story, and he and Alison Doody, who plays his equally cruel wife, surely demonstrate to us that there is no meanness like British meanness.

Overall, “RRR”, which is the acronym of “Rise, Roar, Revolt”, is basically your typical nationalistic propaganda flick, and you may be bothered by how often Muslim characters are marginalized in the film as it wields its Hindu cultural background right on our face, but it handles its story and characters with enough skill. Although it does not reach to the sheer outrageous fun of Rajamouli’s two previous films “Baahubali: The Beginning” (2015) and “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion” (2017), the movie is still fairly entertaining, so I will not grumble for now. After all, how can I be grouchy after that joyous musical ending where everyone is apparently enjoying themselves a lot?

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