At first glance, the reaction would be, ‘Are you kidding? What could possibly be the common ground between a small grim film and an unabashedly lavish entertainer?’
True. The Kashmir Files and RRR are as dissimilar as the cruelty of a genocide and the spirituality of a serene temple.
It’s also true that RRR came with a roar. Costing over Rs 400 crore, SS Rajamouli’s film arrived with the bang of a premium brand. Two huge stars from Andhra Pradesh, Ram Charan and NTR Jr oozed testosterone while Ajay Devgn and Alia Bhatt were cannily sprinkled to enhance the film’s all-India viability. Promising entertainment worthy of a big screen theatrical experience, RRR had the best of promotion, publicity and the pick of screens. It came pre-sold with the biggest of expectations, the next big thing from the maker of Baahubali. Even its music release had a salivating media lining up for bytes, interviews and photo sessions. SS Rajamouli didn’t need to and he wasn’t willing to even have a pre-release preview. The PR agency managed to arrange a late screening of only the Hindi version on Thursday night and that too only in Mumbai.
Fictionalising the real life story of revolutionary heroes, Alluri Sitaram Raju and Komaram Bheem, RRR transformed into a visual fantasy. Delightfully packaged with stunning sequences, energetic dancing, bits of wit, robust heroes with clashing personalities, glimpses of romance and dollops of patriotic fervour, the screenplay followed all the rules of commercial cinema. Including communal amity. And RRR delivered all that it promised and more.
In contrast, The Kashmir Files stayed rooted in grim reality and arrived like an underdog. On a meagre budget of Rs 14 crore that allowed it no room for promotion, hardly any news channels or TV shows heartily promoted it. Theatres begrudged it a large number of screens, opening with less than 700 all over India. Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri’s previous film The Tashkent Files had made an impact and had done far better business than the trade had expected. But still, The Kashmir Files was a small film without huge heroes or glossy packaging and it grappled with the devastation wrought by communal frenzy in the Kashmir valley. With a disturbing screenplay, unrelentingly sombre with no moment even for a smile. And unlike RRR, Vivek showed The Kashmir Files to the press five days before release.
RRR wove in communal amity; The Kashmir Files showcased communal frenzy.
RRR had a budget that was nearly 30 times that of The Kashmir Files. Both films stirred patriotism in the viewer but used completely contrasting tones. Two films so vastly different in texture and substance. Yet both films have been blockbusters. The Rs 14 crore film that broke all the rules of filmmaking has fetched more than Rs 230 crore, more than 15 times its cost from theatrical pickings alone. A bigger success in every way than Vivek’s earlier film The Tashkent Files. The Rs 400 crore extravaganza has thundered in theatres with weekend collections of Rs 75 crore only in Hindi, and a total of Rs 500 crore from all over the world. And this is just the weekend we are talking about! RRR is definitely a bigger commercial hit than its mighty predecessor Baahubali 2.
Both films had suffered due to the pandemic. Vivek Agnihotri was all packed and ready with his cast and crew to go shoot in Kashmir when the nation was locked down in March 2020. And then the third wave closed down theatres. But he was adamant that The Kashmir Files would release only in theatres before going on to an OTT platform. RRR too waited in the wings for theatres to open, its release date pushed again and again.
Both films have been indulgently told with a 3-hour running time.
Coincidentally and happily for a PR agency called Spice, The Kashmir Files and RRR chose the same agency to handle their publicity.
But there is one major factor common to what seems two overtly dissimilar films. RRR was laden with a hefty star cast that would appeal to both the North and the South. Performances powered The Kashmir Files too. Anupam Kher’s Pushkarnath has created cinematic history as a performer and outstanding work came from Mithun Chakraborty, Pallavi Joshi and Darshan Kumaar too.
But irrespective of the performances, the one undeniable commonality is that the star of both RRR and The Kashmir Files is its director.
“There were no stars in our campaign,” pointed out Vivek Agnihotri. “I’m making sure that the world realises that in India, film is a director and writer’s medium, not a star’s medium. I as the director am the master. I’m not saying it with arrogance. I’m saying it because this is how it should be.”
RRR too is owned by SS Rajamouli, a director who had equal space with his star cast on hoardings; a director who featured in the credit titles song which traditionally sees only the star cast shaking a leg.
Two different blockbusters with one message.
The Kashmir Files was Vivek Agnihotri all the way.
RRR is SSR all the way.
It is Director’s Day at the box office.
Also Read: RRR Review: Spectacular 2-Man Army