Visually, it’s a master craftsman at work.
Logically, testosterone of superhero intensity demands suspension of the brain.
When two heroes take turns at getting tortured, clobbered, shot, whipped, beaten to a pulp and lynched but get up to keep roaring, you’ve got to go with the flow and cheer.
The Baahubali team of storyteller father Vijayendra Prasad and son director-screenplay writer SS Rajamouli (SSR) is back with a Rs 400 crore extravaganza packed with high-energy action and special effects. Unlike Baahubali which was pure fantasy, Raama Rouddra Rushitam which translates from Telugu into English as Rise Revolt Revenge or the catchy RRR, is a tale of valour and patriotism that’s premised in the British Raj.
Taking two cues from Aamir Khan’s Lagaan, the British are wicked to the “brown rubbish” except for one soft white maiden who’ll fall for the rustic charm of one of the heroes.
MM Keeravani’s music grabs you right from the beats of the opening titles while SSR stuns you with his visual impact and drama telling skills from the word go. A little tribal girl paints beautifully (like henna) on a British woman’s hand (Lady Scott played by Alison Doody). The rest of the tribe stands by respectfully and watches the white masters led by Scott (Ray Stevenson) bag a heap of antlered deer as trophies. Until Scott’s wicked white wife rewards the little girl by wanting her too on the mantelpiece. And Malli, the little girl, is cruelly whisked away.
The tone of the British is set.
The fire within policeman A Rama Raju (Ram Charan) is introduced from a fortress and British barracks on the outskirts of Delhi. Watching Rama spring to action, tear into a threateningly huge mob and tame the protestors single-handedly is an unbelievable set sequence of sheer muscle power.
The Brits are informed that the little tribal girl brought captive by the Cruella-like Lady Scott must be returned. Or the might of the empire will be humbled by the wrath of the girl’s big brother, tribal Komaram Bheem (NTR Junior) who has reached Delhi. Bheem who fights fire with water has the raw strength of his environs where he outsmarts and tames leopards and black cats.
Fire and Water must clash as Rama sets out to capture Bheem. And all Bheem wants is to take his little sister back home.
But first they must meet. Cinematographer Senthil Kumar and action coordinator Vicky Arora join hands with SSR for a spellbinding rescue sequence that brings Rama and Bheem together.
SSR lays out a friendship between the hunter and the hunted with love (eating from the same thali, Muslim style), communal harmony, a bit of humour and romance. English-speaking Rama Rao aids awkward Bheem to get close to English memsaab Jenny (pretty Olivia Morris) until it climaxes in one of the most animated dance sequences in recent times. The desi naach by Rama and Bheem at an English party is vigorous and vivacious with the “browns” out-dancing and dousing the arrogance of the whites. It is one of the many highlights of the film.
Sentiments to cement the friendship include simple Bheem and his vast knowledge of herbal cures saving Rama from sure death, never mind if he has to reveal his true identity in the process.
But watch the clash without wincing for, in the effort to build the empire as hateful, the visuals pack in far too much of skinning torture. Like the public whipping of Bheem where ‘Cruella’ Scott relishes seeing blood drip and throws Rama a whip with blood-drawing nails. It’s mesmerisingly spectacular but a strong stomach is required to watch all of it.
And then there’s a turning point where it’s time for Fire and Water to combine forces to bring the enemy to heel.
Ajay Devgn features in a flashback that links why Rama does what he does and reveals what his real mission is. A tiny romantic track with Sita (Alia Bhatt) is woven in which doesn’t have much to do with the essentially testosterone-courage-patriotism mix.
Maa Godavari, Vande Matram and visuals of India’s Independence Movement heroes are high decibel sequences of patriotic fervour.
Where SSR errs is in prolonging his story to three hours and a little more. For just as you relax and think you’ve seen one climax, it’s back to some more torture, rescue and fightback. The special effects especially of the wild animals are also a tad below perfection mark.
But, like Rama and Bheem, SSR rescues his adventure with a smorgasbord of skilfully choreographed, shot and performed action pieces that have you cheering lustily, the temporary boredom soon forgotten. Switch off the brain. Let the treat for the eyes and the muscles of the well-toned, superbly cast heroes wash over you. And RRR is a welcome back to the theatrical experience.
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