The director strikes a fine balance between satiating the appetite of the masses and telling an engrossing story
Last Updated: 08.21 AM, Mar 25, 2022
Malli, a young tribal girl from Adilabad, is captured by a British governor Scott and his wife. Komaram Bheem, a bull-like man who guards the tribal group in any given situation, is committed to bringing her back home. In his hunt for Malli, Bheem heads to Delhi and disguises himself as Akhtar. Britishers, sensing trouble from the tribal group, appoint a police officer, A Rama Raju, to keep a check on their whereabouts. In an unexpected situation, Bheem and Rama Raju forge a strong bond without realising their true identities. When torn between duty and friendship, what does Rama Raju do? Are the two men fighting for the same cause? Will Malli reach home safely?
It takes immense control over one's craft to not be swayed by numbers, budget, scale, the stature of your stars and stay focused on the sole intent behind making a film, more so when you're SS Rajamouli. That's what sets the filmmaker apart, he may have all the resources in his bag but it doesn't distract him from his core purpose - to tell a compelling story. RRR, too, is just that. The director draws you into 1920s India and never gives you a chance to take your eyes off the screen and it's not for the visuals alone. Cutting the suspense short, the period drama is a visual spectacle with a purpose.
Unlike his previous films, this is a trickier terrain for SS Rajamouli, especially as he deals with a fictional story around two real-life war heroes from the Telugu land - Alluri Sitaramaraju and Komaram Bheem. The film is set in a phase where the two characters are building a foundation for the causes they fight for in the later years of their life. The real success of RRR is that it taps into their vulnerabilities, looks at their humane side and the emotion that drives their actions. There's every reason for you to invest in their contrasting journeys where the destination is more or less the same.
If Komaram Bheem is a mix of innocence, rage and commitment, Sitarama Raju is a picture of poise, self-control and unwavering focus. The symbolism of water and fire adds up to the allure of their characterisation. It takes a crisis to bring them together and there's terrific drama when the two characters realise that they're pitted against one another. RRR is essentially about their psychological conflict of having to choose between friendship and ambition. The on-screen camaraderie between the stars and the predictable yet tender romance between Bheem and a British girl brings lightness to the proceedings.
The director is very aware of the fan base that Jr NTR and Ram Charan, who play the lead characters, enjoy and knows they'll be his core audience - he does give them a reason to cheer every now and then. He still doesn't make it a mere fan-pleasing exercise and smartly integrates such indulgences into the story without much damage. Most importantly, there's an emotional connect all along and that's when the visual grandeur is the perfect icing on the cake. The key element behind the film's spectacular action sequences is the great strategy, the men just don't want to ram into one another aimlessly. There's a solid reason for a conflict, whether physical or emotional.
The first hour and a half just sweeps you off your feet and it's all credit to the arresting storytelling, the strong establishment of interpersonal relationships. It's an understatement to say that the interval action sequence delivers a bang for your buck. Making utmost use of the visual metaphors beneath the characters, SS Rajamouli breathes fire into the narrative where the stars get a fine opportunity to unleash the wild beast in them. The film offers something for everyone - the emotion, the dances, the action and the performances. Both the micro and macro detailing are done right.
The second hour focuses on the transformation of Rama Raju and how he and Bheem rise above their differences, marching towards a common goal. The momentum dips to a certain extent in the latter portions owing to the length. The flashback explains the basis behind Rama Raju's present-day actions. Predictability is an issue that affects the film for a while though the performances and the slick treatment keep you engrossed. The director, as a parting gift in the climax, even showcases Alluri in the saffron-clad avatar that everyone in the Telugu land is familiar with. Of course, there are abundant mythological parallels - Ram's love interest is Sita and Bheem is almost a Hanuman bringing the two together.
In the case of Jr NTR, the casting is pitch-perfect. He delivers exactly what's expected of him in a raw, effective and intense performance. If you're looking for surprises in RRR though, it comes through Ram Charan, whose career-best act is an authoritative, composed and steely portrayal of Alluri. Despite her brief presence, Alia Bhatt's performance is utilised well in the key moments of the narrative. Ajay Devgn's special appearance is another asset to RRR and the conviction with which the veteran plays his part is an integral add-on to the film's impact. Olivia Morris is charming while she lasts and the other actors Rahul Ramakrishna, Samuthirakani, Rajeev Kanakala, Shriya Saran and Edward Sonnenblick complement the leads with their assured performances.
It must be said that the decibel levels of the background score are consistently high, the music almost tells you what you're supposed to feel. Yet, you can't marvel enough at how a mass number like Naatu Naatu finds a way into the film - a perfect context always enhances the impact of music, just like in this case. Similarly, with Komuram Bheemudo, a slow-paced emotional song inspires a crowd to fight for one among them and not be mute spectators. The production design and the cinematography are the backbones of any period film and Sabu Cyril, Senthil Kumar are successful in taking you back in time.
RRR is an extremely well-made period drama that plays to the galleries and still doesn't forget its purpose of telling a gripping story. Jr NTR, Ram Charan come up with fantastic performances and become one with their iconic characters. SS Rajamouli is bettering himself from film to film and the narrative control he has with RRR is even better than Baahubali. Need we say more? It's a film that's worthy of every penny you pay for at the cinemas.