“He said that an Indian’s life is not worth a bullet.”Venkata Rama Raju
At a time when Britain is being asked (and largely refusing) to contend with its imperialist past, it is fascinating to observe how its former colonies are engaging in the same reflection on their occupied history. RRR’s dual protagonists might be real figures, but this is pure revolutionary fantasy filled with astounding action and cinematic crowd-pleasers in the most expensive Indian film to date. The story posits a fictional friendship between Raju and Bheem, destined to come into conflict, their buddy movie antics providing the emotional stakes that will follow. With the exception of love interest Jenny, the British are all depicted as cartoonishly villainous, but questions are also raised about the complicity of those who worked with the regime or whether they too were victims of oppression. The clear enemy provides for rousing scenes in the hands of director S.S. Rajamouli, from an exhilerating dance-off at a party to an assault with wild animals tearing through a British compound. The action choreography is gloriously silly — it is the sort of movie where one can punch a tiger in the face — and is guaranteed to leave you with a grin plastered across your face many times over. For all its cinematic success, it would be remiss not to highlight the risk of these patriotic pictures in a time of rising nationalism, particularly within a caste system that is reinforced by RRR’s elitist perspective in contrast to a film like Jai Bhim. Most troubling is a scene in which Bheem apologises for being a simple tribal who could not understand Raju’s wider goals — goals that were never communicated to him. That is a warning, but it does not detract from RRR’s triumph of creative excess that challenges Everything Everywhere All At Once.