Indian star Ram Charan is revelling in the success of S.S. Rajamouli’s period action drama “RRR” (“Rise Roar Revolt”). The film released March 25 worldwide and scored a $65 million opening weekend, debuting in third place in the U.S. and second in the U.K. and Ireland.
Produced on budget of approximately $73 million by D. V. V. Danayya, “RRR” is a lavish, rambunctious entertainer crammed with eye-popping set pieces and death-defying stunts. Set in the 1920s, the historical fiction story by Vijayendra Prasad and Rajamouli see Indian freedom fighters Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (NTR Jr) meet and become fast friends. Their common enemies are the occupying colonial British. The cast also includes Bollywood A-listers Ajay Devgn and Alia Bhatt.
The film, which was the leading film worldwide on its opening weekend, has now marched past INR8 billion ($105 million), according to industry estimates.
“I did expect it to be a big hit, but the No. 1 tag I never expected – that was a beautiful surprise,” Ram Charan told Variety. “That was mind blowing for us, even for Rajamouli I feel.”
The cast went through an extensive workshop process before principal photography commenced. Their characters were laid out in minute detail by Rajamouli, from childhood to teenage years through early adulthood. Ram Charan’s Alluri Sitarama Raju, for example, is well read, a yogi and excels in archery.
“All these elements had to be embedded in my character when he begins the film, though everything is not going to be visually seen from the first scene,” said Ram Charan. “That was a very challenging part because you had only the scope to emote this much, I could not go all out. And meditation helps his character to withhold a lot of emotions, coming from his childhood to now what he is going through with his friend in the present. All this takes a lot of mental strength.”
The actor is also in peak physical condition in the film and the effort was not to create a modern chiseled gym-toned body fueled by protein shakes, but to be true to the 1920s period where gyms in India took the form of wrestling groups.
One of the talking points in the film is the “Naatu Naatu” dance number, shot in Kyiv, which is now a war zone due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ram Charan got in touch with Rusty, who was in charge of his security. “He burst out crying, and he said ‘the situation is bad.’ He sent me ground level videos, which have not been seen in any of the television coverage. They were dreadful,” said Ram Charan. “I have seen bodies frozen, not in ice, but frozen due to being burned. If you touch it, probably they will turn into ashes.” Rusty is now one of the Ukrainians fighting against the Russians. Ram Charan is helping him financially as well as emotionally.
“I keep texting him, he keeps talking to me when the day ends, maybe they are relaxed a bit sitting in bunkers, sometimes it’s just a small talk just to pep him up. And he sends me pictures and we do a video chat,” said Ram Charan.
The actor previously worked with Rajamouli on “Magadheera” (2009). Apart from reuniting with Rajamouli, one of the highlights of the “RRR” experience for Ram Charan was bonding with his co-star NTR Jr, who is also known as Tarak.
“Working with my buddy Tarak and achieving the scale of success in our best director of India’s direction, this is the best any actor or any person in my shoes will ask for,” said Ram Charan. “I know there was so-called rivalry between us, but we’ve been friends even before ‘RRR’.”
Next up for Ram Charan is Koratala Siva’s “Acharya,” alongside his father, Indian cinema megastar Chiranjeevi. While Chiranjeevi has had cameos in Ram Charan’s films including “Magadheera” and “Bruce Lee: The Fighter” (2015), this is the first time they share significant screen time together. In the film, due to release on Apr. 29, Chiranjeevi plays a social reformer who fights against corruption while Ram Charan plays a new comrade who looks up to him.
“It’s a dream come true, I’ve learned a lot. I don’t think I stepped into ‘Acharya’ as a co-star, I’ve stepped into it as a student and I’ve learned a lot from him,” said Ram Charan. “And the best part is he never hand held me through any of the shooting days. He let me live my character and he let me make mistakes. He let me do another take. But he didn’t have any problem, never lost his cool, and that I’m really thankful for.”
Ram Charan is currently filming a project identified as “RC15,” directed by Shankar Shanmugam, known for his big-budget extravaganzas including “Sivaji,” “Enthiran” (aka “Robot”) and “2.0,” all starring superstar Rajinikanth.
After that is a film with Gowtam Tinnanuri, who directed the hit film “Jersey” (2019). Details are under wraps at the moment.