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5 Reasons to Keep ‘RRR’ on Your Radar, From Viral Choreography to Oscar Chances

DVV Entertainment

Clocking in at just over three hours, director S.S. Rajamouli’s “RRR” is a genre-bending epic filled with exhilarating action sequences, show-stopping musical numbers and a slew of wild animals. 

Set in the 1920s and spoken in the Telugu language, the film follows the unlikely friendship of Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.), two Indian freedom fighters who come together to revolt against the British Raj. 

The Tollywood film became a global sensation following its March 2022 theatrical release, grossing over $100 million worldwide. With $30 million worldwide on its first day, the historical epic broke the record for the biggest opening day collectively earned by an Indian film. The film arrived on Netflix in May, where it remained on the streaming service’s Top 10 for 14 weeks.

“RRR” is a notable contender for this awards season, with the New York Film Critics Circle naming Rajamouli as its best director for 2022. The film also nabbed two Golden Globe nominations, for best non-English language film and best original song (“Naatu Naatu”), and earned five Critics Choice Awards nominations in the best picture, best director, best foreign language film, best visuals effects and best song categories. 

Although “RRR” isn’t India’s official Oscar selection for best international feature, Variance Films will proceed with a full awards campaign, including submitting the film for best picture.

Here’s a rundown of what to know about “RRR.”

Revising history to inspire the future

Though the narrative is based on two real-life revolutionaries, “RRR” revises history to explore what might have happened if leaders Raju and Bheem combined forces.

In reality, Raju was an Indian revolutionary who launched an armed crusade against British colonialists invading the country. By raiding police stations, Raju obtained firearms to disseminate to the local villagers. The real-life Bheem also rebelled against colonialism, with efforts centered in the Hyperabad State of British India. Bheem was killed by police in 1940, cementing his place in Telugu folklore.

Rajamouli previously told Variety he was excited to find similarities between the two freedom fighters while conducting research for the fictional period piece; the two trailblazers were both born around the same time and both inexplicably left home for a three-to-four year period at similar times.

“RRR” is also inspired by the 2014 separation of Rajamouli’s home state Andhra Pradesh and Telegana, a socio-economic decision the director sought to undo in the feature. Instead, natives of India in the film are unified by a shared opposition to British imperialism: “I had this thought that Komaram Bheem is from the Telangana region and Alluri Sitarama Raju is from the Andhra region. So, if I can bring those two heroes together, it’s my way of saying we are one, we are not separate,” Rajamouli said.

“Naatu Naatu” is on the Oscars shortlist for best original song

“Naatu Naatu” is a bouncy, percussion-driven track sung by Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava with lyrics written by composer Kanukuntla Subhash Chandrabose. The song is the first Indian track to ever be shortlisted for the Oscars.

After a bigoted socialite questions Bheem’s dancing capabilities at a royal party, he and Raja rebuke the assertion with an electrifying Desi dance-off set to the original song. The energetic routine contains elements of traditional Tollywood dance, like the Telugu hook step. The move went viral on TikTok when a first-look at the musical number was released prior to the film’s debut.

Choreographer Prem Rakshith designed the elaborate dance routine, having previously worked with Rajamouli on the director’s 2015 break-out film, “Baahubali: The Beginning.”

The film contains several musical numbers — not just “Naatu Naatu”

While “Naatu Naatu” garnered worldwide attention for its spirited, elaborately choreographed song-and-dance sequence, every musical number in “RRR” plays a major component in the storytelling. From narrating the beginning of Bheem and Raju’s friendship through “Dosti” to Bheem’s inspiring message in “Komuram Bheemudo,” these songs capture the emotions, relationships and crucial turning points of the film.

Animal imagery and symbolism

Several standout moments in the film involve an assortment of beasts, including tigers, leopards and wolves. Although these wild animals are featured in the more over-the-top action sequences of “RRR,” the animal imagery also ties to the film’s overarching theme that Indians are treated like animals by colonial forces. The British colonialists compare Indians to animals or the hunted throughout the film.

While most of these comparisons are used in a negative connotation towards Indians, some characters embrace certain animal metaphors as a source of power, such as Bheem being referred to as a tiger.

Getting in touch with the elements

Fire and water are the two opposing elements used to thematically represent Raju and Bheem, respectively, throughout “RRR.” The connection is made apparent in the film’s opening moments and further emphasized by the original motion poster designed to promote the feature.

“Water douses fire! Fire evaporates water! And the two forces come together with immense energy… to present the title logo of #RRR!!!” Rajamouli posted on Twitter in March 2020, before the film’s production was temporarily halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In isolation, both characters possess the capacity for recklessness and extreme devastation; but in tandem, the revolutionaries balance out one another’s distinctive personalities and amplify their potential to enact change. Not to mention the protagonists’ elemental contrast makes for a dynamic spectacle of visual effects.