After it thrilled audiences around the world earlier this year, I was admittedly late to the cinematic spectacle that is S.S. Rajamouli's "RRR.. But sometimes, films come into your life at just the right time. Indeed, when I finally watched this anti-colonial period piece, it was during the week where my homeland Jamaica celebrates both Emancipation Day and its Independence from the British Empire. And with these historic events at the forefront of mind, this bombastic blockbuster packed an even greater punch.
While Jamaica claimed its independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, India achieved this milestone 15 years earlier. The lead-up to this declaration was a bloody affair, as recreated in the film's fictionalized - but no less meaningful - story of two men on seemingly opposite sides of the struggle. When a young girl from a rural village is stolen by British overseers to live in Delhi, a fellow tribesman (Komaram Bheem, played by N. T. Rama Rao Jr.) decides to dedicate his life to a dangerous rescue mission amid an ongoing anti-British resistance. To do so, he will come up against an equally determined police officer (Alluri Sitarama Raju, played by Ram Charan) who despite sharing similar heritage, is loyal to the British Crown. With both men possessing extraordinary aptitude for combat and warfare, an intense showdown looms. But as their lives become intertwined they begin to realize they have more in common than initially presumed.
What follows a is a wildly entertaining 3-hour saga, as Rajamouli uses music, dance, non-stop action and larger-than-life performances to fuel a captivating epic that effectively combines the gravitas of historical memory and the thrill of heightened fantasy. Indeed, those familiar with Rajamouli's equally audacious "Baahubali" films will be pleased to find the director has lost none of his maximalist flair. Few directors are able to infuse the absurdist concepts of B-movie actioners with such fine craftmanship. The choreography of the action set-pieces and more light-hearted song-and-dance numbers are genuinely imaginative. Meanwhile, the shot compositions used to showcase this vision of 1920s India (or the British Raj) are frequently awe-inspiring.
Beneath all the dazzling special effects and high-flying acrobatics however, is a compelling human story. The lead actors deftly carry the film on their muscular shoulders with committed performances that radiate charisma and sheer skill. Meanwhile, the broadly-drawn White antagonists provide a stirring riposte to the stereotypical terrorist portrayals of brown characters. There's no denying the film's firmly anti-colonial stance and RRR is all the better for it (the less said about the dubious White love interest the better).
Like the similarly themed musical sensation "Lagaan", RRR offers a deeply satisfying and entertaining interpretation of India's fight for freedom. Even with its cultural and historical specificity, the passion displayed on screen easily translates to any audience. While the heavily marketed films of the Disney industrial complex will dominate the box office headlines, "RRR" will surely remembered as one of the most significant event movies of 2022.