Song of the Day #5,350: ‘Raamam Raaghavam’ – Vijay Prakash, Chandana Bala Kalyan, Charu Hariharan

I’ve heard some critics say 2022 wasn’t a strong year for new movies, a claim I wholeheartedly reject. In fact, I had to cheat and include 11 titles on my “top ten” list in order to fit everything I wanted. More on that in the coming weeks.

I was also dead set on fitting today’s movie into that top ten, but eventually the math just wasn’t there. But I wanted to write a bit about it, so please indulge this bonus entry in my year-end list, which will officially kick off tomorrow.

Best Films of 2022
Honorable Mention: RRR

If I was a longtime Bollywood and Tollywood fan, well-versed in Indian cinema, it’s possible S. S. Rajamouli’s historical action epic wouldn’t have made such an impression.

So much of the film’s impact is due to the novelty of its visual approach, its mashup of genres, the glorious theatricality of its dramatic and comedic moments. And those are apparently qualities found in many Indian films. Is RRR old hat to filmgoers who’ve seen dozens of similar movies?

Maybe so, but the movie has set box office records in India as well as abroad, so it does seem to be touching a nerve even for the initiated.

I wasn’t a total newcomer to director S. S. Rajamouli. I had recently watched both parts of his Baahubali, an action epic that shares a lot of DNA with RRR. In fact, it was my affection for Baahubali that led me to discover RRR in the first place, months before it started making a splash in the U.S.

In RRR, Rajamouli takes two real-life Indian revolutionary figures and reimagines their stories as a spectacular buddy action flick. Imagine a movie featuring George Washington and Thomas Jefferson fighting tigers, throwing flaming motorcycles and carrying each other piggyback style.

The film’s plot involves kidnapping, revenge, hidden identities, forbidden romance, and rebellion against the cruel leaders of the British Empire. It has a dozen wildly inventive set pieces that have to be seen to be believed. It is campy and corny but so earnest that to not succumb to its charms feels like the most most boring form of cynicism.

It took me a minute to tune myself to RRR‘s frequency, but once I did it won me over completely. I love that after decades of moviegoing, I can still stumble upon something that feels entirely new.

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,350: ‘Raamam Raaghavam’ – Vijay Prakash, Chandana Bala Kalyan, Charu Hariharan

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I was all set to say that we will watch RRR on Netflix, but THREE HOURS AND SEVEN MINUTES?!? as Christoph Waltz said recently in an interview, movies are three times as long as they need to be. Three times is an exaggeration, but definitively twice!

    • Clay says:

      It does have an intermission, so you could always look at it as two movies 😀

      Indian films have always been super long, so at least they’re not succumbing to the recent trend that has crept into Hollywood movies. I’m not sure what’s behind that but I agree it’s gotten out of hand.

  2. Amy says:

    I loved the exchange between James Cameron and Rajamouli, where Cameron expressed similar appreciation and joy as you do here.

    As for the film’s reception in India, a great film is a great film, so it makes sense to get excited when you can tell one of “your” films is likely going to be seen and celebrated on a world stage.

    I’ve seen clips from many of these films mostly while sitting in a favorite Indian restaurant over the years, and I am eager to see the fabulous dance and action sequences integrated into the whole of a film.

    Meanwhile, I’d rather watch a couple great 3 1/2 hours films back to back before watching a bad 90 minute film.

  3. Peg says:

    Didn’t realize it was so long! Maybe we can watch it over a couple of nights. I’m definitely curious to see what it’s like.

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