Revolutionary RRR – Rajamouli’s Hyper Epic

If you know cinema, then unless you’ve seen RRR you only think you know cinema.

S. S. Rajamouli’s delirious blockbuster is equal parts quasi-historical, bromance, musical, melodrama, and romance, mixed with the most insanely and thrillingly over-the-top action sequences.

The director’s Baahubali franchise will give you some idea what to expect, but the dial has been turned up to eleven for this John Woo on speed, three-hour slice of delirium.

RRR (“Rise Roar Revolt”), is an anti-colonial fable and a fictional story following two real-life Indian revolutionaries, Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao), and the twists and turns of their imagined bromance as they fight against the British Raj. The cast also features Ray Stevenson and Alison Doody as sneeringly sadistic Brits whose kidnapping of a young Indian child set off the chain of events.

It’s almost impossible to spoil how wild Rajamouli’s film becomes, but when you see Bheem endure a Braveheart-style scene of public flogging and torture while breaking into a musical number, still managing to feel entirely authentic to the crowd-enflaming emotion of the scene, you understand you’re in the hands of a filmmaker at the height of his powers. That this same character wrestled a tiger to the ground earlier in the film and will go on to beat a man to a pulp with (with… not on) a motorcycle will give you some idea of the sheer exuberant nature of the violence meted out here.

And if you think violence is all you get in RRR then, once again, you only think you know Indian cinema.

The soon-to-be iconic party scene, highlighting the song Naatu Naatu, serves as both a blunt but joyful plot device to highlight the despicable racism of the British in India with a breathless and intoxicating dance sequence.

If any of this sounds even remotely hyperbolic, I assure you, it’s really not. Okay, perhaps my opening statement, but even then… only just.

Ideally seen where it belongs on the big screen (though thankfully Netflix have made it available for wider exposure on their streaming service, albeit in Hindi rather than the original Telugu), Rajamouli’s ultra-nationalistic and hyper-stylised epic is what the art of cinema was created for, pure spectacle that is all at once hugely personal and hugely thrilling.  


Image: DVV Entertainment


Bollywood And Beyond: Mission Mangal

mission mars

Welcome to Bollywood And Beyond, our new regular column looking at the incredible movies coming out of Bollywood and Indian cinema, with our host, Chris Conway.

Mission Mangal (translated as Mission Mars) tells the true story of the Indian Mars orbiter mission, that was successfully launched back in September, 2014. It’s not an action film or edge-of-seat drama, like Apollo 13, but like Ron Howard’s movie, it tells the audience a story we know has actually happened.

Initially announced in 2013 and going into production as the real-life Mars Orbiter was launched, the film’s story is loosely based on the lives of scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation and focuses on the largely female team and their driven mission director, who all made it happen against incredible odds.

Director Jagan Shakti (previously a second unit or assistant director on films including Dear Zindagi, Holiday and Thupakki) put together a very engaging cast: Akshay Kumar (one of Bollywood’s most prolific actors) is perfect as the slightly eccentric director, and among the female team is the always excellent Vidya Balan (from films including Lage Raho Munna Bhai) struggling to balance work with being a mom and wife. Sonakshi Sinha plays a smoking, serial dating propulsion expert, Tapsee Panu portrays a soldier’s wife and payload expert. Add a pregnant woman, a separated Muslim woman, a nerdy young guy and an elderly man (at 59?) – and that’s quite a team.

The main story follows the mission’s beginnings and the problems faced by the team along the way, allowing us to get to know and empathise with the characters. This is greatly helped with the inclusion of some gently funny scenes, highly enjoyable as Akshay and Vidya are such likeable actors.

It’s all been slightly romanticised, of course – several times a team member will find something from everyday life which is the solution to a problem, and the film doesn’t really do science – in fact the team always use simplified terms, even in mission control.

The film even slips a song or two in there, this is Bollywood, after all. You’d be disappointed if there were none (certainly Indian audiences would be).

Shakti (along with fellow writers R. Balki, Nidhi Singh Dharma and Saketh Kondiparthi) makes sure the story is big on Indian patriotism – and why not? It is the first Asian Mars mission (and the cheapest!) – but if you’re not in a hurry with the plot everything carries you along to a nice ending.

In fact, if you’re looking for a word to describe the film, “nice” would fit perfectly.


Chris Conway is a Bollywood enthusiast who sees at least twenty Bollywood films a year, often at Leicester’s Piccadilly Bollywood Cinema. He’s also a jazz pianist, vocalist, composer and songwriter who is currently celebrating his thirtieth year of recording and performing. He also loves cloudy days and J-pop.