*This review is of the Telugu version of RRR on Zee5. A Hindi-dubbed version of RRR is streaming on Netflix.
Filmmaker S. S. Rajamouli is the master of the “what if…” scenario. The plot of his latest epic RRR ponders what might have happened had two real-life Indian revolutionaries from the early 20th century met and become friends. Rajamouli’s style pushes the boundaries of “what if…,” showing us the delightful possibilities that can only happen thanks to movie magic.
N. T. Rama Rao Jr. plays Komaram Bheem, a leader of the Gond tribe. He makes it his mission to rescue a girl named Malli (Twinkle Sharma) who’s been kidnapped by the British regional governor Scott Buxton (Ray Stevenson). The sequence in which Scott’s wife Catherine (Alison Doody) coolly asks to bring the girl home for her entertainment is infuriating.
Bheem’s rescue plan is audacious and relies upon his affinity with the natural world. An early scene in which he tries to trap a tiger in a net gives a preview to the wild action RRR has in store.
The British know that Bheem is in Delhi looking for Malli, but they don’t know where he is. They’re also scared of what might happen when they find him, given his fearsome reputation. Only one man is brave enough to track Bheem down — Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan), an Indian Imperial Police officer known for his tenacity and an unwavering dedication to his job.
It so happens that Bheem (in disguise as a Muslim mechanic named Akhtar) and Raju meet while saving a boy from a fiery train wreck. They find in one another a kindred spirit: someone brave and strong enough to risk his life for the sake of others. They become friends, with Raju going so far as to help shy Bheem meet Governor Scott’s beautiful niece Jenny (Olivia Morris), who is as sympathetic as her aunt and uncle are cruel.
Given that Bheem and Raju are secretly working in opposition to each other, it’s inevitable that they’ll wind up in conflict. When they finally do during a party for the Governor, it comes in one of the most fantastical action sequences ever brought to the big screen, including the reappearance of the tiger Bheem faced off with earlier.
RRR is larger than life, and Rama Rao Jr. and Charan take full advantage of the scope they are given (especially since the film is by no means biographical). Their characters can jump higher and run faster than normal men. Their muscles are bigger and stronger. Their gifts aren’t superpowers but a kind of idealized masculinity with heavy emphasis on physical strength.
Rajamouli uses the considerable resources at his disposal to make bombastic action sequences that are a joy to watch. Realism is not the point, and why should it be? RRR is a great reminder that a cinematic world need only be consistent with itself to be believable, not that it need conform to the rules of our world.