Posted May 20, 2022
Have you heard about RRR (Rise Roar Revolt)?
When my fellow film programmers and I are looking through titles to bring to the JBFC’s screens, some of the most rewarding moments come when we stumble on something where the second it ends, we run out and tell the rest of the team that it’s a film we have to play. Even rarer are the moments when we screen a film and within the first half-hour we know it’s something we definitely have to play. And then there’s RRR, a film so totally entertaining, masterfully produced, and exquisitely outrageous in all the best ways that before the opening title card hit, I wanted to hop onto the roof of the film center with a bullhorn and start shouting that we were going to play it. I’m not kidding.
Director S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR (Rise Roar Revolt) is unlike anything I have ever seen. Full stop.
This Telugu-language action-drama has become a global box office hit since its initial release back in March, grossing over $150 million worldwide to become the fourth highest-grossing Indian film of all time. The Tollywood sensation (Tollywood being the nickname for the Telugu-language film industry in southern India, not to be confused with its neighbor to the north, the more well-known Bollywood) was given a limited release here in the US, and from its opening day, I had been seeing all of these enthusiastic rumblings online about the film. I am kicking myself for not seeking out RRR sooner!
In the briefest, most careful summary I can offer, the film is a fictionalized telling of the early years of two great Indian freedom fighters, Komaram Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr, a.k.a. Jr NTR) and Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan). When a young girl is kidnapped by the ruthless British Raj, Bheem sets out on a mission to get her back to their village. Raju, working as an officer on the side of the Raj, is assigned to take Bheem out. To tell you any more about the plot is tricky, and too much information will certainly give away a lot of the great moments and twists of the story. At the same time, it’s the pure, unfiltered spectacle of the whole thing that people will be blown away by.
If the old joke from Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap goes that the goofy fake rock band always had their amps turned up to eleven, then you could say all three hours and two minutes of RRR is turned up to one hundred and eleven—the performances, the sets, the action choreography, the computer effects, and, most importantly, THE MUSIC, are all completely elevated in the very best ways. Side note: I’m listening to the soundtrack on repeat as I write this.
So, after all the different ways I’ve been describing this film, you may be thinking, ‘Wow, that sure sounds exhausting,’ and therein lies the most magical part about RRR: nothing overstays its welcome, nothing feels too long, nothing drags. The filmmakers perform the most delicate of high wire cinematic acts: making a film this action-packed, with so much story and so many set pieces, yet nothing feels overstuffed, nothing gets confusing. It’s simply a magical, epic experience. The kind that, frankly, we just do not see coming out of Hollywood… ever.
And for a single night (well, plus a matinee show), we have the thrilling opportunity to bring RRR to the JBFC! On June 1, the film team is putting the movie back in theaters for a special nationwide #EncoRRRe event. To be real for a second, a streaming platform on your television? A worse place to first experience RRR I cannot imagine. Indeed, this film is one of the greatest arguments for the communal theatrical experience I have ever encountered. I was sitting alone in one of our upstairs auditoriums watching it and cheering, punching my fists in the air, laughing, shouting, clapping… so I cannot even begin to imagine the vibe in the room when we’re playing this with an audience.
Oh, and did I mention the out-of-this-world musical number that hits right in the middle of the whole affair? I was short of breath simply watching all the dancing—Gene Kelly (who I love), eat your heart out.
The most rewarding part about this job is catching a film so great and then having the joy and thrill of being able to share it with our audience. RRR is such a glorious reminder of why we do the work we do here. It’s also a fabulous example of why we go to the movies. It’s unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and unless you’re tapped into Tollywood action films, you haven’t either. (Hey, if you are tapped in, feel free to throw some titles my way because this is only the beginning of a true love affair for me and my To-Watch list.)
If only our auditorium chairs came with seat belts, because you’re going to wish you were strapped in when this ride starts.
– Andrew Jupin, Associate Director of Film Programming