"KEEP BUSTIN'."

RRR

RRR is a 2022 smash hit movie from India that has also been playing some multiplexes here and around the world. I would describe the basic feel of it as the most joyously over-the-top parts of American John Woo movies like HARD TARGET and BLACKJACK multiplied by the PREDATOR handshake, wrapped in the brotherhood and gravity defiance of FAST FIVE, sprinkled with the animal companionship of THE PROTECTOR, and fueled by a couple musical numbers and a show-stopping dance off against a snobby rich white guy. In other words, a strong summary of humankind’s greatest artistic achievements to date.

The title reportedly stands for “Rajamouli, Ram Charan, Rama Rao” – the names of the director and stars – though it says “Rise Roar Revolt” on the English language opening credits. Writer/director S.S. Rajamouli’s last movie was BAAHUBALI 2: THE CONCLUSION, which I also heard superlatives about and still want to see. But you know, if I was gonna watch parts 1 and 2 that’s a six hour commitment, so I didn’t get around to it. But I’m so glad I listened to the hype this time, because RRR is incredible! I kept thinking my mask was gonna slip off because I was grinning so wide.

Keep in mind I’m not at all familiar with Indian cinema, so this is my complete newbie’s view. I won’t pretend to be knowledgeable about this cinematic tradition, or any of the historical, cultural or propagandistic aspects of the movie. This is a Telugu-language one, if that means anything to you. It’s a fictional story based on historical figures, with a very long disclaimer about that at the beginning, followed by a second disclaimer listing which animals were not harmed and which were CG.

N.T. Rama Rao Jr. (RAMAYANAM) plays Komaram Bheem, a revolutionary from the Gond tribes who was one of the leaders of a rebellion in the 1930s, and Ram Charan (NAAYAK) plays Alluri Sitarama Raju, who waged an armed campaign against British colonial rule in response to tribal communities not being allowed to move freely through forests. RRR looks at them earlier in their lives, but still turns them into fantastical tall tales – or at least John Matrixes – and gives them a fictional heroic bloodshed style friendship that’s very fun to watch, especially since it’s often underlined with bombastic songs about how it’s a friendship between a raging storm and an erupting volcano and shit like that. Like the great training montage songs of our culture, RRR’s lyrics evoke iron, embers, burning hearts, shaking the earth, lions, bulls, horses, scorpions, dragons and falcons, and meetings between East and West. And that reminds me that the two characters are compared to water and fire, and at least once their flesh morphs into actual water and fire to emphasize that metaphor.

The story hinges on a little girl named Malli. In the opening scene, members of the Gond tribe welcome the British governor Scott Buxton (motherfuckin Ray PUNISHER: WAR ZONE Stevenson!) and his wife Catherine (Alison Doody, who played the traitorous Nazi collaborator in INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE). Malli sings a song and paints henna for Catherine, who gives her parents two British quarters. They accept it, thinking it’s a gift, when in fact it’s payment to buy Malli “to put on my mantle.”

When Malli’s mother stops the car and begs for her daughter back, a British soldier is about to shoot her, but the governor gets out and stops him. Oh, thank God – cooler heads have prevailed.

PSYCHE! Actually he makes a speech about all the care and expense put into the manufacturing and shipping of English bullets, costing almost a pound, and shouldn’t be wasted on “brown trash,” so the soldier bashes her with a piece of wood instead.

First of all, I didn’t know that the great Ray Stevenson was gonna be in this as the evil Caucasian, so that was exciting. Second, this is a hell of a Just How Evil Is He? intro. I think it still counts as that even though the price of bullets thing is brought back a couple more times, again by him and then thrown back at him by his victims. Sort of his “and you can take that to the bank,” you might say.

Bheem is introduced as the ultimate “tribal” and badass man of nature. He’s a hairy-chested man who smears himself with blood and runs barefoot through the forest to attract a wolf, accidentally summoning an enormous tiger as well. He manages to snare the tiger in some nets which he lifts by pulling on ropes like Hercules pulling on chains, and he roars into the tiger’s giant mouth. But after drugging the animal unconscious he apologizes and calls him “brother.”

As wonderful as that scene is, it’s child’s play compared to Ram’s introduction. He’s one of many cops working at a British police outpost that becomes Benghazi times fifty after arresting a revolutionary leader. It appears that they filmed hundreds of extras and then digitally expanded the crowd by many more thousands. The captain or chief or whatever wants one particular guy in the crowd to be arrested, so Ram volunteers for the job by super-leaping over the fence and just plowing through the crowd spinning around and bashing dozens of people in the head with a wooden club. Eventually he gets buried under an enormous pigpile (honestly, very much deserved) but he’s able to He-Man his way out of that and do a bunch of parkour over various structures and platforms to get to the guy and drag him back through the crowd to arrest him.

This is the baddest guy ever, a human T-1000, also extremely handsome, with great hair, and better at wearing sunglasses than almost anyone who ever lived, to say nothing of his most distinctive feature (his glorious mustache). But he focuses all those resources on being a cop helping the colonists keep his own people down. It’s very uncomfortable. The kicker is that doing such a good job only makes his superiors fear him, and in the next scene he has to contain his rage as they award commendations and promotions to two white guys who didn’t do shit that day.

And yet he keeps trying to impress them. When it’s determined that an unknown warrior from the Gond tribe has been sent to recover Malli, Ram volunteers to be the Tommy Lee Jones who goes looking for him. Little does he know they’re gonna become BFFs.

The awesometaciousness of the meet-cute between these two is gonna be hard to do justice to in the mere medium of written communication. It happens when Ram is on a bridge above a train that crashes and explodes, and a little boy on a boat below is surrounded by flames. As he tries to figure out how to save the kid he sees Bheem in the crowd below, having no idea that’s the guy he’s searching for. But he seems to recognize on his face that he too is trying to figure out a rescue plan, so he points to him and makes some hand gestures that apparently do communicate the plan – Bheem seems to know exactly what Ram wants him to do.

And that involves a motorcycle, a horse, and a rope that the two use to leap off of the bridge from opposite sides, basically bungee jumping and counterbalancing each other, snatching the kid, passing him back and forth. Also it’s worth mentioning that Ram chooses to carry a huge flag with him and toss it to Bheem, who wraps himself in it and is saved from the fireball he swings into.

The reason I mentioned the PREDATOR handshake in the opening paragraph is that after they’ve thrown the kid safely to the ground they swing toward each other like circus acrobats and their hands clasp with exactly that vibe. And then they drop to the water and there’s an almost impossibly awesome shot where they’re underwater with the burning train behind them walking toward each other in slow motion to high five. When they do it cuts to them on the surface shaking hands again. And everything I’ve described so far happens before the title even comes up! This is a three hour movie that continues to reach those types of highs over over again.

That length is, as I understand it, pretty standard for Indian films, and as I mentioned, has been intimidating for me in the past. I don’t know if this is standard, but in this case it’s cool because it’s pretty much structured as one great movie with its sequel immediately following. It felt like we had to be at the climax, but couldn’t possibly be nearing the 3 hour mark, during the huge battle that unfolds after Bheem and friends ram a truck through the gates of the governor’s mansion during a party and the truck skids sideways and launches a Noah’s ark worth of wild animals (see disclaimer) to terrorize all the rich colonialists. It’s more exciting than many action movie finales, but when it wraps up it leaves the loose thread that Ram has revealed himself as a cop and fought against his best friend Bheem.

At the Regal theater where I saw it there was no intermission, just a quick flash of a card that says “InteRRRval.” Then the story begins again explaining Ram’s background, with a major reveal that changes our understanding of what’s going on and the stakes of the whole thing. And what’s great about the stakes of the whole thing is that it’s about uniting people of different backgrounds and rising up against oppressors but on top of all of that it’s about “oh man I hope these two can somehow work this out and still be friends.”

SPOILER in this paragraph only: I like that it’s a double undercover story. In the first half Bheem and Ram are both hiding their missions and don’t know that they’re enemies. In the second half Bheem knows that Ram is a cop but doesn’t know it’s in the capacity of a revolutionary sleeper agent who has infiltrated them in order to get weapons for his village. So they actually aren’t on opposite sides, and the conflict becomes whether or not Ram will still betray Bheem to maintain his cover and achieve his ultimate goal.

There’s so much wonderfully crazy shit in this movie I can’t really give it all away, so I’ll list some favorites. I like when Bheem steps on a motorcycle to pop it up into the air (which would be a cool trick if it was a skateboard), catches it and swings it around as a weapon, then throws it as a bomb. I like when Ram is imprisoned and grows his hair long (starting to look like Bradley Cooper, I thought) and they hang him from chains so he just does pull-ups to get even more awesome. So they smash his legs, but when Bheem breaks him out he carries him on his shoulders and runs around and they fight everybody like a kung fu version of the Doubleman in EL TOPO. (Even better: this was set up earlier when they would do shoulder rides for fun.)

One reason I’m glad I saw it in a theater is that they had the sound cranked up really loud and the music is so intense – lots of orchestral bombast, lots of chanting, lots of un-self-conscious rocking out. Though the musical style is totally different, at times it made me think of the way Dario Argento and Ennio Morricone sometimes used music. I think this is something really appealing about the cinema of other cultures because it’s so rare here – the willingness to just go completely mega on every aspect (music, action, emotion, villainy) without fear or apology. I think the closest we come to this in large scale Hollywood movies would be the FAST AND THE FURIOUS series, where we do get a certain amount of un-deflated melodrama, fight brotherhood and rebellion against quasi-realism in action scenes. Even there it’s started to be peppered with more and more winks and jokes.

Not that it matters, but it’s also possible there’s a tongue-in-cheek aspect to the absurdity here that I don’t get. I say that because I’m a fan of ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER for putting an American historical figure into a ridiculous situation and taking it very seriously. It knows it’s funny but it’s not a comedy, and that’s what’s great about it. It’s possible that for those familiar with these figures from history, seeing them as action heroes has a similar appeal. But I can only speculate.

Either way, this is some of the coolest shit I’ve seen a long time. There’s so much fire, so much slow motion, so much agile leaping through the air, our two heroes hauling ass side by side, whether both on foot or one on a horse, one on a motorcycle. It’s so unrestrained in its cinematic embellishment of its heroes that at times it feels almost like a parody movie trailer in TROPIC THUNDER, except with the benefit of being a real movie with actual characters and a great story that I was totally involved in. Why not be so fucking awesome that it makes you laugh? That’s the best type of awesome.

If you’re able to see RRR now or in the future I give it my highest recommendation.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 15th, 2022 at 1:19 pm and is filed under Action, Musical, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

36 Responses to “RRR”

  1. This sounds like awesome beyond words!

  2. Great review, I am so glad you got to experience this in the theater. I love it and & this would be right up your alley. I can’t wait to see it again.

    The BAAHUBALI films are also great fun with some spectacular action and worth checking.* However, as good as they are RRR is on another level & even more action packed.

    *There is are cool ARMY OF DARKNESS reference in part 2 with a bladed chariot that resembles Bruce’s customized battle car.

  3. I won’t get to see RRR for a while but all the hype around it spurred me on to watching my first Bollywood movie today and I chose WAR because the trailer looked fun.

    My friends, I recommend WAR with all my heart.

  4. I spontaneously threw my fist up into the air and screamed “YEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!” when this happened.

    I loved, loved, loved this movie. There’s been a lot of Indian movies playing at a couple of the local theaters for the last year or so and I regret that I waited this long to before I saw one. I may have to go see KGF: Chapter 2 now.

  5. Have not seen this one yet, but I enjoyed the BAAHUBALI films. I also second Kevin’s recommendation for WAR (2019), which has similar levels of bombast, fight brotherhood and excellence in sunglasses-wearing.

  6. Reading your tweet about this, I thought you were referring to Everything Everywhere All At Once. When I saw that movie, I thought “well, that was kinda an unwieldy metaphor.” But now that I know there’s a more literal Predator handshake movie out there, I’ve gotta see this one.

  7. Long time reader, first time poster hailing from Germany.

    For years, a friend of mine and me have wondered when you would discover the pure awesomeness of Indian action cinema and I’m so happy you finally did with this absolute masterpiece. What an insane and incredible epic. Whoever misses this in theatres will most likely miss the best movie experience of the year. By far!

    But wait, this could be only the beginning of a journey into magnificent masala magic as there are literally dozens of other jawdropping action extravaganzas from India waiting for you.

    Here’s just a first short list of the very best:

    Bahubali 1 & 2

    Both movies have been mentioned before. Same director as RRR and actually even more epic than RRR albeit with a slight fantasy slant. The biggest action imaginable but also with the biggest heart.

    Eega

    Also by S.S. Rajamouli (what can I say, he’s simply the best action director on the planet right now.) I think the best way to experience this movie would actually to know absolutely nothing about it. It starts as a run of the mill romance movie and then goes absolutely bonkers. You ain’t seen nothing yet!

    Magadheera

    The last one by Rajamouli on this list. Starring Ram Charan from RRR and even though it’s an earlier film with way less budget than Bahubali or RRR it is also super crazy and super emotional. Again the less you know the better.

    Spyder

    This hunt-for-a-serial-killer-movie features at least two of the most insane action sequences I have ever seen anywhere. I’m not gonna spoil them. Your brain will melt. Guaranteed.

    WAR

    War has also been mentioned several times and I totally agree with Kevin W’s and Crustacean love’s recommendation. Just the amazing one-take entrance fight with Tiger Shroff is worth the money. (Yes, the actor’s name is Tiger!)

    Thugs of Hindustan

    An Indian pirate movie starring screen legends Amitabh Bachchan and Amir Khan. It was a big flop when it came out a few years ago but I think it is a terrific swashbuckler with incredible production values and great characters.

    Sye Raa

    Another story of a real-life freedom fighter battling those dastardly Brits in 19th century India starring “Megastar” Chiranjeevi and another non-stop action epic that dwarves almost anything coming out of Hollywood in sheer size and spectacle. I saw it first in a theatre with 300 Indians and it was pure pandemonium. Probably the best theatre experience of my life.

    K.G.F. – Chapter 1

    Tells the rise of Rocky, played by Rocking Star Yash from poor village orphan to gangster boss. (A lot of South Indian movie stars add a special moniker to their name. Like “Superstar” Rajinikanth or “Mega Power Star” Ram Charan. Isn’t that so badass?)

    The movie takes place in 1970s Mumbai and the Kolar Gold Fields, a real-life hell hole that makes Mordor look like a tropical paradise. Edited like the good version of a Michael Bay movie, it is a super fun mix of Scarface, Mad Max and Spartacus.

    Unfortunately the sequel, that just came out is nothing but a horrible assault on all senses with no story and awful characters. But apparently some people love it anyway.

    This list is only the tiniest tip of an Iceberg of awesomeness and only covers movies from the last few years. If anyone’s interested, I’ll add to the list at some later date, but this should suffice for the moment.

    Btw, almost all of the great action movies from India are strictly speaking not Bollywood movies but were produced in south India (Hyderabad) and are shot in Telugu, that’s why they are called Tollywood movies. There’s also Sandalwood from Karnatka, shot in Kannada (like the KGF movies) and also distinct film industries in Tamil and Malayalam.

    And please don’t get intimidated by the length of those movies. First of all you’ll probably attest that the three hours of RRR felt way shorter as it had fantastic pacing and there was always something amazing happening every few minutes. Second, the fact that all Indian movies have two parts with an intermission makes it easy to turn them into a two night event. However my guess is that with these movies, you will not want to stop once you’ve started.

  8. We have been lucky in Finland because there is an organization called Finbolly Movies that has been bringing the biggest new Indian films to the cinemas in here for some years now. I guess there is a big enough In Indian community here so that it has been worthwhile. It feels that often there is only Indians and me in the cinema watching these. I try to go to see everything I can. Not just the action movies, but the dramas and romantic comedies as well. I just like the way they make movies there and I’ve grown to be fascinated by the culture as well.

    It’s difficult to keep up with the Indian action movies because there are simply so many of them made every year and they all look awesome in the trailers. I try to watch all the trailers for all the new movies in YouTube, and I think I’m pretty well up to date to what’s coming out, but even so this recommendation from the One Perfect HEADshot account in Twitter caught me by surprise, I had not heard of this film James: https://twitter.com/HeadExposure/status/1515082798364864512

    RRR, the Baahubalis and Eega are all great and highly recommended.

    One cool thing about War is that the ending car chase in the snow was shot here in Finland.

  9. Saw this on release day here in Scotland – had been waiting for this literally since credits rolled
    on Bahubali 2.

    B2 knocked me sideways when I saw it. Literally a blind buy – went in because I missed the start of whatever it was I came for and it was probably the first Indian film I’d seen not from 50 years ago in about a decade. I left convinced it was one of the greatest action movies I’d ever seen.

    For me it’s still the best example of this mode of cinema, probably in part because it was my first. Also made me realise that Indian cinema’s been massively slept on in the 80s/specialist DTV blogosphere – India’s making on the regular exactly the sort of film people complain don’t get made any more.

    For real have been chasing that high ever since. Has made me far more willing to go see Indian films on a punt – but since moving from Edinburgh to Glasgow I have fewer chances – i guess how many Indian movies make it to regular showings where you live is tied to demographics.

    Part of the atmosphere with this one is just how into it the audience were. People were going absolutely nuts. Most memorable audience heckle – not something I usually condone but it fit the vibe – was when Jenny invites Bheem for coffee and someone said “only coffee?”.

  10. Steven Edmondson

    April 17th, 2022 at 12:35 am

    Also on top of the recommendations a few posts up, some of the most memorable Indian films I’ve seen post-Bahubali are the ones with Superstar Rajinikanth – 2.0 is total bananas and I loved Kaala – the former is more just a sheer trip rather than strictly good, but I loved his performance in Kaala.

    I need to get around to watching the films from when Rajinikanth was in his peak in the 80s or whenever – I only know him as this old guy, so I think its sort of like only
    knowing Arnold from Terminator 6 or whatever.

  11. Wow! Wow! And Wow! Am unsure how many of your (semi-regular commentators) come from the Indian Diaspora, but as one of them (ok, to get super nitpicky and technical, a Malaysian of Indian ethnicity with strong roots in India who pretty much binged on Indian movies before discovering Messrs Eastwood, Bronson, Norris, Lee, Chan etc etc), am super thrilled to see your (first?) Indian movie review.

    Which I am only avoiding reading as I’m yet to watch it. The traditional “Indian Masala” flick has seen it’s popularity dwindling this last decade as film-makers started targeting a more urban, multiplex-y crowd in cities, but film-makers like Rajamouli are leading the vanguard of those bringing them back into style.

    I always thought Indian movies were a harder sell for Western audiences as unlike HK Cinema, whose USP is in it’s relentless kineticism and jaw dropping action, they rarely do pure genre flicks, the traditional “masala” flick requiring elements of drama, melodrama, comedy, romance and action and stirred in with a heaping helping of songs to work. The closest in tone HK cinema has come is in the Heroic Bloodshed era of John Woo, although Chow Yuen Fatt and Tony Leung never linked hands to burst into a song celebrating the joys of Eternal Brotherhood.

    Reminded me of a time I followed my English colleague for a work assignment to India. Next day on the ride to work, he tells me he was surfing the Indian cable channels the previous night and chanced on a movie that he was convinced was the Indian remake of Rambo. He mostly enjoyed it but felt puzzled that in the midst of mowing down enemies with an M16, Indian Rambo managed to squeeze in some R&R with the heroine for at least 3 song and dance numbers when all OG Rambo could manage was a wet kiss with Co Bao.

    But I recommend go to the source to fully experience Indian Masala (a commentator above has given a decent list to start) as opposed to getting it off some embarrassingly watered down pastiche like Kumail Nanjiani’s “Bollywood Star” in Eternals or early dreck like The Guru or even worse…The Love Guru.

  12. What’s the name of the Matrix-influenced Indian action movie from a few years ago? Scenes from it became a viral hit on youtube.

  13. The Matrix thing you’re probably thinking of is Robot. It’s great, just like it’s sequel 2.0. For the true Matrix rip-off, check out Amara Paagal Deewana which is a rip-off of The Whole Nine Yards at the same time:

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  14. Let me add into the mix a super strong recommendation for BAAHUBALI 1 & 2 – these are simply amazing. Vern, and anyone else, if you haven’t seen these yet, you are in for a treat.

    And let me also add another recommendation: LAGAAN, a thrilling 4 hour epic about some country dudes who need to learn play cricket. (to win a bet that evil british colonizers who are threatening their village have forced them into) I knew next to nothing about cricket going into this and was on the edge of my seat the whole 4 hours.

  15. @tuukka – you’re probably thinking of 2.0.

  16. Timo is right, the Matrix-y scene is from ENTHIRAN/ROBOT, which is a pretty wild ride, and is almost a perfect combo of traditional Indian “masala” flick and a more Western Oriented approach to action/sci fi by a director called Shankar who’s always managed to mix both elements in his movies quite successfully. The sequel 2.0 is pretty cool as well, although this time leaning more into a Western Approach to the storytelling, with effects overload, an Eco Message (Cell Phone Towers are killing birds!!) and the Romance/Song elements toned way down.

  17. Hey Vern – watch KGF 1. It is a Kannada film (state of Karnataka). It’s on Amazon Prime. You’ll probably love it. Haven’t seen the sequel yet but the first one has all of the awesomeness that you will appreciate. Also suggest watching Pushpa (Telugu film from Andra Pradesh). You will probably like that too. South Indian action cinema these days has a lot of the badass elements that you would appreciate. People have mentioned the Bahubali films as well, which are also pretty great.

  18. I just read on Wikipedia that the other star of RRR, Ram Charan is called “Mega Power Star” because his father is called “Mega Star” and his uncle is called “Power Star”. The upcoming film Acharya is the first film that co-stars both “Mega Power Star” and his father “Mega Star”.

    Acharya Trailer - Megastar Chiranjeevi, Ram Charan | Koratala Siva | Mani Sharma | Niranjan Reddy

    Watch #AcharyaTrailer Starring Megastar #Chiranjeevi​​, Mega Powerstar #RamCharan​, Written & Directed by Koratala Siva.Movie: #Acharya​Starring: Megastar #C...

  19. I’m not connoisseur but most of the Indian films I have seen that came out here I’ve enjoyed, but of course nothing on the level of RRR. I remember Kambakkht Ishq with the Stallone cameo but the action in that was very Universal Studios stunt show (including a set piece on the actual earthquake ride).

    There’s obviously a genre worth exploring. Like vern the length makes it less feasible than the 90 minute dtv variety. I mean I LOVE Hong Kong films and I’ve still got stacks of DVDs and blu rays I haven’t gotten to. But looks like I need another queue so I’ll star with Bahubali’s list.

  20. Franchise Fred, it was those punishing lengths which had me gravitating towards Hollywood movies. I mean, why sit through 3 hrs of bum-numbing melodrama and 7 songs when I could double-bill BOTH COBRA & INVASION USA in that time-span? Plus much of the bloated run time of Indian movies especially during the 70s,80s and 90s era was due to the fact that the actual fricking plot doesn’t even kick in until midway, the 1st half largely taken up by filler fluff like Boy Meets Girl, Boy pursues Girl, sings 3 songs, plus a unique phenomena of Indian movies then was you’d have a parallel comedy track running alongside the main one that’s completely disconnected from the rest of the movie. Think of a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom-com and running alongside it, in the same movie, is some Adam Sandler-Rob Schneider comedy about them running a Male Escort service.

    Fast forward a couple of decades and many Indian movies now have a relatively economical 2hr run-time while your average Hollywood Blockbuster is anywhere from 2-3 hrs.

    And yeah, if you wanna dip a toe in this pool, BAAHUBALI is as good a place to start.

  21. In the UK it’s quite common for an Indian film I’ve not heard of to enter fairly high in the Top 10 (usually about #4) and then disappear the following week without me knowing anything more about it. I think they get most of their money from London, or at least they mostly don’t play in my city, although some (like WAR) do come here.

  22. I have seen ENTHIRAN and MAGADHEERA, but it’s been years and there were no streaming options then, so I’m pretty sure I watched them both without subtitles. Luckily, the behavior of the characters was so expressive (excessive, one might say) that I was never lost. (The occasional line of English dialogue thrown in out of nowhere also helped me keep my bearings.) Both had the kind of joyously berserk action scenes that are described here, which has always made me want to explore more Indian cinema (I almost said “Bollywood” but as I recall at least one of the movies I saw was from the OTHER big Indian filmmaking hub) but yeah, the length, the corny romance, the songs (oh god, the fucking songs–I’ve seen clips of vintage Bollywood song-and-dance sequences and the music was dope, but this shit they got now is just manufactured sub-boy band crap that I can’t stand five seconds of), and the comedy always make me balk.

    I remember one absolutely horrifying moment in ENTHIRAN. The robot (It’s about a robot) runs into a burning building to save some people trapped in there. He finds a woman in a bathtub surrounded by fire. He scoops her up and whisks her to safety…whereupon she realizes that she is naked in public, so she throws herself in front of a bus. And the crowd blames the robot! Apparently, he should have just let her fucking boil to death rather than expose the shame of, you know, having breasts and a vagina like some kind of mammalian female. It’s this incident that makes the mad scientist decide that his creation is beyond saving because he’ll never understand what it truly means to be human (which I guess is intrinsically linked to slut-shaming patriarchal fuckshit) so he trashes the robot and throws him in the garbage, which is what turns the robot into a villain. And I’m pretty sure the scientist is still considered the hero of the movie after this, so I think we’re supposed to think he made the right call. Any robot that doesn’t know that a woman is better off dead than with her nipples exposed must be a monster.

    That movie made me realize that there’s sexism and then there’s fucking SEXISM. Ever since then, I think I’ve been even more adverse to delving into Indian cinema. I know how much they like their romance and, quite frankly, I don’t think I can stomach sitting through hours and hours of the kind of horseshit a culture that would put something like that ENTHIRAN scene into an adventure movie for children would think is romantic. I want to be able to enjoy the cartoonish machismo described in this review, but I can’t help thinking that the flipside of all that outsized masculinity is some fairly nightmarish misogny. I would love to hear that I’m wrong, though, because the action scenes I DID see were fucking amazing.

  23. Sexism is still a HUGE problem in Indian movies, where women still age out of leading roles faster than porn while men, especially the A-Listers continue to be paired up with women who weren’t born when they had their first No 1 Box Office Hit. While this still happens in Hollywood, at least when Liam Neeson’s playing an action hero, they still acknowledge his age and have him be a parent to a grown ass kid or even a grandfather. Aging Indian Heroes still play young men, which after a certain age, is a testimony to the power of good lighting, soft focus lensing, stellar make up work and some state of the art wigs. ( I will note this is more problematic in the SOUTH Indian industry where their fans strangely don’t mind this shit either). In fact there are cases of actresses who now play the MOTHER of the Hero they were once paired opposite with. So, next time someone gripes about Clint Eastwood still romancing women on screen at his age, I can name 10 Indian actors who’d step up and go “Here, hold my beer, sweetheart”.

    Now there’s an inside joke running in ENTHIRAN for those well versed in Tamil Cinema:

    You would have noticed that BOTH the Robot and his scientist creator are played by the same actor. His name is Rajinikanth and the dude is nothing short of a Phenomenon in the industry. He was a ticket puncher in buses (what we call a bus conductor) before being discovered and played baddie roles before switching over to Lead where for about 4 decades the man has had the type of rabid fan base and box office clout that peak Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Cruise, Hanks and Gibson would have traded a left nut for. He normally plays macho, cocky tough guys oozing style and attitude. The joke here is the scientist character is the anti-thesis of all of that being a nerd, a wimp and an overall asshole to both his Girlfriend and his Creation. But director Shankar slyly gives him the second role of the Robot where he gets to do all the cool Action Hero stuff his fans lap up.

    The movie is still crazy entertaining though (one of the rare Indian titles I own on blu ray) but you need to turn a blind eye to the more problematic sub-texts and that applies to quite a few Indian movies as well. There’s that whole Urban/Rural divide in India to contend with too. Many recent movies have started addressing this sexism and giving women more substantial roles but they largely play to the City Crowd. The big blockbusters which need to reach the Rural Heartlands to make those Blockbuster numbers still gleefully traffic in these “Traditional” (Read:Sexist) tropes.

  24. KayKay, I like the musical numbers so don’t mind devoting extra time to them. In fact I’m disappointed when there’s only three or fewer songs.

    Also the tonal shifts and subplots, I’m a fan of Hong Kong movies where they also interrupt drama for wacky comedy (and often dated sexist shenanigans). So I really have no excuse.

    Probably the frequent lack of English translated titles make it harder to pinpoint the ones I want to see. Fortunately simplifying it like RRR helps and seeing titles like Eega come up hammers th home. Plus, what else are we going to do while a disease sweeps the streets? I can be legend but watching Bollywood instead of Shrek.

  25. Stacy Livitsanis

    April 20th, 2022 at 8:29 pm

    As many have said, Baahubali Parts 1 & 2 are phenomenal and essential. Huge and joyously bombastic in ways the US can no longer even contemplate, now that the Curse of Literalism has taken over. The gold statue-raising scene in Baahubali Part 1 is one of the most incredible set pieces I’ve ever seen, full of Old Hollywood biblical epic pomp and grandeur, but vastly better than anything made by Hollywood. Leaves Ben-Hur in the dust. The music in these films is sensational. The climax of Baahubali Part 2 is supercharged awesomeness, with sound and music combining in as perfect a way as anything put on screen.

    One thing I’ve noticed about sexism in Indian movies is that male heroes are more absurdly superpowered than in any other culture. Men routinely do things no human could ever do, while women cannot even do things that women in real life CAN do. Although, the same has been true in Hollywood for years. Only recently have US movies featured women doing exaggerated action, and numbingly tedious criticism followed. Proves that the only real Mary Sue’s are of course men. If a movie showed women doing the kind of OTT action these men do, the usual suspects would cry “Unrealistic! That’s not how physics works! Women aren’t that strong!” Yeah, in real life, sure. But this is a hyperreal movie world, where Jet Li and Tony Jaa can easily kick Nathan Jones’ arse (separately, in Fearless and Tom Yum Goong). I’d love to see women in Indian movies doing the same kind of ludicrous action. That movie doesn’t exist as far as I know. The women in Baahubali came close.

    Some Indian films outside the pure action mould:

    3 Idiots (2009) A forty-something Aamir Khan plays a university student – in keeping with the trend of aging male stars playing characters much younger than they really are, with no one caring. This one touches on social issues like the intense pressure to succeed academically, suicide, the urban/rural divide, the persistence of patriarchalism and the dowry system, how the rich fuck over and leech off the poor. It’s a broad comedy covering the grotesque inequalities throughout India.

    PK (2014) Also directed by Rajkumar Hirani. Aamir Khan is an alien stranded on Earth and is told he should ask god for help in getting home and comes up against the insane religiosity and superstition embedded in India. A satirical comedy critical in any way of religious belief is explosively transgressive in India, and Hirani was careful not to suggest atheism as a viable option. Presumably he wanted to avoid assassination. This is a country where film sets are invaded by zealots trying to shut down “problematic” productions.

    Happy New Year (2014). Pure Bollywood masala. A Hindi version of Ocean’s Eleven with all the disparate ingredients expected: action, melodrama, romance, wacky comedy, musical numbers, switching between them in an instant. I’m usually immune to the masala formula, but everything works in this one. Has less sexism than usual, likely thanks to female director Farah Khan, who also directed Om Shanti Om, also starring Deepika Padukone and Shah Rukh Khan.

  26. Stacy Livitsanis

    April 20th, 2022 at 8:35 pm

    Meant to say “IMAGE and music combining” in first paragraph. Sorry for not proofreading.

  27. I appreciate that this is a movie where the ‘Just How Badass Is This Guy?’ scene actually kickstarts the plot by getting the British to offer a promotion to whoever catches Bheem. That’s actually really smart writing: they could’ve just had the Brits hear a rumor or get a tip, but no–absolutely had to be a speech about how he’s a shepherd who will fight a tiger to protect one lamb.

    Then in the very next scene, he *literally* fights a tiger.

    *chef’s kiss*

  28. Yes! Just found out that this is coming to Netflix here.

  29. Great, for once Netflix seems to have bagged a major Indian title when most of them tends to gravitate to Amazon Prime.

  30. A few major ones like BEAST and THAR are in Netflix Asia right now.

  31. I literally have come staggering away from watching RRR on Netflix to this keyboard. I have no idea how to summarize the amazing experience of watching this movie. It’s so freaking good. It just builds and builds and builds, until by the [TRYING TO AVOID SPOILERS] thrilling climax my son and I were just sitting there screaming and yelling at the tv in amazement. It gets so far over the top, then just keeps going and going…

    Overall I might have a slight preference for the Baahubali films, which are a different kind of mythic and amazing… but RRR is staggering achievement in epic badassery, and has a joyous dance number in the middle that far outmatches any of the songs in Baahubali.

    Drop everything, y’all.

  32. PS, after rewatching the abovementioned dance number – this observation likely reveals what an indian cinema newbie I am, but there is something wonderful and dramatic about watching the protagonists effortlessly shift from being seething action badasses on a mission to high-stepping goofballs. I am trying to imagine Tom Cruise making a shift like this in the middle of a M:I movie – even something like George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven, where the protagonist is supposed to be kind of funny and casual… they would never risk their cool with something like this. But in a movie like RRR the big, exuberant danceoff is not only awesome in its own right – it actually deepens the characters. We see the tough guys let down their guard 100% and express joy in a very sincere, silly way. When they get back into their mission it feels EXTRA serious.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that I now really, really want to see Jason Statham put an extravagant, high-energy dance number in the middle of his next action movie. We know he can dance, we’ve all seen the Erasure video!! Or Channing Tatum, c’mon…

  33. Good news, everyone! I’m not completely dead inside! I got swept up in the ludicrous majesty of this ridiculous motion picture just like all you regular humans out there with functioning dopamine receptors! I wasn’t sure I had it in me during the opening scene, but after the big brawl set-piece I was intrigued, and after the title finally slammed onto the screen at like the 45-minute mark, I was committed. I thought there might be some heavy fast-forwarding action with the songs and romance and such, but I only had to skip one scene (the unbearably cringey date between Bheem and the Jane Austen reject lady; my man is like 45 years old, looks like Jack Black, and can’t even speak English, yet this wealthy white –I’m sorry, I just couldn’t take it) and the rest was a joy. I have to agree with Vern here: “So awesome it makes you laugh” is my favorite mode, and American culture is poorer for no longer possessing the resources to generate that feeling domestically.

  34. Naatu naatu, Maj

  35. Finally caught this on Netflix. My god it is awesome. Time to dive into Tollywood.

  36. I’d proceed with caution, Rosscoe Beans. You may find yourself scouring through a landfill of garbage before chancing on a few pearls like EEGA, BAAHUBALI & TRIPPLE R, all of it united by the vision of Rajamouli, a singularly talented film-maker who can effortlessly fuse Indian Sensibilities with Western Technical Know-How and armed with a king-sized budget to do both. But for every Rajamouli, there like 25 Crapmeisters with no idea of where to place the fucking camera. It’s like being an action fan and expecting the next Chad Stahelski or Gareth Evans, instead you’re most likely going to be saddled with Olivier Megaton clones for the next 10 years.

    But if RRR rocked your world, I’d suggest traipsing over from Andhra to the neighboring state of Karnataka to check out the 2-parter KGF. Prashanth Neel shares similar sensibilities with Rajamouli, but he leans more heavily into Mythologizing his Hero, here a combination of Don Corleone, Rambo, John Wick and Jesus who seeks to liberate a dystopian gold mining hell hole (the titular Kolar Gold Fields) and it’s enslaved miners from their tyrannical overlord. It’s MAD MAX THUNDERDOME and TEMPLE OF DOOM fused with a Gangster Epic to create this utterly absurd but riveting hybrid you can’t take your eyes off. It’s absurd, over the top, and after 2 shots of Wild Turkey 101, totally exhilarating. Both parts stream on Amazon Prime

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