The Dark Herald Recommends RRRThe Dark Herald
The Dark Herald: My beloved Darklings have you ever wondered what would have happened if Bruce Lee and Cheech Marin had a baby?
Darkling 1: Oh god, what’s he doing?
Darkling 2: I don’t know and I’m not into this!
Darkling 3: I’m scared!
Darkling 4: I’m leaving!
The Dark Herald: Too late! Doors are locked from the outside. Now buckle up we’re headed to Kollywood. Spawning ground of the craziest action movies on the planet, the home of Tamil films.
Before looking at this particular Tamil film, we should probably take a quick look at the Tamils themselves. Tamil Nadu is in the running for the title oldest extant civilization. The recordable history goes back six thousand years and there is a school of thought that says their unrecorded history as a people goes back quite a bit further, quite possibly back to the first migration wave out of Africa approximately 100,000 years ago. There is also evidence that the Tamil Nadu region was inhabited by pre-homo sapiens going back 200,000 years. Whether these inhabitants ever interbred or not is under a very big question mark.
They have their own language, their own culture, follow their own fashions in clothing, architecture, and unique political thought. They are ferociously proud of their own ancient traditions of the martial arts. It has even been argued by some that the Tamils are more of a race than a simple ethnicity. The facial morphology is fairly distinct…although that could just be the mustaches.
Tamil Nadu was a hotbed of resistance to British Colonial rule in the early twentieth century. Conversely, it was one of the calmest places in the brand-new country in 1947.
Also, it is HOT. In July the temperature rarely falls below 88 degrees and frequently shoots past 100.
In case I didn’t make it clear, cultural self-expression is vital to the Tamil nationality. When they first heard about this moving picture thing, they jumped in with both feet.
I will now fail to bore you to tears with the history of Tamil Cinema on the grounds that you weren’t going to read it anyway.
Tamil films are the most over-the-top adventure movies in all existence. Hong Kong cinema has had its day. Today Kollywood is the reigning champion of exploding your eyeballs with on-screen excitement. If you haven’t had at least three heart attacks by the end of a Tamil film it’s a failure. This is a world where snatching a supercriminal out of a car that has just been dropped-kicked over of the Taj Mahal is just a Tuesday. Yet it is also a world where the hero of the movie will give a compassionate speech to the crowd of men that is planning to beat him to death, asking that if any of them have any chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes that they please go home now because in a minute he’s going to beat the living shit out of all of them. Since Tamil films have absolutely nothing to do with the incomprehensible insanities of current year Hollywood, men are still men and women are happy about it.
You won’t need subtitles for this:
He actually Alphaed her into being feminine and more attractive.
Tamil heroes are very much men in a traditionally masculine mold. They have to be strong and stoic but they also have to be focused with laser-like intensity on doing the right thing. In fact, weak, lying, backstabbing men are invariably villains. Audience expectations are never subverted by showing how someone noble is in secret a lying, vile, psychopath (and racist) although sometimes you will find that a villain is actually a secret hero.
And if you are genuinely evil in a Tamil film, then you better bring about 200 friends to the fight because 100 won’t cut it.
Tamil heroines are strong as well, but it is in the traditional role of feminine strength. The best of women are braver, truer, and more enduring than any man. A genuinely heroic woman will inspire all of the men around her by her virtues alone. They would rather die than shame themselves before her.
RRR (Rise Roar Revolt) is nationalist entertainment at its finest.
The film was directed by S.S. Rajamouli. This was his baby, this was the song of his heart as a filmmaker. His biggest hit before this one was the mind-bogglingly epic motion picture, Bahubali. It would be fair to say he took Tamil films further than any other director had before him. That includes both budget and more importantly, box office.
One of the things I enjoy about Tamil Cinema is that there are no shades of gray. There is right. There is wrong. And that is it.
Aspirational heroes are mandatory. The audience won’t accept anything else. The implication is that their heroes’ superhuman strength is theirs’ because it’s deserved. The audience accepts the insane things they do because they are Proven Worthy.
RRR takes place during one of the hotter periods of the British Raj in the 1920s. It starts with a provincial governor’s wife enjoying the song of a young girl named, Malli, while the governor is hunting. She enjoyed it a little too much. When her husband gets back from killing half the creatures in the jungle. She walks off with the girl. When the girl’s mother begs for her daughter’s return, the governor orders the mother killed but without using a bullet because an Indian woman’s life isn’t worth the cost of the bullet. The mother is beaten to death with a club because the Governor’s wife liked her daughter’s singing.
The Governor and his wife become even more vile as the film progresses, but we’ll get back to that.
Hindustani attitudes about wildlife are not made specifically clear but they are strongly hinted at. Hunting for sport is illegal in India today. In this film, wild animals and their pointless killing for mere pleasure are symbols of India herself.
There are two protagonists in this film; Bheem who is represented by water and Rama Raju who is represented by fire.
Bheem is the brother of the kidnaped girl and he is introduced by capturing a live tiger in the most ludicrously dangerous way possible. He physically overpowers it and when it roars at him, he roars back. After the tiger is secured, Bheem begs its forgiveness, because he has great need of its strength.
Next, we meet the police officer Rama Raju. The police station he is assigned to is under siege, one of the rioters throws a rock that breaks the king’s portrait. The British superintendent orders the rioter arrested. Officer Rama Raju freaking jumps over the ten-foot-high fence and proceeds to beat the hell out of the entire riot until he gets his man.
Rama Raju is bucking for a promotion. Typical.
Regardless, he is in a rage to get bumped up to Special Officer. Consequently, when the police are ordered to apprehend the terrorist Bheem with the offer of promotion to Special Officer as the reward, Raju eagerly volunteers.
Raju at first glance appears to be little more than a dedicated tool of the Empire, whose only real frustration is that he cannot advance within it to the level he thinks he deserves. He looks to be more of a frustrated villain than anything else.
But then Raju comes upon a boy in a river that is surrounded by burning oil. Nothing short of a power beyond mere mortal men could possibly save the boy. Lucky for him the kid is in a Tamil movie. However, the boy is so far up shit creek that it will take more than one Tamil superhero to save him. The kid’s newly acquired luck holds and Bheem is on hand to help in a spectacular rescue that saves the boy while literally wrapping one of the heroes in the Indian flag (or its progenitor anyway).
Performing superhuman feats is something of a bonding experience for the two men. Raju and Bheem immediately fall into a tight Alpha and Bravo male best friendship. Raju the Alpha is much more educated and worldly than the backwoods Bravo Bheem. They are equals, yet opposites. Raju is a sophisticated man of the world and Bheem is an illiterate salt of the Earth kind of man.
Of the two, Bheem is the better man because his innocence guards his heart for him, he is pure, and he is also a decent mechanic. Raju is a bit more complicated. At times he seems like a decent good-hearted man but at others, he is a brutal tool of the Empire.
The next part is clever for the amount of tension the film builds between the two close friends. Because unknown to either man, Bheem is the man that Raju is so relentlessly hunting. Raju’s only real lead is Bheem’s brother.
Eventually, Raju captures Bheem’s brother and is torturing the hell out of him trying to get the name of the man he is hunting down. Bheem’s brother goads a poisonous snake into biting Raju. Raju takes it pretty well, he hands Bheem’s bro a knife and tells him to free himself, and then Raju walks out into the street to die.
Bheem finds him just in time and knows how to treat the snake bite. While Raju is recovering Bheem spills the beans on everything. To include his target.
In a breathtaking display of Tamil cinematic lunacy, Bheem begins his attack on the governor’s palace during a party, by throwing Noah’s Ark at the Governor’s party.
Malli is almost within reach when the plan, such as it is, goes off the rails when Raju arrives in uniform to arrest Bheem. A staggeringly stupendous fight between the two men who had grown to be as close as brothers ensue. Bheem is finally subdued but is enraged by his best friend’s betrayal.
Raju is feeling pretty bad about it too, but he finally has his promotion to Special Officer. And Special Officers have access to the main armory. Now comes the twist. We find out that while Bheem is ultimately a rebel with the limited scope of rescuing a family member. Raju Rama is a very big-picture rebel. He wants all of India freed. Despite great personal anguish at betraying Bheem he is trying to stay focused on his own mission of stealing the armory shipments.
Bheem is to be executed naturally, but the Governor is willing to show some mercy and make it quick if he will kneel before him and recant his crimes. Bheem refuses and Raju is ordered to whip him. When Bheen continues to stand, the Governor’s Wife orders Raju to scourge him. Bheem starts to sing a lovely song about his country.
Bheem’s near martyrdom starts a major riot and that is the point where Raju realizes that guns mean nothing next to the inspiration a man like Bheem brings to the people of India. Raju resolves to rescue his friend and for bonus points Malli too. Half of this new plan works, Malli and Bheem are rescued. But Bheem takes a few minutes to beat the fuck out of Raju and then leaves him for the Governor.
The Governor is none too cool about Raju’s change of heart, although in truth Raju’s loyalty never wavered. Now it’s time for Raju Rama to be put to death. Bheem in the meantime has found out what Raju’s real plans were all along and kicks himself for giving Raju the ground and pound. Now the other friend launches his own even more earth-shatteringly magnificent rescue mission during which Raju becomes the living incarnation of Rama himself.
Of course, the good guys won. It’s a Tamil movie.
The final song is a patriotic ensemble praising all of the Indian nationalities, their heroes, and their joy in having broken the shackles of the Empire That Never Fell.
Also, Malli’s mother survived getting hit in the head with a tree trunk because this was a Tamil movie.
The Dark Herald Recommends with Enthusiasm