South Indian action epic RRR is a global hit. Could it bring Oscar glory to Tollywood? | CBC News

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Miranda Halfyard had no idea what she was getting into when her film critic father took her to a Toronto screening of the South Indian action epic. RRR last year.

It was soon realized: the three-hour Telugu film is at once a far-reaching cutthroat saga (an early scene shows a soldier fighting alone against a horde of 1,000 men) with heart-stopping action sequences (one man is chased by a ferocious tiger through a jungle before being subdued), as well as a historical drama with vibrant displays of music and dance.

“I sat down and was tired, but instantly, the moment it started playing, the adrenaline went up and it stayed that way the whole time,” said Halfyard, an 18-year-old student at the University of Guelph.

“My heart was beating very fast,” he said. “I was on the edge of my seat.”

All of that is to say that RRR is amassing fans around the world, raking in more than $150 million at the global box office as of March 2022. It’s an international hit with the kind of horsepower that could send it all the way. Oscars this year.

One of the most expensive movies ever made in India, RRR (Rise, Roar, Revolt) is set in pre-independence India in the 1920s. It tells the story of a ruthless British officer, Raju, and a small-town warrior, Bheem, who become unlikely friends, they just don’t realize that one has been ordered to track down and kill the other.

CLOCK | The action-packed trailer for Rise, Roar, Revolt (RRR):

Could RRR get an Oscar nomination?

RRRThe momentum thus far has carried it through awards season, as organizations like the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards have given the action-packed film their roses, particularly for its mid-air earworm. movie. naatu naatuwhich has surpassed submissions from Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Taylor Swift as original song contender.

But these are comparatively small potatoes ahead of Tuesday morning’s Oscar nominations, where RRR It could be the rare film from Tollywood, the Telugu-language film industry, held on Hollywood’s biggest night, according to Clayton Davis, Variety’s senior awards editor.

“I wish and hope and pray that the Academy can be great in nominating something this great in the best picture race,” Davis said, noting that a best picture nomination is “on the table” for RRR. naatu naatu is probably a shoe in the best original song.

“There’s definitely an international perspective from the industry and particularly from the Academy,” Davis said. “They’ve done a great job expanding. Their voting demographic includes a lot of international members now, and they’d be more open to something like RRR.”

LISTEN | The buzz around RRR:

ottawa morning7:49Award winning Tollywood film RRR held by Ottawans

Karunakar Reddy Papala, the president of the Ottawa Telugu Association and his son Arya tell us about the buzz around the film.

The film probably won’t be recognized in technical categories, nor for its acting and screenplay, he said. He’s still facing an uphill battle, and not just because it’s three hours long.

Films in languages ​​other than English typically have a tougher time with the Academy, Davis said, even though they have embraced more non-English language titles, including films like 2019’s. Parasite and 2018 Rome.

“The cultural spirit that RRR taps into is what keeps it alive in the race.”

Ram Charan, left, and NT Rama Rao Jr. star in a scene from the Telugu-language blockbuster RRR, which has since been nominated for two Golden Globes (it won Best Original Song) and could be a nominee for the Oscars. this year. (DVV Entertainment)

An electric theatrical experience

Just ask Ryan Cultrera, a fan who attended a crazy screening of RRR at the famed TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles earlier this month. More than 900 people attended the screening, which sold out in 93 seconds, according to Variety.

Director SS Rajamouli and stars NT Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan were among the audience at the film’s first North American screening, where fans woke up the famous cinema by flocking to the screen during the naatu naatu dance scene, jumping and singing as the movie flashed behind them.

“It was completely improvised,” said Cultrera, a filmmaker and movie buff.

“My friend and I were sitting towards the front of the theater and we saw everyone start rushing over and say, ‘We have to do it.’ It just caught on…it was infectious.”

RRRThe theatrical run of was bolstered by a streaming deal with Netflix, where it became available last May. Rajamouli, a lifelong director whose Baahubali The films are among the highest grossing in India, he was surprised by the reception in North America and Europe.

“A good story is a good story for everyone, but I didn’t think I could make movies for Western sensibilities. I never did,” he told Entertainment Weekly. In an interview.

“So when it came out on Netflix and people started watching it, and word of mouth started running, when critics started giving good reviews, yeah, I was really surprised.”

A young woman stands up and smiles at the camera.
University of Guelph student Miranda Halfyard says she loved watching RRR on a theater stage. “My heart was beating very fast,” she told CBC News. ‘I was on the edge of my seat.’ (CBC News)

Cultrera saw for the first time RRR on Netflix with his film club, while Halfyard has been introducing him to his friends with home screenings. But both were electrified by the in-person theatrical experience.

“I would honestly say it’s going to be hard to top as a cinematic experience,” Cultrera said. “There is a before and after seeing RRR in a theater”.

troubling subtext

But the anti-colonial message of the film about two men rebelling against the British Empire is underscored by an undercurrent of Hindu nationalism, said Meher Manda, a culture critic in Kochi, India. It is one of the main criticisms that the film has received since its premiere.

Hindu nationalism is the right-wing political ideology embraced by the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It suggests that the country’s majority Hindu faith should shape India’s culture and policies, often, critics say, to the detriment of minorities, including Muslims.

“It is irrefutable to acknowledge that the film operates with a much higher caste bias,” Manda said, referring to India’s social hierarchy. “It’s a bias that has been reflected in the filmmaker’s previous work.”

The film’s leads, Raju and Bheem, are based on real-life historical figures from the Telugu-speaking regions of Andhra and Telangana. Time RRR it presents both as heroes destined to be seen as equals in an “anti-colonial struggle…the film makes sure that we understand that they are not equal,” Manda said.

She points out that Raju, who in real life belonged to an upper caste, is depicted as a cultured and well-educated man serving in the British Army, while Bheem, a revolutionary from the indigenous Gond tribe, is depicted as primitive and uncompromising. education. . The depictions cannot be divorced from the context of growing Hindu nationalism in India.

“I think that nuance is not just missing, but intentionally removed, and that may perhaps be related to the fact that it’s been so successful.”

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