RRR director explains the film’s journey to Netflix success

Jr NTR and Ram Charan leap into action as the two leads of the action epic RRR. (DVV Entertainment/Netflix)

Sometimes, a film like RRR catches fire. For all the boardroom analysis and box office predictions that have become bread and butter in Hollywood, sometimes there’s just no explanation for what audiences are going to get.

Certainly, few outside observers would have considered a three-hour historical epic about Indian revolutionaries to become arguably the most talked-about film of 2022. Apparently, the director of raucous brilliant RRR is as surprised as everyone else.

“I never expected or anticipated this kind of success in the western world. Essentially I make films for Indians and Indians all over the world,” SS Rajamouli tells Yahoo UK.

Read more: Netflix Movies Coming December 2022

But Rajamouli certainly didn’t come out of nowhere. One of the leading lights of Indian cinema, his previous two films are among the top five highest grossing films in the history of India. For RRR, it was given a budget of ₹550 crore (£56m), the largest ever for an Indian film, but barely a handful of beans for an American blockbuster.

Watch: RRR Indian epic movie trailer

The story takes a couple of real Indian revolutionaries and imagines a forgotten period of their lives in the 1920s, imagining Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (Jr NTR) became friends before their respective riots.

Rajamouli says he and co-writer V. Vijayendra Prasad – who happens to be his father – used the “spirit” of real people to fuel their story, which features all-out action, high drama and several musical numbers. Also, tigers.

Jr NTR plays protector of Gond tribe Komaram Bheem in RRR.  (Netflix)

Jr NTR plays protector of Gond tribe Komaram Bheem in RRR. (DVV Entertainment/Netflix)

“When I went back through their history, I found beautiful coincidences,” she says, adding that the two were born around the same time and each left home in their early twenties. “We don’t know what happened to them over a period of two or three years. There are no historical records.”

Read more: Kumail Nanjiani was nervous about the Bollywood scene in Eternals

He adds: “After their return, they were like men in charge. They inspired the people to rebel against the oppression and oppressive rules that had been imposed on them. They fought for the freedom of the people, even though they knew the enemy was much more big and much stronger. Their spirit didn’t let them down. So those two or three years, I thought, I could tell of a friendship between these two guys where they inspired each other to become what they have become in their life real.”

RRR (DVV entertainment)

SS Rajamouli gives direction to Ram Charan on the set of RRR. (DVV Entertainment)

Rajamouli has now made several explosive action films but it is RRR that has expanded worldwide. The film is a product of the Tollywood industry in South India – Telugu-language film as opposed to Hindi-language Bollywood – which Rajamouli helped put on the map. “When people outside of India call every Indian film Bollywood, it annoys me a little. But not too much. It’s okay, people don’t need to know everything.”

Much of RRR’s success came when it hit Netflix, becoming one of the service’s top 10 movies in 65 countries and for numerous weeks. The film is available on the service in Hindi and English dubs but not in his native Telugu, which Rajamouli explains is due to the split sale of the distribution rights.

RRR (DVV entertainment)

RRR (DVV entertainment)

“Streaming platforms are both the villain and the hero to me. I know the strength of a streaming platform. Every filmmaker wants their story to be heard by a much larger audience, and streaming is essentially the platform that can bring you to so many viewers. If so, many people have come to know about RRR, thanks to the streaming platform Netflix. I am grateful for that,” says Rajamouli.

“But at the same time I’m so worried like so many others who grew up with cinema. For me, the cinema is a temple. My heart tells me that the cinemas will remain, even if the streaming platforms are going from strength to strength. The cinema as a shared viewing experience is great and different from a standalone viewing experience. But the fear is that maybe they will disappear. So there’s a love-hate relationship.”

RRR is a story of friendship between two revolutionaries as well as a wild action epic.  (DVV Entertainment/Netflix)

RRR is a story of friendship between two revolutionaries as well as a wild action epic. (DVV Entertainment/Netflix)

As for the film itself, Rajamouli would rather people experience it than wait for him to convince them to watch it. “There are only two things, I think, that make people go to a movie: the trailer and word of mouth. Only those two things can make people go to a movie.

“Even for me, when I present my film, I keep it very simple. These characters are historical, but the story is fictional. It will be a thrill once every 10 minutes and it’s not an emotion or a flavor, but the film has so so many flavors all thrown together and one emotion flowing into another in a very beautiful way. At the end of three hours, if you still want to listen to me, I’m here.”

Read more: Everything that happened at the Oscars 2022

Now, of course, people are listening — and people all over the world, to Rajamouli’s surprise. He said he “never expected” this level of success in the West, and especially the fan campaign propelling the film towards the Academy Awards.

She says: “Campaigning for the Oscars or the Baftas is completely out of the blue. I don’t know how to do it. But the love and adulation I’ve received from the western world and [the fact] they launched the hashtag #RRRForOscars and are continuing it. If we don’t do something and we don’t campaign, that would be disappointing our fans. That’s the real reason.”

RRR marries history with drama, romance and musical sequences.  (DVV Entertainment/Netflix)

RRR marries history with drama, romance and musical sequences. (DVV Entertainment/Netflix)

As for the future, Rajamouli says he and his father are developing a script for a possible sequel based on an idea put forward by his cousin. “We have such a big idea that we can’t let it pass. Once it’s written, we’ll see how to take it forward,” said the director.

But now that RRR has catapulted him to worldwide fame, will he change the way he makes films? Rajamouli does not think so. “As a director, I need to constantly improve my craft and I should learn new things. That will happen regardless of the success or failure of the films,” he said.

Read more: Jimmy Kimmel will host the Oscars in 2023

Rajamouli added, “At its core, I have certain strengths, certain tastes and certain ways of storytelling. RRR has been successful in the Western world not because I’ve changed anything in me, it’s essentially my storytelling that has them attracted. Changing myself into a different person makes no sense. I think I would get nowhere if I changed myself now. I’ll tell my old stories, but I’ll evolve in the process.”

RRR is now available to stream on Netflix.

Watch: Bollywood actors announce highest honor in Indian cinema

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *