RRR is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Watching it brought out the child in me. I find it far superior to Baahubali and Baahubali 2, which to me are like Helen of Troy (1956) and Ben-Hur (1959). But RRR has no benchmark. When I saw the trailer, I thought it was bordering on the fake. I had this gut feeling that something would go wrong. But how wrong I was! It didn’t matter what the setting or the period was. The visuals are mindboggling and the sweep of the narrative is expansive, like the brushstrokes of an artist.
The actors. Ram Charan and Junior NTR are as good as each other. The action sequences are superb. When I heard of the Ram Charan and Taraka fight, I thought it would be like the fight between Batman and Superman. But I don’t believe I have seen anything like it before. The emotions on their faces are so human and what they do is superhuman. And the point where the animals are unleashed on the ball is audacious. I felt myself sitting an inch above my seat.
SS Rajamouli is not merely the wealth of the Telugu film industry or of the nation but of the audience. For him to dare to dream and to have the passion and patience to give us the treat of a lifetime is extraordinary.
But it is like James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), a very hard act to follow. It will not make much of a difference to the industry. On the other hand, The Kashmir Files will make a difference to the industry because directors will attempt to emulate it in storytelling, unconventional casting, and breaking the form. It will give rise to many new filmmakers who will try to make films within ₹ 5 crore and ₹ 10 crore budgets. The safety net thrown by The Kashmir Files will make many small, unconventional films possible.
Before Baahubali, Telugu cinema’s biggest recovery was believed to be ₹ 75 crore. But the producer spent ₹ 150 crore on it in a leap of faith. If we get it right, there are incentives.
But money is not the only thing. It reminds me of what happened in 1999-2000. Akbar Khan met some rich sheikh and floated the idea of making a film on the Taj Mahal. Those days, the most expensive film would have been ₹ 20 crore. This guy spent ₹ 50 crore on the film. The logic was that people might not know India but they knew the Taj Mahal, so not only would every Indian watch it but so would the world. They made it and the final result in 2005 was that even people in Agra didn’t see it.
Bollywood can still manage to make a movie about sandalwood smuggling but it is unable to match Rajamouli. It is the nearest thing to a circus in the idea of the spectacle
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The guy who funded it probably had ₹ 50,000 crore. This was loose change for him. So, either the producer has money to spend or he has tremendous belief. For instance, Titanic was made in 1997, almost at the same time as Waterworld (1995); but Waterworld sank a studio and Titanic made a studio. Southern filmmakers are much closer to the ground than those elsewhere. No Bollywood director can do what Rajamouli does. There is a scene in Rajamouli’s Chatrapathi (2005) in which the hero’s hands are tied and he is dropped into the ocean. He can’t swim and is preyed on by a shark. He somehow manages to get on the shark and uses its teeth to cut his rope and then stabs it to death. Imagine thinking this and then actually shooting it. Rajamouli has always done this. It’s just that his budget has gone up.
But Pushpa will have a bigger effect than RRR on Bollywood. Bollywood can still manage to make a movie about sandalwood smuggling but it is simply unable to match Rajamouli’s ingenuity. It is the nearest thing to a circus, not in the sense of clowns but in the idea of the spectacle.
Bollywood is more fearful of The Kashmir Files than RRR. Vivek Agnihotri took it for granted that the audience is intelligent and wants to know more. That is the last thing Bollywood wants and does.