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RRR, The latest Film From Indian Director Rajamouli, Is A Worldwide Hit.

Al Jazeera speaks with SS Rajamouli about his upcoming blockbuster, his inspirations, and the rise of south Indian cinema.

India’s New Delhi

“I just know huge feelings,” says SS Rajamouli, right now India’s most financially effective movie chief.

Rajamouli, who directs films in Telugu and is from the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, discusses his most recent box office smash, RRR, which is also the third most successful film in the world and the second most expensive in India. However, he could also be discussing his current dominant emotion: being overwhelmed happiness

Rajamouli is thrilled that his film has been “loved” by both Indians in India and abroad and that it is not a “patronizing kind of love.”

“You know, when a smaller film tries to make an effort and you have a larger audience, you sometimes say, “Those guys made a good effort.” It is not like that; rather, it is something like, “Wow, guys… There is something here that is really, really enthralling.” Over a Zoom call, Rajamouli tells Al Jazeera, “I didn’t expect that.”

RRR (Rise, Roar, Revolt) was made with $72 million in budget and was released on March 25 in 21 countries. A three-hour-and-seven-minute-long activity experience about India’s battle against English imperialism set during the 1920s, it appeared at number three at the US Film industry, and number two at the UK and Australian box workplaces. It has already taken $141 million worldwide in just four weeks.

Rajamouli, 48, is regarded by some critics as a pioneer in Telugu cinema who has challenged Bollywood’s traditional dominance in India and abroad.

“Rajamouli has a flawless history. According to Indian film trade analyst Komal Nahta, “It would not be wrong to say that he is the biggest [Indian film director] ever.” Each of his films has been successful.

Embracing Rajamouli’s momentum

Rajamouli has directed 12 films since 2001, all of which have been commercial successes. The majority of them were dubbed into other Indian languages after being shot all in Teluga.

His creative aspirations and film budgets have increased over time. At the same time, more people are seeing south Indian movies.

India produces films in approximately 24 of its 121 languages, including Hindi-language Bollywood films. Its $2.3 billion film industry is also the largest film producer in the world.

Bollywood films made $200 million at the box office in 2020 and 2021, while Telugu films made $215 million.

However, while the rest of Indian cinema is lumped together under the snide label of “regional cinema,” Bollywood is not only synonymous with Indian cinema but also receives a disproportionate amount of attention and financial support.

That has been challenged by Rajamouli; especially his 2012 fantasy film Eega (The Fly), in which the hero is killed, reincarnated as a fly, and sets out on a mission to avenge his death, and his 2015 and 2017 action-fantasy swashbuckler Baahubali (One With Strong Arms), which was even more successful.

While the two-part Baahubali, which was made on a budget of $59 million and received $314 million at the global box office, received critical acclaim and was a hit on satellite television with Hindi-speaking, Bollywood-loving audiences in India.

Baahubali, the sequel to the Baahubali film series: The Conclusion, which came out in 2017, is still India’s second-most successful film worldwide. It is also the most watched and highest-grossing film ever made in India. It extended Telugu movies’ film industry take in India by multiple times, while the US market for Telugu films developed from about $1-2m to $20m.

As a result, Rajamouli became India’s most expensive director, earning approximately $13 million to direct a movie.
The Rajamouli wave has been riding on films in Telugu and Kannada, another south Indian language, by other directors; Both their goals and budgets have increased, as have their markets and profits.

Pushpa: India’s second-biggest hit in 2020 and 2021 was The Rise, the first of two Telugu action dramas about the rise of a laborer in the red sandalwood/sander smuggling syndicate. It was released on December 17, 2021.

KGF: Section 2, second of a two-section film about a professional killer and the gold mafia, delivered overall on April 14, is the first Kannada film to gather $5m in quite a while in five days. It was made for $13 million, and after 15 days, its worldwide box office collections have reached $125 million.

Meanwhile, numerous major Bollywood films have recently failed.

Bollywood’s 83, a film about the Indian cricket team’s historic World Cup victory in 1983, cost $35 million to make, but it only managed to raise $25 million. Despite starring Akshay Kumar, one of Bollywood’s highest-paid actors, Bell Bottom, a plane highjacking drama loosely based on a real event that came out in August of last year, lost a staggering $15 million.

When asked about the differences between his films and recent Bollywood productions, Rajamouli responded, “I don’t want to make it a me versus Bollywood kind of thing.” He attributed his success to his work ethic and “continuance,” as well as to his capacity for big-picture thinking, growth, growth through mistakes, and success.

“It’s not on the grounds that I have some exceptional capacity in narrating, most certainly not,” he said.

According to Al Jazeera, Shobu Yarlagadda, a member of the duo that produced the Baahubali film series, Bollywood isn’t making a lot of money at the box office because it has become more urban centric and “moved away from the heroism, raw emotions, and other elements that make up commercial cinema.”

Two real-life Indian revolutionaries who fought the British Raj are the subject of a fictionalized epic in RRR. Ram Charan and Jr. NTR, two of the best actors in Telugu cinema, play the two main characters in the movie. However, the film also has a large ensemble cast of British, Irish, and American actors. Rajamouli cast for the first time two major Bollywood stars, Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn, to further expand the market for his films.

Rajamouli’s favorite stories are influenced by his father, a screenwriter who has written nine of his 12 films, and the immensely popular Indian comic books he grew up reading, Amar Chitra Katha (Immortal Illustrated Story).

Made in the last part of the ’60s and ’70s, these comic books told moralistic, fanciful and moving tales about Indian divine beings, masters, lords and sovereigns. Drawn generally from the two Hindu sagas – Mahabharata and Ramayana – men faced good conflicts while devout, shapely ladies in small pullovers endured embarrassment. Evil was frequently depicted as Mughal, bearded, and mercenary.

“When the hero is walking, the ground would split open and the sky would burst into flames” was Rajamouli’s vision of this world, however. He claims that that “grand scheme of things” sparked his imagination. Furthermore, when I set off to recount stories, I would have rather not made them any unique.”

RRR consists of about three-quarters visual effects and includes several elaborate battle scenes as well as a 4.5-minute upbeat song and dance sequence shot in front of the Mariinskyi Palace, the official residence of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The film’s female lead is Bhatt, a top Bollywood actress. In a high-octane bromance between two patriotic men motivated by love, honor, and vengeance, her presence is fleeting, and some critics have stated that her role makes them feel like she is an afterthought.

Rajamouli has also come under fire for his films, which have been criticized for being male-centric and even sexist, and for depicting patriotism that frequently veers into jingoism.

Both claims are refuted by Rajamouli, who asserts that when he is writing and directing a film, he is more concerned with telling a story and evoking its emotions than with gender.

I did not discuss patriotism in RRR. I discussed friendship. And I can just smile when someone says it’s an over-the-top patriotic movie.


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