What Hollywood Can Learn From the Epic Indian Action Film


This article contains minor spoilers for RRR (2022).

Unlike in the United States, Indian cinema is split into a few separate industries based on the country’s varied languages ​​and cultures. The most well-known movies that come out of India are the Hindi Bollywood masala musicals. Then there are the Bengali-language films of the parallel cinema movement, like those of the legendary Satyajit Ray, that are popular amongst American cinephiles. 2022’s biggest surprise hit, RRRhowever, comes out of Tollywood, southern India’s Telugu film industry.

The movie, directed by SS Rajamouli, who co-wrote the film with V. Vijayendra Prasad, tells a fictional story about two real Indian revolutionaries, Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao Jr.). RRR has managed to break Netflix records, becoming the most-watched non-English film on the streaming service.

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RRR‘s popularity amongst American audiences is surprising, considering our general aversion to foreign cinema and subtitles. The Indian film’s success indicates that we are craving things that the movies coming out of the US are not providing. while RRRs near-universal acclaim cannot be directly attributed to any singular element, there are few aspects of the blockbuster that American films can emulate to keep up with Tollywood.

Here are three things that SS Rajamouli and V. Vijayendra Prasad employed in the creation of RRR that other directors and writers should take into account when they make their next movie.

RRR’s Improved Fight Choreography

if RRR didn’t have any slow-motion shots, it feels like the lengthy three-hour runtime would be cut in half. This is obviously an exaggeration, but the film is constantly reducing the speed of the on-screen action. In another film, this could be a nuisance, but it’s used extremely well in RRR. The use of slo-mo is earned through the film’s incredible fight choreography.


Related: How RRR Uses Animal Imagery to Tell Its Story

Every action sequence is as meticulously crafted as the iconic and uproarious “Naatu Naatu” suspenders dance scene. The hand-to-hand combat and exchanges of gunfire are brutal and viscerally pleasing. One of the most exciting aspects is how anything on the set, whether it’s a chain-link fence or motorcycle, can become a weapon at a moment’s notice. The film is also unafraid to get gory, with copious amounts of blood.

Most importantly, the editor does not cut around the action, instead keeping the camera on its ridiculously photogenic and fit protagonists. The fights look far from real (RRR is full of CGI), but they’re still a joy to watch, unlike so many overly edited domestic action scenes. Directors focusing more on staging and shooting fight scenes would perhaps see their films be so much better.


RRR’s Explicit Politics

Anti-imperialist and nationalist politics are at the forefront of RRR. The film is basically radical fan-fiction, pairing off two Indian revolutionaries who never met and giving them an epic bromance for the ages. Compare this to another giant summer blockbuster, Top Gun: maverick. Top gun‘s neutral-to-positive portrayal of the United States military is as equally political as anything RRR has to say, but it tries to hide it by presenting the Navy as an apolitical force that battles a nationless and faceless enemy.

Related: 5 Indian Movies like RRR to Watch Next

Top Gun: Maverick is in stark contrast to the populist and historical nature of RRR, which revels in its simple, yet compelling underdog narrative. The British characters of RRR are absurdly evil and make for great villains. The United Kingdom’s treatment of indigenous populations during its imperialist conquest was intensely cruel, so it’s refreshing to see them portrayed as unambiguous antagonists. The authentic righteousness of Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem makes for compelling material. Instead of shying away from explicit politics, Hollywood should try and reflect on the world around it and tap into populist, anti-authoritarian trends.


Have More Fun With the Movie

RRR‘s most appealing trait is its sense of fun achieved through its sincerity. The film manages to both be serious and silly at the same time, never winking at the audience with a character saying, “well, that just happened.” Something as exhilarating and dumb as a character using a motorcycle in combat wouldn’t happen in American cinema, and definitely not without a self-deprecating quip. The musical numbers alone are some of the most fun you can have watching a movie this year. RRR‘s confidence in its own entertainment value provides a refreshingly good time for those of us who mostly watch English-language movies.

There’s a good chance that Hollywood will learn all the wrong lessons from RRR‘s success, as it has done so many times in the past. It could end up either trying to copy the film wholesale or just steal the wrong aspects. However, the surprise Tollywood hit is just so enjoyable that even the most cynical and misguided attempts to emulate it could provide worthwhile results. if nothing else, RRR should remind Hollywood, and the rest of the world, that they had better step up their game to keep up with the competition.


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