by Saira B and NEVE
Welcome to our moon-synced movie review show, hosted by Saira Barbaric and NEVE. This duo of South Seattle creatives make multidisciplinary work together and individually. For this show, they’re ecstatic to join their love of astrology, ritual, and pop culture.
Stream this month’s podcast at the New Moon Movie Review official podcast website.
I might have said this before, but I will never turn down a musical. When I heard that RRR was a traditional Tollywood/Bollywood epic action film with elaborate, intricate musical numbers, I hit play without hesitation. The movie was beyond my expectations. The action, the costumes, and (most critical to this season) the romance were layered and extraordinary. Many movies attempt — and some succeed — at capturing how intimacy and connection can look between two adult men. None that I’ve seen hits the mark with as much reverence, playfulness, and historical fiction as RRR.
RRR begins with a young girl being callously purchased by British aristocracy who willfully mistake a kindness for an act of offered servitude. This sets Komaram Bheem, played by N.T. Rama Rao Jr., to the labor of going undercover to rescue her. Alluri Sitarama Raju, played by Ram Charan, is working for the British police force and encounters Bheem at opposite sides of a train accident. Fire and water are everywhere. A boy is stranded in the mayhem. Their heroic natures unite to save the boy and form a fast friendship full of secrets. Through the rest of the film, their missions are revealed. Trust is broken then reformed, and the British get a touch of comeuppance. To avoid spoiling the unmitigated joy and camp, I will only say that I am glossing over a mesmerizing party dance, so many CGI wild animals, and a plethora of astounding fight scenes.
This film displays a broadness of love that I just needed to include in our lineup of romance films. First we have the mythologizing of historical figures to make them into best bros — a loving engagement with Indian lore that is a staple of Telugu film. Then, we have the familial and community love that fueled the real-life figures to anti-imperialist work and thus fuels their fictional characters’ choices and companionship. Finally, we have the romantic and spousal love that fills the cracks of the film’s already weighty assemblage of plots.
Throughout watching RRR for the first time, I had the distinct feeling that often accompanies engaging with a foreign language or new-to-me genre of film. I felt the weight of cultural references I was missing. The final dance number clued me into the pan-Indian celebration I had watched and that it was engaging with real historical moments and figures. Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju were freedom fighters who separately battled against Indian and British aristocratic rule. They never met, but they fought for parallel purposes. In real life, Raju was killed by the British before Bheem began protecting tribal lands against the Nazim of Hyderabad. The writer-director of RRR, S.S. Rajamouli, was inspired by films like Inglourious Basterds (2009) and The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) to craft a tale where these two real revolutionary leaders met and inspired each other to do their work for their communities and country.
In a year that also held The Woman King, RRR reinforces my excitement in historical fiction being increasingly driven by the diasporas who want to uplift their own histories.
Watch this film if you enjoy a movie that presents the camp, the history, and the action as equally important, if you need a reminder of the skill and joy of Indian film, or if you think Marvel movies need more politics or dancing. If you don’t enjoy mixing genres or historical fiction, this movie may be tough, but I implore you to give it a shot anyway. There’s so much to love, and it’s on Netflix now.
Watch RRR on the big screen at the Northwest Film Forum at select dates in April. Don’t miss the Desi dance party after the April 7 showing.
Since 2015, Saira B (he/she/they/ze) has been based in Seattle creating performance art, films, and events that explore mythology, eroticism, AfroPsychedelic dreams, ritual objects, and glitch as digital expressionism. Barbaric-art.com and Vimeo have more about Saira’s projects and past works.
NEVE (they/(s)he) is a multigender, multiracial, multiply Disabled, multidimensional, multidisciplinary terpsichorean artist of the stage, street, field, stream, and screen. They are an Indigenous African living in Duwamish and Coast Salish lands and traveling wherever they have access and an invitation. (S)He is a 2020 Pina Bausch Fellow and a 2022 Arc Artist Fellow. Visit them online at nevebebad.com and beyond.
📸 Featured Image: ‘RRR’ is an action-packed fictionalized story about two of India’s beloved freedom fighters. (Photo courtesy of Variance Films/DVV Entertainment.)
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