Do not call SS Rajamouli’s RRR a Bollywood film. It is NOT – India Today

By Latha Srinivasan: Golden Globe award for Best Original Song. Two Critics Choice Awards, including one for Best Foreign Feature Film and Best Original Song. Seattle Critics Award 2022 for Best Action Choreography. The accolades and honours just don’t seem to stop for RRR as it heads to the Oscars in all hopes of bagging at least one award there. Director SS Rajamouli’s RRR has become a rage in the United States, creating glory not just for Telugu cinema but for Indian cinema. However, when speaking at the RRR screening at the Directors Guild of America, Rajamouli clearly stated, “RRR is not a Bollywood film; it is a Telugu film from the south of India, where I come from.”
This statement has led to a big debate on social media as to why the number one director in India would specify that it is Telugu versus Indian cinema. One needs to understand the history of regional and Telugu cinema, and SS Rajamouli himself to comprehend his point of view.

The story of RRR was inspired by two real-life Telugu freedom fighters – Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem – from the regions of Andhra and Telangana. In real life, Rama Raju, hailed from the upper caste, and helped lead the rebellions and resistance of the Adivasis against the British. On the other hand, Komaram Bheem came from the Gond community and turned into a revolutionary. He was hailed by the Adivasis as a leader and they followed in his footsteps. The Rampa Rebellion of 1922 was led by Sitarama Raju and this eventually led to his death. Komaram Bheem led a rebellion against the Nizams of Hyderabad and he was eventually killed by armed policemen in 1940.
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The stories of these two men who hailed his Telugu-speaking states inspired Rajamouli to come up with a fictitious story of his own – what if these two heroic men had met and become friends? What would their struggle against the British have been like? The fact that Rajamouli had intrinsically chosen a story about India’s freedom struggle and particularly about men in his own region speaks volumes as to how connected he is to the history of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
While Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem are hailed as legendary Indian freedom fighters, how they battled the Nizams and the British in the Telugu-speaking region is what is paramount and central to Rajamouli’s inspiration and the legacy he has chosen to honour. And every aspect of RRR – right from the storyline to the songs – pays tribute to these two Telugu legends and the stand they take against the British regime. Even Naatu Naatu – which has won so many accolades – is about taking on the Britishers and bringing out the strong patriotism that the two dancers feel. Rajamouli cleverly even uses song and dance to convey the local Telugu flavour and that is his specialty.
Music truly knows no boundaries.

Congratulations & thank you PEDDANNA for giving me #NaatuNaatu. This one is special.:)

I thank each & every fan across the globe for shaking their leg & making it popular ever since the release🤗 — rajamouli ss (@ssrajamouli) January 11, 2023

Indian cinema has always been synonymous with Hindi cinema internationally for decades now. This, despite the fact that one of India’s filmmaking greats, Satyajit Ray, made films in Bengali. The legend won thirty-six Indian National Film Awards, a Golden Lion, a Golden Bear, two Silver Bears, many additional awards at international film festivals and ceremonies, and an Academy Honorary Award in 1992. But the Western audience, in general, is not aware of Bengali cinema or any of the other regional film industries in India. Perception in the West remains that Hindi cinema is what Indian cinema is about and it has been actors from Hindi cinema like Om Puri or Naseeruddin Shah who have been signed for Hollywood films.
The great James Cameron watched RRR.. He liked it so much that he recommended to his wife Suzy and watched it again with her.🙏🏻🙏🏻

Sir I still cannot believe you spent a whole 10 minutes with us analyzing our movie. As you said I AM ON TOP OF THE WORLD… Thank you both 🥰🥰🤗🤗 — rajamouli ss (@ssrajamouli) January 16, 2023

Given that the exposure to regional cinema in the West has been extremely limited, it is with director Rajamouli’s Baahubali franchise that he opened the doors for regional cinema globally. With RRR, he upped his game. The extensive marketing and PR the RRR team did, the mighty wall has now been broken.
A major issue that filmmakers and actors from South film industries like Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, or Kannada have, is being equated to the Hindi film industry when there is no comparison other than the fact that they all make films. Each regional film industry in India comes with its own local culture, rooted sensibilities, linguistic framework and stories, and these different film industries come together to form what is called Indian cinema.
A Telugu film is part of Indian cinema, but does it describe Indian cinema? Not really. Telugu cinema is Telugu cinema in its own right. And this is the fact that director Rajamouli perhaps wished to strongly emphasise and create awareness about as well when he said that RRR was a Telugu film.
READ I Another day, another trophy! SS Rajamouli's RRR wins Seattle Critics Award for Best Action Choreography
Take the case of AR Rahman as well. When music maestro AR Rahman won two Oscar Awards in 2009, he went on stage and said in Tamil, ‘Ella pughazhum Iraivanukke’ (glory be to God). Rahman started his journey in the Tamil film industry with director Mani Ratnam’s Roja, and he always remained cognizant of this fact though he has worked in many film industries, including Bollywood and Hollywood.
The people from the regional film industries in India feel immense pride about where they hail from, their culture and traditions. Any recognition they receive they attribute to their respective film industries, given that’s where they made their beginnings and continue to work. This is not to say Hindi cinema is any less, but they feel that every film industry in India should be treated on par with Bollywood and the recent success of numerous films from the South film industry has proved that they are all a force to reckon with.
When the credits start to roll, whether the film is good or not is determined by the content. Today, RRR is a global phenomenon thanks to its content and how historically rooted the two Telugu heroes are in the Indian freedom struggle. Director SS Rajamouli, saying RRR is a Telugu film, is perfectly right since he has given us a slice of Indian history from his region. RRR is a Telugu film and its worldwide success has just made Indian cinema richer.

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