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RRR ★★★

---- Unrelated trip down memory lane -----

I grew up watching almost exclusively Indian/Bollywood movies, driven by the shared cultural background and common language. Some time around when I hit early-to-mid-teens I grew out of them (mid 2000s, I believe). The hyperrealistic and over-the-top sensibilities, plus most of the mainstream popular movies were pretty formulaic, were starting to get to me.

Since then I haven't seen more than 10 in the intertwining 15+ years, even though I heard from friends and acquaintances that Indian cinema had evolved a lot, with higher production budgets, better and more diverse stories, a "parallel" movement that preferred movies far removed from the mainstream. But I never went back apart from one offs like Gangs of Wasseypur. I had moved on and there wasn't much appeal left for me in there.

While Bollywood may have been the most popular of the Indian film industry, it wasn't the only one, because of the geographical and cultural breadth available in the country. Cinema of South India, particularly Telugu language (colloquially named as Tollywood, although I may be misattributing the name as I am going off a 20 years ago memory) never made much of a dent where I was growing up, because of language barrier and dubbing/subs weren't as readily available as they are now. I have a passing familiarity with Tollywood and I have of course seen movies with all the physics defying action (is Rajinikanth still a thing? ... or alive?, but I guess he is more Kollywood than Tollywood).

---- End of trip down memory lane. -----

I decided to break from my pattern and check this out because of the extremely positive hype and because I saw a tiger in a promo. I am a sucker for any sort of man vs. tiger/wolf/bear type of scenario. And I have to say, I had a pretty decent time overall. It still had a lot of hallmarks that made me grow weary of the cinema of that region in general (excessive slo-mo, corny dialogues - which is a feature, not a bug, I have realized, limited characterization, shallow romances, etc.), but I was absolutely impressed by the huge improvements in cinematography, production values, special effects and spectacle. That massive difference between what I remember seeing to what was done here is leaps and bounds ahead.

I can imagine why this would be received in such a positive manner outside India, since this has such different storytelling sensibilities to a movie made anywhere in the West (as diverse as cinema from Europe, North America, Latin America, etc. is, there isn't a big overlap to what is done in these Indian Masala Movies, even in the more blockbuster stuff that is made by Hollywood).

The novelty factor, plus the incredibly entertaining nature of filmmaking on display makes this a bombastic crowdpleaser, and with good reason. Plus I don't think there is a lot of media out there that covers Britain's colonial rule in sub-continent. So, the setting will be very novel for the audiences as well. The genre mashup is also a staple of these Masala movies that is sure to be a big hit with those not used to it: this merges superhero level physics defying action (a staple of South Indian cinema), historical fiction, romance, action, adventure, some lighthearted moments of comedy, and the good old song and dance numbers.

I wasn't enthralled with it as much given the effusive response (the expectations always get in the way, don't they?), but had a good time overall. This was a thrilling ride and looks amazing with great set pieces (the raid at Scott mansion is a highlight, the final prison break and set piece is ridiculously over the top) - minute moments of wonky CGI aside. Nary a dull moment and the 3 hours fly by. Like The Irishman.

P.S. I hope the popularity of this makes more people check out Lagaan (it was an Oscar nominee back in 2002). It's far less bombastic but no less entertaining. Might have to learn cricket, though. I promise it's far more fun than baseball.

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