RRR — Return of the Jodi!
In Baahubali, Rajamouli introduces a larger than life hero who is powerful and righteous, a god to his people. In RRR he takes two such heroes and does something extraordinary — he revives the culture of a jodi of heroes (a pair of heroes). That means two male movie stars in the film industry share the screen in a lead role for more or less the same screen-time and roles of similar importance.
This was common till 1990s in Bollywood (and perhaps South Indian cinema too). I have fond memories of Bollywood because of jodis of male movie stars that were contrasting in their personalities and style that made it a delight to watch them together on-screen. Following have been my favorite Bollywood heroes jodis:
Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor.
Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan.
Sanjay Dutt, Govinda.
It has been almost two decades since we got a good movie with a good on-screen heroes jodi. The last good on-screen jodi I remember in Bollywood was Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham in Dostana.
But the beginning of 21st century saw a sudden shift to a single lead movies, where only one hero played the main lead. Any other big name either appeared as a supporting cast or a cameo. This way the roles were clearly defined without any risk of ego clashes, which was common in the films with more than one hero. For instance, many accused Amitabh Bachchan of getting the roles edited of other heroes to project himself as the bigger hero.
In 2022, S. S. Rajamouli decided to wave his magic wand and present a movie with a male jodi of two of the biggest male stars in Tollywood — Ram Charan (Ram) and Junior NTR (Bheem) — that will be forever remembered in the history of Indian cinema.
Rajamouli is sensible to understand the possibility of ego-clashes among big stars. Fortunately he is not only the biggest filmmaker in the country but also highly respected for his skills as a filmmaker, so the two stars were happy to work with him. Moreover, from the initial promos itself the filmmaker clearly established how the two characters were polar opposites, each being a demi-god-like figure. Rajamouli’s father who wrote the story, cleverly designed two very different personalities, who can easily play-off each other and together look much bigger than either of them alone. Rajamouli then ensured each one got more or less the same screen-time. They even dedicated a song to show the contrast in these two characters and how they complement each other, which makes their bond strong. (check YouTube video below)
Some conflict still ensued since some Junior NTR’s fans say that he was given lesser role since Ram Charan’s character (Ram) is the one with moral conflict due to a strong backstory. Yet not many felt this way because Junior NTR’s character (Bheem) also has an important responsibility. Moreover, Bheem is so endearing that you fall in love with him within minutes, and continue to like him throughout. The song sung by Bheem while being flogged in public while Ram tries to convince him to give up, can move anyone to tears.
I particularly enjoyed how the filmmaker has been consistent with the fire and water theme throughout the movie. While Ram is the tough one (fire), Bheem is the soft and emotional one (water), and this contrast is beautifully shown in both the fight before intermission where they fight each other and in the fight at the end when they fight together. During the flogging scene also, Ram is inflicting pain (like fire) while Bheem is absorbing pain (like water).
The synergy between the two characters, brought out by the two actors is beautiful. My favorite ones being the prison-break scene when both work together as a single body (literally), and the Naatu Naatu song where they dance like mirror reflections (so perfectly synced). (Sharing the YouTube video below because this song deserves to be watched everyday).
With clever writing and film making, Rajamouli and his team has done something I was yearning to watch on big screen for almost two decades now — a heart-warming jodi of two larger than life heroes. There can never be a better male jodi movie in the history of world cinema. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.