The S.S. Rajamouli superhit has impressed North American audiences with its tale of nationalism and male bonding, emerging as the second-highest-grossing Indian film in the US after Baahubali 2: The Conclusion by the same director
NEW DELHI : The makers of RRR are pushing for an Oscar nomination, encouraged by the worldwide popularity of the period melodrama.
The S.S. Rajamouli superhit has impressed North American audiences with its tale of nationalism and male bonding, emerging as the second-highest-grossing Indian film in the US after Baahubali 2: The Conclusion by the same director.
The film raised over $14 million after its March release in nearly 2,000 theatres in North America, at a time overseas distributors were going slow on Indian releases after the pandemic, and markets such as the US were still operating with restrictions on cinemas.
Within four weeks of its launch on Netflix, RRR was viewed over 47 million hours worldwide, with more than two-thirds of viewing from outside India. The film is being seen in stark contrast to the slice-of-life cinema that is now popular across the globe, especially in Hollywood.
Hollywood’s larger-than-life Marvel franchises, too, lack personal connect, film trade experts said. RRR has been in the global top 10 for non-English films on Netflix since its premiere on 20 May and was also the top non-English film in the category for three weeks.
RRR is the rare Indian film that has found appeal overseas beyond the south Asian diaspora, said Uma Vangal, filmmaker and professor at L.V. Prasad Film and TV Academy. “It leverages the melodramatic cinematic format that several audiences across the world are starved of. Hollywood has stopped making such (larger-than-life, emotional) films. Even its grand superhero films seem removed from life, and lack connect and resonance,” Vangal said.
The tale of two freedom fighters stirs the right emotions, and their male bonding is reminiscent of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, two iconic characters from the Star Wars series, Vangal said. “The story of the underdog and the colonized is universal,” she pointed out.
At a time global cinema is trying to be ‘classy,’ audiences have enjoyed the go-for-broke, over-the-top nature of Rajamouli’s cinema, film critic Baradwaj Rangan said. “The emotional thrill ride, coupled with the identifiable plot, has resonated with audiences everywhere. People don’t really go looking for logical movies anymore; it’s the emotional reach that matters,” Rangan said. In addition, streaming platforms have aided the discovery of many films that suit the tastes of formerly underserved viewers, he added.
Following its impressive debut in the US, the film’s producers have consciously arranged screenings and got reviews published in foreign media outlets, one of which described it as “a riot of outrageous spectacle”. The rave reviews, some published in notable dailies like The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, may have set the stage for an eventual nomination at the Oscars, which India has been unable to manage in the last 20 years.
“At the moment, no other foreign film is as talked about in the US as RRR, and that is thanks to the smart marketing strategy by the team, which has tried to set the base for an Oscar entry and eventual nomination to the top five,” Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema said.
The RRR team has tried to push the film in Western markets with the specific aim of an Oscar nomination, said a film producer. “It’s a focused strategy to reach out to the foreign press and audience and make sure the film is known in those markets, which would help the eventual decision,” the person said.
While older films like Aamir Khan’s Lagaan carried out marketing campaigns post selection by the jury in India, the idea is to make the film and brand Rajamouli appealing in advance, the person said, adding that the team is ensuring RRR doesn’t get dismissed as another “film from India with an arthouse look” and competing well enough with the marketing spends of Hollywood studios.
To be sure, the theatrical release of RRR has been aided by the OTT premiere across Netflix, ZEE5 and Disney+ Hotstar. Netflix has subtitled the film in 15 languages, including German, Spanish, French, Korean and Thai, bringing it to the global top 10 films in 64 countries across the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia- from the US, Brazil, the UK to Kenya, Italy, the UAE and Australia and New Zealand.
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