January 31, 2023

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‘RRR’ Director, Stars Conven for a raucous screening at Chinese Theatre

6 min read

There was a movie with a live audience, and then perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime experience that was Monday night’s Chinese theater screening of “RRR”, featuring director-writer SS Rajamouli, composer-lyricist MM Kiravani and the dual leads of NT Rama Rao Jr and Ram Charan for the first time. like coming together in America and a collective testimony to the determination of an exuberant American crowd to put the enthusiasm of any Indian audience to shame.

The 900-strong crowd, which sold out the screening in 93 seconds, seemed to drag it out before one of the actors quickly corrected himself. “Thank you so much for the love you showered on us,” Ram Charan told the crowd, sometimes shouting at the Chinese. “It’s better than the love we got from India… or equal to the love we got from India,” he added with a laugh, as the audience realized he didn’t want to get into any trouble back home.

Perhaps inevitably, the screening turned into a dance party for a few minutes at about the one-hour mark, as the viral musical number “Natu Natu” unfolded on screen and dozens of attendees ran onto the floor in front of the IMAX screen and did their own version of the hook-step dance that goes along with TikTok. became a global phenomenon in cinema. Such a scene came too late to influence any votes for the Golden Globes, where “Natu Natu” is up for best original song, but hearing more stories of audience hysteria over the number could turn into a tune for Oscars 15. Short list of final five nominated songs.

But ardent fans of the movie won’t be satisfied if it doesn’t go as far as the Oscars. Beyond Fest leader Spencer Hickman, who set up the screening with the American Cinematheque, made no secret of the fact that it was part fan frenzy, part FYC event. “There’s never been an Academy screening like this before!” he exclaimed between screams at the beginning. (Indeed, there were quite a few Oscar voters and journalists in the crowd.) “I don’t think this movie should stop with Best Original Song. I think we should go for the best picture.”

A surprise guest at the screening was filmmaker JJ Abrams, who opened the four-hour event well after the announced start time due to rain. “Floods are a nightmare. When you leave the theater tonight, you could be in Santa Monica,” Abrams said. “But thank you for being here to see ‘RRR,’ a movie I love and a filmmaker I love so much. This is a film, as many of you know, about two Indian revolutionaries. It is an epic. It’s huge. When I asked the SS how long the shooting was, I said, ‘It must be at least a hundred days.’” He replied: “328 days. … I like the exuberance of it. I love its friendship. I love her heart. I love what it says about fighting for what is right. I love music. I love madness. The fever-dream madness of this movie is more fun than you’ll find in a theater — (more) I can’t imagine being in any other movie. It is wonderful, and a privilege to be introduced to a man who himself is an Indian revolutionary.”

JJ Abrams at the Q&A for “RRR” held at the TCL Chinese Theater IMAX on January 9, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
Gilbert Flores for Variety

In his introduction before unspooling the film, Rajamouli asked how many people were watching his movies for the first time, a question that received a surprising show of hands of around 40%. “For those who haven’t seen it yet, I apologize for those who have already seen it,” he quipped. “They are quite a rowdy bunch. Sometimes they don’t let you hear what’s happening on the screen. Sometimes they won’t let you see what’s going on in this picture. So all I can say is, please come back and watch the film again. (The subtitle factor — about a fifth of the film is in English — helps with that.)

SS Rajamouli at the Q&A for “RRR” held at TCL Chinese Theater IMAX on January 9, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
Gilbert Flores for Variety

If anyone was wondering how many legitimate moments of applause could be worked into a film of only three hours (not counting an old-fashioned intermission, which is probably the longest men’s room line the Chinese have seen since the days of roadshow hiatus, for one thing), the answer is every 2-3 minutes. An average of about one. Although film enthusiasts are reluctant to consider the film camp, the violent colonialist British villains also had considerable rise. (Between the 1920s British meeting violent ending “RRR” and the hilarity-inducing rescue/revenge plot for Prince Harry’s reaction, this may not be the top moment to be a proud Brit in America.)

“The first objective is to make something spectacular,” the director said in a post-screening Q&A with Hickman, “to make something that gives the audience lots and lots of joy — for example, what we saw in theaters today . I don’t like to just entertain the audience. I want them to have a lot of fun. If they are angry, I want them to be very angry. When they smile, I want to smile a lot. So I want to give them the maximum enjoyment of watching the film.”

The extent to which this has happened in America – first with a theatrical experience, then on Netflix – has been surprising by any measure, mostly to still-shocked principals. NT Rama Rao Jr. said, “America was now a vacation destination. We used to come here for holidays, maybe to visit our family. But for the first time, America is no longer a vacation destination. …Thank you so much for seeing us as ourselves and not as someone from the East.”

Ram Charan, SS Rajamouli, MM Kiravani, NT Rama Rao Jr. at the Q&A for “RRR” held at TCL Chinese Theater IMAX on January 9, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
Gilbert Flores for Variety

The film marks the first time the two leads have worked together, though both have a history with the director. Rajamouli describes Rama Rao Jr. as the extrovert of the pair and Charan as the introvert, though “most of it starts with him. … We had a lot of fun on set, or maybe I should say they had a lot of fun on set. Many know that they are such naughty people on set. … Can you believe that these two people are superstars? They have millions of followers who are ready to die for these two men. they are married A father and a father to be. And these guys complain like kindergarten kids… and they go on and on, the whole set waits and the whole set breaks into laughter and the mood goes away. I used to complain a lot about it, but later I realized, because the film has been 353 days, and I always get lost in my thoughts… The unit takes energy from the director… But because of their mischief, laughter and energy, the joy they bring to the unit. , I think we could have done a better job. So it was wrong on my part to complain,” he admitted.

Asked what made “RRR” different from his previous films with the director, Rao Jr. said, “It’s always the same.” How so, asks Hickman? “Torture. Torture,” the actor repeated with a laugh. “The only difference was that I had a shoulder to cry on” in his long-time friend and colleague’s lead. “The way (Rajamouli) works, it’s a beautiful torture,” adds Charan.

SS Rajamouli at the Q&A for “RRR” held at TCL Chinese Theater IMAX on January 9, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
Gilbert Flores for Variety

Responding to a question about the many varieties of “RRR” hugs or skirts, from musicals to comedies to action films to historical dramas, the director said there is a demographic reason that many Indian films cross these lines. “This is the way of Indian cinema – it is one of the most affordable forms of entertainment for many people in my country. So going to the movies with the whole family is almost a ritual. … Directors started writing stories that had something for everyone — something for kids, for teenagers, for adults, for old people. So in that process, we developed all the genres,” he said, adding that the mix is ​​not random. “It’s not all done together” in a blender, he stresses. “There is a pattern to how one emotion can lead to another. You carry the audience over these waves, these peaks and valleys.”

Composer Kiravani was overwhelmed by the crowd response. “It is true that I have composed music for the film ‘RRR’, but the best music I have heard today is your laughter and applause… I want to hear that music again and again and forever.”

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