Friday, April 19, 2024

Everything All at Once About “RRR” and How It May Have Saved the Suspenders Industry

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The global success of “RRR” or “Rise, Roar, Revolt,” has caught director S.S. Rajamouli by surprise he told me at the reception following a screening Thursday night at the Whitby Hotel on 56th Street. “But it’s a wonderful surprise,” he added.

The acclaimed Indian director stayed for the entire reception, posing for selfies and talking to anyone who approached. He had just received a standing ovation for his three hour-plus action spectacular, screened for a crowd that probably had never seen a Tollywood film before (including me). The audience stomped, laughed and cheered. “RRR” inspires that kind of reaction. Glorious excess that works. A tiger and wolf collide in an early scene. It gets crazier from there. (The screenplay is by Rajamouli’s 80 year-old father, V. Vijayendra Prasad.)

The movie features two of India’s biggest stars, Ram Charan and N.T. Rama Rao Jr., as two friends and rivals who clash but reunite to rescue a young kidnapped girl from sadistic British colonialists. It’s a sort of an Indian bromance with lots of spectacular battle scenes. And a fabulous dance sequence, the “Naatu Naatu” scene, where our heroes demonstrate they can dance as well as they fight. They wipe the floor with the racist English toffs who challenge them in a dance off and win over the adoration of the young ladies who soon join them in the exuberant moves. That scene had the audience cheering. Watch “RRR” on a big screen with an audience that surrenders to the over-the-top action scenes.

During the Q&A,  Rolling Stone writer David Fear, who turned out to be an amusing moderator, asked: “Can we tell them how many days it took to film this?”

“We shot it for 320 days,” Rajamouli said sheepishly. “I mean, I’m not proud that I shot it for (so long) …  I think my producers definitely are not proud that it took so long. I would like to do it much faster, but we don’t have second unit directors and third unit directors in India. So pretty much every sequence, every scene, almost every shot, I had to direct. So because that’s such a big film with such big episodes, I had to shoot one episode, take a break, prepare for the next episode, and shoot it so it is (a long process).”

After three hours viewing time there was not time to dissect even half of the scenes and how the director did them said Fear. But the Naatu Naatu dance scene, a stand out in a movie with so many, the choreography music and editing is so impeccable, how long did it take to choreograph, shoot and get the stars up to speed?

“Both of them are exceptionally good dancers and we had a great song to showcase their dancing skills and we had a beautiful scene that leads up to the dance and so it doesn’t feel like suddenly, a song is coming onto the action (out of nowhere) and it (works) with  the narration,” said the director.

“Everything is properly put in. But still, I would give most of the credit of the success of that song for the dance choreographer, Prem Rakshith. He’s my choreographer. He spent almost two months composing for that number. And just for the two (stars), three signature steps or the hook line steps, he composed more than 100 variations.

“And you wouldn’t believe me. He had four sets of assistants, two assistants each and he was composing the steps for 15, 20 steps, 15, 20 variations. And the assistants were having cramps in their legs and pain in the knees. He would take out one couple and bring in another couple and start composing (with them). The third couple or fourth couple had to go to the hospital because (of injuries). 

“So he was relentless in getting what he wanted and once the steps were composed, Tarak (aka Rama) and Charan, like I said, they’re great dancers. They didn’t need too much time to practice the steps. They got it quite fast, but they also had to practice a lot because I wanted them to do the steps in exact synch. So they would do the steps and they knew they did it perfectly, and I would say, ‘One more, one more, one more.’ They didn’t understand why I was asking one more. Tarak is the most vocal guy. Charan is a silent guy. He would ask Tarak to,’ Go check why he’s asking for so many takes.’

“Tarak would come and I would play the sequence and showed him at that point that there is (variation in speed). He said, ‘Everything seems perfect.” Then I would replay it back at 1/10th the speed and going slowly, I would say, ‘See?’

“At that point (he was) staring at me and he said, ‘I worked with you 15 years back. In this 15 years, I thought you would be better, but I think you’ve gone crazier.’

The dance sequence involves some funny business with suspenders. How that came about?”

Again the director credited the choreographer.

“He came to my wife, she designed the costumes (Rama Rajamoui). He sat with her, he asked her, ‘What is the costume? I want to see the costume.’ And he took the costume from her and he saw that the costume had suspenders…) Let’s make something with the suspenders. And he composed that dance sequence.”

Fear quipped, “I’m pretty sure that that sequence single-handedly saved the suspender industry. I’m sure sales have gone up 300%.”

Photo c2023 Elena Martirosov for Showbiz411

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