RRR directed by SS Rajamouli has been praised for its depiction of the Indian freedom struggle. However, the movie also showcases elements of Hindutva, which is a Hindu nationalist ideology that has been linked to violence and discrimination against minority communities.
The movie presents Hindu iconography in a way that ties the saffron thread around the wrist of the history of India’s freedom struggle. Ram Charan, who plays Ram, is shown dressed as Lord Rama, the ultimate symbol of Indian masculinity fighting for the cause of freedom. Additionally, the scene with the two heroes holding the Vande Mataram flag is said to be simply goosebump-inducing and will stay in our minds forever.
The film is essentially a heart-melting story of two friends, Ram and Bheem. Ram is an officer with the British forces, while Bheem is the leader of his tribe from the Gond community. They display the Jai-Veeru “yeh dosti hum nahi todenge” archetype in all its glory. The Akhtar-Bheem dynamic works so well for the film’s politics of benign Hindutva. The inclusion of the Muslim community is complete when Bheem, living in a Muslim neighborhood, has been given asylum by a Muslim family. The family risks their own lives to help this Gond leader in his mission to rescue his tribe member and by extension, in his rebellion against the British empire.
Once Rajamouli has done the light work of Muslim representation, his singular focus remains on retelling of Indian freedom struggle nested in the world of Indian epic of Ramayana. The equal, heartwarming friendship between Ram and Akhtar takes a new dimension in the second half of the film. We have a tribal leader and a hero embodying the mainstream Hindutva icon, Lord Rama, fighting side by side against the British empire. Ram’s aim is to defeat the British and snatch freedom for his country. Bheem’s is to rescue Ram and deliver him to Seetha.
Overall, RRR is a visually stunning movie that ties the history of India’s freedom struggle with Hindu iconography. The inclusion of the Muslim community is subtle, but it does not detract from the focus on Hindutva. The movie is likely to make Hindus feel proud of their heritage and identity, but it has been criticized for promoting a nationalist ideology that excludes and marginalizes minority communities.