Unpacking the Crossover Mega-Success of ‘RRR’

If you STILL haven't seen the best film of the year, this is your sign! Run don't walk!
RRR K.K. Senthil Kumar

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that seeks to explain how the Indian blockbuster ‘RRR’ became a crossover hit.

There isn’t always one, clear-cut answer for why a film “breaks through” from one culture to another. Hollywood never, or at the very least rarely, thinks of its own crossover hits; the films that breached cultural boundaries and weaselled their way into a different nation’s cineplexes. Indeed, the discourse, if we want to call it that, of crossover cinema, tends to describe non-American films succeeding (despite the odds!) in Hollywood.

While American cinema-goers have more opportunities than ever before to explore the movies of other nations. Streaming and the normalization of subtitles (you know, that thing that the rest of the world is very, very used to), have allowed many film lovers to dip their toes across the international pond. There are still lighting-in-a-bottle hits, of course. Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite immediately springs to mind as a recent instance of the phenomenon (=with due respect to other cross-cultural Korean success stories — MotherTrain to BusanThe Handmaiden).

But, as the video essay below is quick to note, while lots of subtitled international films cross over to Western cinemas this rarely seems to happen with Indian Cinema. Despite the enormity of its cultural influence on home soil, Indian cinema has never really caught on in Hollywood. That is, until RRR, the Telugu-language historical epic/action adventure/love story about two bros from different sides of the tracks (N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan) who join forces to accomplish the same goal: saving a child and thwarting the oppression of their people).

As our own Chief Film Critic Rob Hunter notes in his review, RRR is the kind of larger than life blockbuster that rarely crosses the path of Western audiences: “Hollywood studios wouldn’t dream of attempting even half of what S.S. Rajamouli‘s wildly ambitious twelfth feature knocks out of the park, but that’s part of what makes the film such an overwhelming success.”

So whether you’ve seen RRR or you’re wondering what all the “crossover mega-hit” fuss is about, the video essay below is a gallant attempt to contextualize why the film has been such a big hit in the West. If you haven’t seen the film yet, (1) beware broad strokes story spoilers; (2) it’s streaming on Netflix — run, don’t walk!

Watch “RRR – The Biggest Blockbuster You’ve Never Heard Of”:

Who made this?

New York-based Patrick (H) Willems created this video essay on how RRR became a crossover hit. Willems has been making content on YouTube for the better part of a decade. You can find their own directorial efforts and their video essays on their channel here. You can also find Willems on Twitter here.

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    Meg Shields: Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.