Despite its snub for India’s Best International Feature selection, S.S. Rajamouli‘s international smash hit RRR continues rolling at full speed towards the Academy Awards. The film has officially launched its campaign and, as expected, its U.S. distributor Variance Films is seeking consideration in all major categories including Best Picture, Best Actor for its stars N.T. Rama Rou Jr. and Ram Charan, Best Supporting Actor for Ajay Devgn, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay among others.
RRR is aiming for similar success to another overseas giant in Parasite. Bong Joon Ho‘s landmark South Korean drama was an awards juggernaut, picking up not just an Oscar for Best International Film, but also becoming the first international film ever to win Best Picture. Rajamouli’s historical action epic musical also has the influence to get some serious attention from the Academy itself. The film has been lauded the world over for its ability to blend compelling storytelling with grand action sequences and catchy musical numbers, becoming one of India’s highest-grossing films worldwide at over $140 million. As soon as it was released on Netflix, things only got better for the film as it became the first film in Netflix’s history to trend globally for 14 weeks and easily grabbed the title of the biggest Indian film on the streamer.
Set in 1920s colonial India, RRR (Rise Roar Revolt) follows two legendary historical figures in Komaram Bheem (Rao Jr.) and Alluri Sitarama Raju (Charan). Although the pair never met in history, the film explores what would’ve happened had they been friends, with the pair meeting by chance to rescue a boy. The film follows their journey together, one full of over-the-top action setpieces as they ultimately look to fend off the encroaching British forces from their home.
Assuming RRR earns a nomination, it would be the first time a so-called Tollywood film has entered the Oscar race. That the film is even in this position is a testament to both the emerging influence of Telugu films, something Rajamouli spoke about at the Toronto International Film Festival, and the international appeal of the film. Despite the impact it had in the West, there’s still a tough road ahead for the film. Few Indian films have ever been nominated by the Academy, all of which were Best International Feature nods in Mother India, Salaam Bombay!, and Lagaan, and none have ever won.
In terms of getting nominated, there is at least some recent precedent for international films forsaken by their respective country. Last year saw Spanish drama Parallel Mothers pick up a Best Director nomination. That film made a lot of critics’ year-end top 10 lists for 2021, but RRR has it trumped in pure worldwide influence. It’s one of the few purely Indian films to earn praise from big names in the west and its impact has even earned comparisons to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, another international actioner that resonated heavily with western audiences and became the highest-grossing foreign film ever in the U.S.
RRR is currently streaming on Netflix See the full list of categories the film is pushing for at the 2023 Academy Awards below.