How to Watch RRR and Rejoice in the Gospel

Movies like RRR tell stories that reveal our deepest longings. The gospel shows us how to watch RRR and rejoice that these longings are satisfied in Christ.

Editors’ note: 

RRR has depictions of violence and gore with moderately frightening and intense scenes. The movie is generally rated for viewers 16 years of age or older. Viewer discretion is advised.

There is no doubt that RRR, the epic Indian saga telling the story of two Indian revolutionaries, their fantastical friendship, and their grand struggle with the formidable British Raj, has had a profound impact on both Indian cinema and global film.

The prominent New York-based National Board of Review named it one of the best films of 2022, and the hit song, Naatu Naatu, is India’s official entry for the category of “Best Original Song” at the Oscars.

RRR is Japan’s highest-grossing foreign film and it has been viewed over 45 million times on Netflix.

With all its over-the-top outrageously exaggerated comically explosive melodrama, this film begs the question, “Why exactly did it succeed?”

Are we simply suckers for cinematically beautiful overacting? Maybe. Probably.

But the reality might be far more subtle. Besides its clear religious symbolism, maybe RRR reveals something about our greatest longings as humans and as Indians.

The movie picks up on the deepest inclinations of our hearts, ones that only the gospel can satisfy. How can we watch RRR, recognise these longings, and rejoice in the gospel?

The Longing for Intimate Friendship

Of course, the most obvious theme in RRR is friendship. The entire movie centers around the friendship of the two main characters—Raju and Bheem—played by Ram Charan and N.T. Rama Rao respectively.

One is a tribal villager attempting to save a girl from his native home. The other, a servant of the British Raj (covertly trying to take it down from within).

These two end up striking the unlikeliest of friendships. Their friendship embodies the proverb that “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Prov. 17:17).

We must walk wisely in the age of spectacle.

One of the less obvious inspirations for the friendship, according to the director S.S. Rajamouli, was the division between Andhra and Telangana. Here is what Rajamouli has to say about its characters in an interview with Variety, “I had this thought that Komaram Bheem is from the Telangana region and Alluri Sitarama Raju is from the Andhra region. So, if I can bring those two heroes together, it’s my way of saying we are one, we are not separate. . . .”

“We are one and not separate.” This sentiment echoes God’s delight, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1).

In the words of the apostle Paul, “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:2).

The film gives expression to the longing for intimate friendship, brotherhood, and sisterhood that we desire but often cannot find.

After all, God did not make us to feel divided among ourselves. He made us for fellowship with one another.

The Longing for “Unapologetic Heroism”

For Rajamouli, “RRR’s unapologetic action sequences and its unapologetic heroism” contributed to capturing the hearts of his audience.

“Unapologetic heroism” is an interesting phrase. It partially gets at the fact that all human beings look for inspiring heroes.

Indeed, Raju and Bheem are unrealistically perfect in their portrayal of character and integrity. Both are portrayed with ultimately heroic motivations—as if there is no shred of evil in their being.

There is no doubt the characters are significantly larger-than-life and unrealistic in just how “good” they truly are.

Movies like RRR may not be able to satisfy our deepest longings, but they can certainly reveal what they are.

As a major placeholder in Indian cinema, the “hero” is the ultimate embodiment of perfection. The “hero” (who is often always a man) is usually inhumanly strong, generally unbeatable, and always gets the girl.

He always overcomes any major setback thrown at him and we can generally rest assured that the hero cannot die. If ever he does die, it will usually always be in an act of glorious sacrifice, like Amar in Qurbani.

It is that kind of heroism that people desperately want. That is the kind of hero we aspire to be but the truth is that even on our best days, we cannot be that hero.

Perhaps that is why we flock to television shows and movies like RRR—to remind us that at least in a world of fantasy and enchantment, we can be greater than we really are.

The Longing for Unrestrained Wonder

It is important for all people—even more so, the disciples of Jesus—to walk in gracious and discerning wisdom when it comes to the culture.

There are many genuine and problematic issues with any movie and RRR is no exception.

RRR is very clearly a spectacle, and as followers of Jesus, we must walk wisely in the age of spectacle.

The theologian Kevin Vanhoozer puts it best when he says, “Culture is always in the process of spiritual formation. Culture cultivates; culture forms people to be producers and consumers of worldly goods. Many of the images in cultural circulation are the invention of marketing gurus who sell pictures of the good life: Of making secular gospels there is no end!”

Our CGI-induced movies perpetuate the culture of spectacle. We must be careful how we “feed” our imaginations.

As Vanhoozer also says: “a culture of spectacle serves mainly to cure boredom: to distract and entertain.”

Spectacle is designed to draw us away from the pain of the world and enamour us with a world that is not really there.

But the longing for spectacle and the desire for special effects also reveal something deep within the human heart—a longing for wonder and fascination.

To put it another way, heaven and the presence of God validates and redeems our longing for spectacular experiences.

However, just because movies can be distracting does not mean we have to watch them that way. There is no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

As followers of Jesus, even if we do engage the spectacle—in movies, books, or songs—we are invited to see through it to what is of ultimate value: the beautiful, spectacular person of Jesus.

We can ask our questions like this, “What does this movie reveal about what human beings really long for? How can those longings be ultimately satisfied in God?”

Our Longings Redeemed

The gospel is good news because the Lord Jesus Christ redeems all our deepest longings.

The gospel of Jesus points us to this great message: While we perverted these God-given longings and made them all about ourselves, Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for what we deserve for making these God-given longings all about ourselves.

Moreover, on the cross and through his resurrection, Jesus does not leave us hanging. He makes good on his promise to actually fulfil these longings through an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.

  • Our longing for intimate friendship is satisfied in him: “I do not call you servants any longer,” He says with tender warmth, “but I have called you friends” (John 15:15).
  • Our longing for unapologetic heroism is fulfilled in him: “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15).
  • Our longing for unrestrained wonder is realised in him: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3).

Movies like RRR may not be able to satisfy our deepest longings, but they can certainly reveal what they are.

As followers of Jesus, we must rightly question brokenness and idolatry in culture. Yet, we must also affirm the longings that all image-bearing human beings have and rightly point to Jesus as the fulfilment and perfect realisation of those longings.

As we do so, perhaps we might show the world that “He satisfies the longing soul and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Ps. 107:9-10).