Op/Ed: Consider taking refuge in the highly entertaining films of southern India

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By Eric Klein, Special to The Times

Eric Klein

In the quiet hamlets of southeast Pennsylvania, there’s not a whole lot of action. The former farmlands turned to residential neighborhoods don’t offer much excitement.

Fortunately, we do have an IMAX movie theater in Downingtown, PA (population 7,926). I was very pleased to discover that this theater is heavily patronized by a growing Indian population from nearby Exton, PA. Why get excited over foreign films? Because Indian films of today offer an inspirational window to another world. Isn’t that the universal appeal of movies?

With Hollywood churning out the same old Marvel junk, it was refreshing to see a film that actually put me on the edge of my seat.

Thanks to my immigrant neighbors, the long reach of Tollywood (this is Telugu cinema, sorry Bollywood, better luck next time) gave me the opportunity to witness “RRR” — Rise, Roar, Revolt. RRR blends historical legends with fantasy uprisings against the British Empire in the early 1900’s. What a perfect villain for an American audience!

At this point, who doesn’t want to see a thrilling uprising of subjugated people against white, imperial overlords? Yes, these films have nationalistic overtones, as commentary in The Washington Post points out. But, if the target is British colonialism instead of a Muslim minority, I can get behind this nationalist sentiment. From my American perspective, RRR primarily is about the power of friendship set in the context of an Indian nationalistic fantasy. I appreciated the lack of CGI for the fight scenes and the abundant use of slow motion. The heroes certainly exhibit super-human abilities but these feats come from their raw determination instead of a spider bite or a magical ring. Anyone who has ever been bullied dreams of overpowering their oppressor and this is the theme where RRR really delivers.

From the theater’s point of view, RRR seems to have been a great success. Every seat was filled both times I saw the film. The pulsating, choreographed dance scenes and musical numbers were so engrossing, I had to see the film twice. If only I could speak Telugu, I’d already have the songs memorized!

Worldwide, RRR earned an estimated $88 million within six days of theatrical release on March 25, 2022 (it generated $12 million-plus in domestic box office in 11 days).

The Downingtown IMAX had multiple showings in multiple Indian languages, outnumbering any Hollywood film. If you ask me, this imbalance is completely justified. And the hits keep coming. While other Indian films are setting records like the gangster film KGF 2 (gross revenue $120 million), some Hollywood films with large budgets are falling short of expectations. The highly acclaimed “Northman,” for example, is currently at $51.5 million worldwide.

With so much to worry about in the world today, we can at least take refuge in the highly entertaining films of southern India. Even if you live in a tiny Pennsylvanian town, you too can virtually escape to the Indian subcontinent. I may not understand all the subtle nuances of Indian culture, but I can still thoroughly enjoy the universal language of action and drama. I am counting down the months until I can buy my ticket for “Pushpa 2: The Rule.”

Eric Klein is a resident of Coatesville, PA and works for the Organic Mechanics Soil Company.

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3 Comments

  1. Ken says:

    Great snapshot of small-town Americana movie-going trends (in Downingtown). I wish “RRR” was still in theaters!

  2. Sara says:

    Such a good read and very insightful. Thanks for the new point of view!

  3. Dennis Bassich says:

    I’m going to share this article with my friends in Downingtown. Thank you Eric Klein!

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