Rudhramadevi is currently on Netflix streaming in the US, unfortunately the original Telugu dubbed in Hindi. Anushka Shetty of Bahubali fame, plays queen Rudhramadevi. The coolest thing about this historical epic is that the main characters in this film are all based on real people. Rudhramadevi ruled in what is now Telegana, dying in 1295, and was one of the first reigning queens in India.
Gona Gannareddy (Allu Arjun) truly was a Robin Hood like figure supporting Radhrumadevi’s rule. [I read Mahesh Babu turned down the role.]
For some bizarre reason, the filmmakers frame the film by having Marco Polo narrate the story — to show how women ruling is a good thing, I guess. But the CGI of those opening scenes and the sailing ship, is just horrendous. At other points they use very cool animation drawings and I wish they’d just used those throughout, or drawings of maps.
The film Rudhramadevi supposes that when she was born the King’s chief adviser (Prakash Raj) suggests the birth of a son be announced to the kingdom, so the unruly populous and the feuding relatives angling to take over the throne will be assured there is a male heir. The young prince is raised in the forest and trained in warfare and sword fighting. The young actress who played the young Rudhramedeva was really good. She comes to court as a young teen for the first time, and meets two princes – Gona Gannareddy and Chalukya Veerabhadra. They escape the palace together, and she sees a statue of a woman, and realizes with shock that that’s what she looks like. She runs home, and in a stunning scene for an Indian film, finds her pants soaked with blood down to her ankles. She runs to her mother who tells her the truth. She is given the choice to become the princess, but chooses to continue to live as the prince heir of the kingdom.
As a now young man, she’s expected to marry, and Nithya Menon plays the young princess she marries. (Which totally made me think of Yentl, but she tells the princess she must remain celibate.) Rudhramadevi has strong feelings for her best friend Chalukya Veerabhadra (Rana Daggubati). He catches a glimpse of her outside the palace dressed as a woman, and becomes obsessed. He’s derelict in his war duties he’s so smitten, and she appears again to him as a woman, which gives us this fantastic love duet, one of the highlights of the film for me:
What I loved about the story is that Anushka Shetty as Rudhramadevi is a kick ass warrior queen, and she’s not going to run off to marry her lover when she has duties as queen. The whole story is so awesomely feminist and woman positive, and Anushka’s performance, especially in the fighting and battle scenes makes me even more excited for Bahubali 2.
The story is great, but the CGI is so bad that it takes you out of the film at times. I don’t understand why they had to use digital outdoor backdrops for several scenes. It seemed completely unnecessary. This film wanted to be what Bahubali achieved, but they didn’t have the same money to execute it.
This is an example of some of the worst effects. To show either Allu or Rana riding a horse, they were head on to the camera with their head horribly photoshopped on a repeating GIF of a body moving up and down on a fake horse head. Over and over and over. It looked SO bad. And they made it a poster! Ugh!
If I had a young daughter, this is a fantastic story of a warrior queen, but I’m not sure older more sophisticated kids could get past the bad special effects.
Still, a mostly enjoyable watch, with very cool characters, great action battles, and some nice song numbers. Kudos to Rana Daggubati for playing the Chris Pine to Anushka Shetty’s Wonder Woman.
Three stars out of five.
Check out Margaret’s take on Rudhramadevi on her blog Don’t Call It Bollywood. She delves much deeper into the gender politics the film.