The young men said that they made the video to show Rajamouli and the audiences how Adivasi leader Komaram Bheem may have really looked.

Two images of the adivasi youth from the video made by themScreenshot from video
Flix Controversy Thursday, November 05, 2020 - 18:21

Adivasi youth from Komaram Bheem Asifabad district in Telangana have recreated the introduction video of Komaram Bheem’s character in RRR, to put forward their own perspective on the portrayal of the revered Gond leader. A video introducing the character, played by Jr NTR in SS Rajamouli’s upcoming magnum opus RRR (Roudram Ranam Rudhiram), has stirred a major controversy, as it briefly shows Bheem as a Muslim man.  

Many fans have attempted to recreate the character introduction videos of the two male leads in the film — Alluri Sitarama Raju (played by Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem — as a fan tribute to the two stars and the hugely popular director Rajamouli. Some of these videos have even been acknowledged by the filmmakers and shared on their official social media pages.  

The Adivasi youth from Komaram Bheem’s home district Asifabad, however, have recreated the video by changing the director’s narrative and creating their own. The original video shows Jr NTR in the role of Komaram Bheem applying surma, wearing a tabeez (amulet), donning an Islamic skull cap and wearing a pathani kurta-pyjama. This depiction appears for a few seconds at the end of the trailer while the rest shows him as a tribal leader.

In their version, the Adivasi youth show the leader in a pancha/dhoti, with a cloth turban wrapped around his head, which is the more common imagery associated with the leader in statues and artwork. The young man playing the role of Bheem is seen putting on a chain with a pendant of Komaram Bheem’s photo. The video ends with the makers holding up a portrait of Komaram Bheem. 

According to a Deccan Chronicle report, Vedma Venkatesh from Mangi village of Tiryani mandal is the one who has come up with the idea of creating the video. The video was shot by Venkatesh and his friends, using mobile phones and traditional clothes and weapons from their community.

Venkatesh was quoted saying that the group wanted to show SS Rajamouli and the audiences how Komaram Bheem may have looked in real life.

The official video from the RRR team has been opposed by many Adivasis, particularly members of the Gond tribe, who have expressed fear that the film may distort the story of the leader and portray him in an objectionable manner. Some of them have also critiqued the filmmaker for not consulting with Gond leaders or members of the tribe while making the film. 

On the other hand, the video has also seen strong objection on social media, from many right-wing accounts who have tried to claim that Komaram Bheem was Hindu and objecting to his portrayal as a Muslim man. Recently, BJP MP and Adivasi leader Soyam Bapu Rao threatened to burn down theatres unless Rajamouli removes the portions of the film portraying Bheem as a Muslim man. 

Komaram Bheem had fought against the Nizam rulers for heavily imposing taxes and committing brutalities against his community. The popular Adivasi slogan of ‘Jal Jangal Jameen’ (water, forest, land) is attributed to him.

Many people, including fans of Jr NTR and Rajamouli, have pointed out that Rajamouli has clearly stated in the past that the film is a fictionalised reimagining of history based on freedom fighters Alluri Sitarama Raju (from the coastal Andhra region) and Komaram Bheem (from the Adilabad region). 

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