'RRR' directed by Rajamouli, stars Ram Charan, Jr NTR, Alia Bhatt, Ajay Devgn and others.

Jr NTR as Komaram Bheem from RRR, wearing a Muslim skull cap and a pathani kurta-pyjama
news Controversy Friday, October 30, 2020 - 13:42

BJP MP and Adivasi leader Soyam Bapu Rao has threatened to burn down theatres if director Rajamouli continues to "distort history" and portray revolutionary icon Komaram Bheem as a Muslim in his upcoming film RRR.

“The film has already completed 40% of its shooting, but as there’s still 60% of it left -- remove the surma, skull cap and pyjama and try to show the genuine Komaram Bheem-- else we will see to that the film doesn’t get released. Even if it does, we won’t hesitate to burn down theatres,” the Adilabad MP said in an interview to a news channel. 

RRR is inspired by the stories of revolutionary leaders -- Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem -- played by Ram Charan Teja and Jr NTR respectively. The team of RRR recently unveiled the first look of Komaram Bheem character played by actor Jr NTR. The 1.32 minute promotional video, concludes with Bheem applying surma, wearing a tabeez (amulet), donning a Muslim skull cap and wearing a pathani kurta-pyjama. 

This led to a controversy about the appropriation of a revered Gond leader who started a guerilla warfare against the Nizam rule in Hyderabad state. Komaram Bheem fought against the Nizam tyrants 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.

While so far the criticism against the portrayal of Bheem as a Muslim was limited to social media, particularly by right-wing accounts, the threat of a sitting MP who is also leader of Adivasi Hakkula Porata Samithi-- a committee demanding decategorisation of Lambadas from the Scheduled Tribes list-- could spell trouble for the film.   

In the interview, Bapu Rao warned, “We have no objection if you want to highlight Komaram Bheem but if you hurt the sentiments of Adivasis, we won’t tolerate it. If you (Rajamouli) continue with ‘let Adivasis do whatever they want, I will do whatever I want’ kind of attitude, you will have to face serious consequences.”

The Adilabad MP said that it is offensive to “change the identity of Komaram Bheem to his killers.” Komaram Bheem was murdered by the Nizam army on October 27, 1940, after years of evading arrest. 

The BJP MP in the interview says that Komaram Bheem is a “Hindu” which others from the Adivasi community outrightly reject. Many Adivasis have asserted that their identity is distinct, and have been vigilant against the appropriation of their culture, deities and leaders into the Hindu fold.

While the right-wing paints history with a broad brush of Komaram Bheem, "a Hindu, fighting against Islamic rule,” journalist and founder of Adivasi Resurgence, Akash Poyam in his profile on the revolutionary leader writes, “These narratives argue that Bheem’s resentment against Nizam was because of ‘Islamic’ oppression on Hindus and destruction of Hindu culture. When Gond Adivasis are not even Hindus, how does Bheem become a Hindu icon leading the battle against ‘Islamist’ oppression?”

RRR was planned to be released in 10 Indian languages on January 8, 2021. However, the coronavirus pandemic affected the film’s schedule. Rajamouli recently clarified that the release date can only be confirmed after the shoot is completed.


Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.