Sitarama Raju & Komaram Bheem: the real heroes behind Rajamouli’s “RRR”

The two tribal leaders, who had inspired the characters of the two main protagonists of SS Rajamouli’s hyper-heroic drama “RRR”, are subsumed in the filmmaker’s grand cinematic interpretation. The Fed maps the lives of these two real-life tribal rebels

Ram Charan and Rama Rao Junior play the characters of the real-life revolutionaries who faced off against the mighty British Empire in RRR

of SS Rajamouli RRRa pan-Indian celluloid extravaganza, which is doing good business at the box office, even pushing The Kashmir Files in second place, ends up eclipsing the lives of the legendary tribal leaders on whom it is based.

The film is of such enormous scale and ambition that it completely overlooks the true exploits of the real-life heroes, who were the inspiration behind this vast saga. These two tribal leaders, who had put up fierce resistance to the British with weapons like the “bow and arrow”, are however subsumed in this hyper-heroic drama. And, audiences outside the Telugu states, will not be more aware of the two real life revolutionaries – Alluri Sitarama Raju (1897-1924) and Komaram Bheem (1900-1940), after watching RRR.

Photos from the great saga of Rajamouli “RRR”

In fact, the lives of these two rebels, who rocked the British Empire, are inspiring. Both came from different regions, as Sitarama Raju had fought against the British Raj in the eastern border areas of Godavari and Vishakapatnam of the then Madras Presidency, which is currently in Andhra Pradesh, Komaram Bheem had locked horns with the British in the region that is Telangana today. The Federal follows the lives of these real-life heroes:

jungle hero


Alluri Sitarama Raju

Alluri Sitarama Raju, locally known as “manyam veerudu” (jungle hero), was born into a middle-class family in a village called Pandrangi in Vishakapatnam. In 1882, the British introduced the Madras Forest Act, which alienated the tribes from their home, the forests. The act was later renamed the Tamil Nadu Forest Act.

One of the main purposes of the law was to prevent forest dwellers from practicing slash-and-burn agriculture, known locally as the “podu” system of agriculture. Under this law, the tribe could only claim waterways, pastures, and forest products, but they could not clear forests for cultivation.

In order to oppose this law, the learned Sitarama Raju, who led an ascetic life and was always dressed in saffron, started mobilizing the tribals. He worked among them for many years, learned about their culture, educated the tribals, and was accepted as one of them.

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In 1922, he led Gudem’s rebellion by attacking Chintapalle police station in the coastal town of Vishakapatnam. But it wasn’t the first time he and his men ransacked police stations. For many years they continued to ambush police stations to assemble guns for their fight.

Unable to resist the guerrilla warfare of the tribals, the British called in the Malabar special reserve, which was trained in this type of warfare. They still couldn’t catch him for two years. In 1924 Sitarama Raju was captured and killed. This rebellion is also known as ‘manyam fituri’ and Rampa rebellion. In memory of Sitarama Raju, a life-size statue has been erected in many parts of PA. The film RRR also features a statue of this rebel in one of the scenes.

According to Dr. J Mangamma, biographer of Alluri Sitarama Raju, very little research has been done on this rebellion and not a single book is available in any language other than Telugu.

Fictional Facts

In RRR, the role of Sitarama Raju was played by Ram Charan. Rajamouli took creative license to mix fact with fiction in portraying Sitarama Raju. He was described as a policeman, which Sitarama Raju was not. His mission was to mobilize guns to fight the British Raj, which is shown in the film. Similarly, it is believed that Sitharama Raju had started using his lover Sita’s name as a prefix to his name after his untimely death. In the film, however, a languid Sita continues to wait for Raju.

Jal, Jangle, Jameen

Statue of Komara Bheem

Rama Rao junior, the other protagonist of RRR, played the role of Komaram Bheem. Bheem, a Gond leader, born in Sankepalli of Adilabad district in Telangana. He hadn’t had a proper education, but he had the fighting spirit to save the tribes from the clutches of the British, a trait he inherited from his father. His father was killed by forest agents because he was on the side of the tribals who were fighting for their rights.

In 1940, after his face-to-face with the men of the Nizam of Hyderabad, which results in the murder of an official by Bheem, he must flee. He finally reaches Assam and starts working in a tea plantation. Meanwhile, he hears about the exploits of Alluri Sitarama Raju but it is unknown if he tried to meet him or asked for his help. However, in RRR, Bheem seeks support from Sitarama Raju, which Rajamouli himself has admitted in interviews that is not what happened in real life.

In Assam, Bheem fights for the rights of tea plantation workers and ends up in prison. A few days later, he escapes from the dungeon and returns home. Subsequently, he made Jode Ghat his hiding place and continued the guerrilla war against the Nizams and the British between 1928 and 1940.

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It was at this time that he brandished the slogan “Jal, Jangle, Jameen” (water, forest and land), demanding the fundamental rights of the tribals. After three years of trying to track him down, the Nizam’s men find Bheem and kill him in 1940.

In RRR, Bheem is introduced as a Gond leader but his mission is different – he wants to rescue a Gond minor who has been taken by British authorities as a slave. When the teaser for the film was released, people objected without knowing that Bheem was wearing a Muslim skullcap.

Ram Charan and Rama Rao junior putting all their energy into the film to make it work, the film became a box office hit. It is expected that more literature and film about these tribal leaders will emerge in the near future. Already, a new Tamil book on Komaram Bheem written by Sahu and Allam Rajaiah, has been published by Chinthan Books. It was one of the most wanted books at the recent Chennai Book Fair.

As for movies, two Telugu movies have already been made about these icons. In 1974, Alluri Seetarama Raju by V Ramachandra Rao, came out and received a national award for best lyrics and in 1990 the film Komaram Bheem by Allani Sridhar came out and won two Nandi Awards.

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