History is Made: ‘Naatu Naatu’ from RRR wins an Oscar, a first for an Indian song

'The Elephant Whisperers', about a tribal couple in Tamil Nadu, won in the Best Documentary Short Film category.

ByDeepthi Nandan

Published Mar 13, 2023 | 9:37 AM Updated Mar 13, 2023 | 2:19 PM

Naatu Naatu wins Oscar RRR

SS Rajamouli’s RRR team has just scripted history, winning the Best Original Song honour at the 95th Academy Awards for “Naatu Naatu“.

For music composer MM Keeravani and lyricist Chandrabose, it was a moment to cherish, as this is the first time an Indian song has won at the prestigious Oscars.

Besides winning the coveted award, the RRR team also performed at the Oscars Awards night at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

The only time Indians won and performed at the Academy Awards earlier was in 2009 when musical genius AR Rahman performed the immortal “Jai Ho” song from the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

Naatu Naatu” song winning at the Oscars was more special than Rahman’s “Jai Ho“, as it is part of a “typical” Indian movie replete with songs and drama, unlike Slumdog Millionaire, which was a UK production.

Also bringing Oscar honours to India on a glittering night was Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga’s Netflix documentary The Elephant Whisperers, which won in the Best Documentary Short Film category.

The 41-minute film follows the lives of Bomman and Bellie, a tribal couple in Tamil Nadu who devote their lives to caring for orphaned baby elephants.

Related: Indian singers, LA dancers for ‘Naatu Naatu’ Oscar show

Keervani renders a song

Keeravani and Chandrabose received the trophies at the ceremony. The music composer began his Oscar acceptance speech by thanking the Academy. “I grew up listening to the Carpenters. And now, here I’m with the Oscars.”

He took everyone present at the gala night by surprise by rendering a special song: “There was only one wish on my mind… So was Rajamouli’s and my family’s… RRR has to win… pride of every Indian. And must put me on the top of the world.”

He hummed these lines to the tune of “Top of The World” by The Carpenters. He ended his speech by thanking Karthikeya and Variance Films for making it possible.

Naatu Naatu performed on Oscars stage

Naatu Naatu wins Oscar

RRR Naatu Naatu performance at the Oscar Awards ceremony. (RRR/Twitter)

Before the Oscar announcement for ‘Naatu Naatu’, the splendour and flavour of Indian film music was on full display, as American actor-dancer Lauren Gottlieb, along with a team of dancers, performed the song, recreating the magic of the Rama Charan and Jr NTR duo, on the film world’s most prestigious stage.

Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo choreographed the song for the Oscars performance, while it was originally choreographed by Prem Rakshith, a popular choreographer from South India.

Upping India’s representation at the Oscars ceremony this year, Bollywood star Deepika Padukone introduced the “Naatu Naatu” song to the audience as a presenter before the performance.

“We are not just coming as RRR team, we are supporting our composer who has done 250 films. All of us are experiencing fan-boy moments at the Oscars. I’m excited to be part of the Oscars and watch the stars here, whom I grew up adoring. And coming to represent India at the Oscars is a pleasure and responsibility,” said Ram Charan speaking to the media before the commencement of the Oscars ceremony.

“‘Naatu Naatu’ has become so viral that I don’t feel like it’s my song but our song, it’s the people’s song. People from different cultures and age groups have owned it and they are doing a much better job than we did. They are taking it forward and they brought us to the Oscars,” Ram Charan added.

Also Read: 4 trophies for RRR at Hollywood Critics’ Association Awards

Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava sing on stage

Singer Kaala Bhairava is set to perform Naatu Naatu at Oscar 2023

Singer Kaala Bhairava along with Rahul Sipligunj performed “Naatu Naatu” live at the Oscars on 12 March. (Supplied)

Singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava, who sang the original version, performed live at the Oscars stage, scripting a new chapter in the history of Indian cinema and earning an indelible place for themselves in film legend.

Kaala Bhairava is the son of composer MM Keeravani.

Thanks to the energetic vocals of Rahul and Kaala Bhairava, the carefully designed set and the lighting effects, the performance of Naatu Naatu song evoked thumping applause from the audience at the Oscars.

Jr NTR, who sparkled in a black suit embossed with a tiger symbol, said that he would have loved to dance to the “Naatu Naatu” song on the Oscar stage, but prior commitments prevented him from doing so.

“I would have loved to perform the ‘Naatu Naatu‘ song. But, unfortunately, we had so many commitments back then. I didn’t want to perform the song on stage unprepared. You know, when you do it you need to give your 100 per cent. But I will dance after winning the Oscars,” said a visibly excited and cheerful Jr NTR speaking to Variety magazine’s correspondent before walking the red carpet.

Also Read: RRR, ‘Nattu Nattu’ win at Critics Choice Awards

Naatu Naatu‘ a viral hit

Naatu Naatu” has been a viral hit; its versions in multiple languages garnered more than a billion views until now on the official YouTube channels of Lahari Music and T Series, the music recording companies which own the music rights of the blockbuster RRR movie.

On the T Series YouTube channel, the Hindi version alone of this peppy song garnered more than 266 million views and a whopping 2.5 million likes, since it was uploaded on 11 April last year.

Naatu Naatu“, a dance number, has inspired millions to ape the Jr NTR and Ram Charan’s steps and make reels and shorts. Lakhs of ‘Naatu Naatu’ dance videos by fans cutting across regional and national boundaries have flooded the internet.

Related: ‘Naatu Naatu’ scripts history with Golden Globe win

Naatu Naatu: Awards galore

Even before making a nation of 1.4 billion people gung ho about Oscars glory, the RRR team had won the highly acclaimed Golden Globes.

The triumph of Keeravani’s racy and upbeat song at the 80th Annual Golden Globes Awards earlier this year ensured that world woke up to the RRR movie which was already a rage in India by then.

Jaws dropped as this Indian dance number beat the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna at the Golden Globes.

Continuing its dream run, the “Naatu Naatu” song finally won the Oscars, edging out Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick, “Applause” from Tell it Like a Woman, Rihanna’s “Lift me up“, and “This is a life” from Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Naatu Naatu” and RRR received unprecedented acclaim and support in the run-up to the Oscars as the moviegoers, cutting across borders, were thrilled with this larger-than-life Indian action drama.

The RRR team won the attention of Western media and movie lovers as even legendary directors James Cameron and Steven Spielberg appreciated the effort that went into making this quintessential Indian movie, which is full of dance, action, and melodrama.

As the red carpet gave way to an unusual champagne-coloured carpet at the Awards ceremony on Sunday night, the victory of a typical South Indian dance number signified the changing winds at the Oscars and hinted that the West is opening up to films from India.