The Academy confirmed it on Sunday night, when the heel-tapping “Naatu Naatu” from the Indian hit “RRR” won the Oscar for original song, creating history.
The catchy Telugu-language dance number from director S.S. Rajamouli’s crossover action hit, with music by composer M.M. Keeravani and lyrics by Chandrabose, is the first song from an Indian film to be nominated and win in its category.
“Thank you very much, Academy. “I grew up listening to the Carpenters, and now here I am with the Oscars,” Keeravani remarked before breaking into song: “There was just one hope on my head… ‘RRR’ needs to win, the pride of every Indian, and must put me on top of the world.”
Ram Charan, who appeared in the film, couldn’t stop smiling after Keeravani and Chandrabose won the Oscar for “Naatu Naatu.” With the song’s high-energy performance onstage tonight, it’s all felt “out-of-body,” Charan remarked as the “RRR” team flooded into the lobby, already planning their post-Oscars partying.
Earlier, in 2009, A.R. Rahman’s “Jai Ho” won the Oscar for best original song for Danny Boyle’s U.K. production “Slumdog Millionaire.” Nonetheless, across the category’s almost 90-year history, the great majority of winners have been English-language music from Hollywood films.
“RRR” stars N.T. Rama Rao Jr., a.k.a. Jr NTR, and Charan, whose charismatic lead turns in the 1920s-set anticolonialist epic are highlighted in the breathless number that had audiences dancing in the aisles throughout the film’s international theatrical runs and wildly popular U.S. rerelease, were among the film’s supporters.
The blockbuster song, translated as “Naacho Naacho” in Hindi, “Naattu Koothu” in Tamil, “Halli Naatu” in Kannada, and “Karinthol” in Malayalam, became a huge breakout tune when “RRR” frenzy swept the globe last year.
“Naatu Naatu,” performed by Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava, beat out songs from four English-language films to win the award: “Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” sung by pop icon Rihanna; “This Is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” performed by Mitski; “Applause” from “Tell It Like a Woman,” written by Diane Warren
Sipligunj and Bhairava made their Oscars debut on Sunday, singing the song with a troupe of dancers at the 95th Academy Awards, with director Rajamouli, actors Jr NTR and Charan, Keeravani and Chandrabose in the audience.
“Naatu Naatu” develops as freedom-fighting besties Komaram Bheem (Jr NTR) and Alluri Sitarama Raju (Charan) combine in a fast-paced dance-off against bullying British adversaries, shot over two weeks inside Ukraine’s presidential palace months before the Russian invasion.
The demanding dance performance, created by Prem Rakshith, lasts four minutes and has received over 500 million views on YouTube in various languages.