India enthuses over Oscars for 'Naatu Naatu,' elephant doc

Streaming HUBMarch 13, 2023

HYDERABAD, India (AP) — India celebrated its two historic Academy Awards with the high-energy Best Original Song “Naatu Naatu.”

The dance anthem of the blockbuster Telugu-language action epic “RRR” is the first Indian film to earn and win a nomination and has stunned audiences everywhere with its energetic tempo and choreography.

“The Elephant Whispers” was named Best Short Documentary for the first time ever for an Indian production at Sunday night’s ceremony. The documentary, which is streaming on Netflix, follows the story of a couple in southern India who dedicate themselves to caring for an orphaned elephant and explores the bond between humans and animals.

“Badhaai Ho Bharat” beat the likes of Rihanna and Lady Gaga to win Best Original Song on Twitter, followed by “Naatu Naatu” by MM Keeravani and Chandrabose.

In the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, where Telugu is the dominant language, fans were delighted by the global triumph of the Telugu song. “It’s an incredible feeling. Finally, a Telugu film did this and we won an Oscar,” exclaimed Venkat Ramanna, a software engineer, who described the win as “exhilarating”.

From Indian celebrities and politicians to cricketers and regular citizens, social media in India was abuzz with congratulations.

“#NaatuNaatu on top of the world!!!” Twitterati cheered Chiranjeevi, a prominent Telugu film actor and former politician.

“Extraordinary! The popularity of ‘Naatu Naatu’ is global,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

She also congratulated the female duo behind “The Elephant Whispers”, director Kartiki Gonsalves and producer Guneet Monga, for highlighting the “importance of sustainable development and living in harmony with nature”.

Monga tweeted that the award was “historic” for India and women: “To all the women watching….the future is audacious and the future is here,” she wrote.

Licypriya Kangujam, a young climate activist in India, called the documentary a proud moment for every environmentalist.

But the hashtags Naatu Naatu and RRR dominated social media feeds on Monday.

The three-hour maximalist action epic is one of India’s most expensive and highest-grossing films ever and stars two of the country’s biggest stars: NT Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan.

It quickly climbed the US box-office charts, where it ranked among the top 10 non-English-language films for weeks, before finding an even wider audience on Netflix. The widely popular song also won a Golden Globe Award in January.

“Naatu Naatu is a worldwide feeling,” posted Charan on Twitter as he congratulated the “RRR” team. He wrote, “This award belongs to every Indian actor, technician and film watcher.”

The song was shot in August 2021 in front of Ukraine’s Mariinsky Palace, the official residence of the president in Kiev, months before Russia invaded the country. The crew took 15 days to shoot the music video, which involved approximately 50 dancers and 400 extras.

In an interview with Variety in January, director SS Rajamouli said he wanted to explore the film’s anti-colonial themes in the song through an action sequence in which the film’s two lead Indian actors outwit the British. He said he wanted choreography “that looks great when two people do it together, but isn’t so complicated that no one can do it.”

The fast-paced dance steps quickly went viral, sparking a TikTok challenge where users attempted to recreate the acrobatic moves. The catchy motion became an internet sensation, garnering over 122 million views on YouTube.

Backstage at the award ceremony, Keeravani was emotional about the win. “This is the beginning of everything,” he said. “For the world, especially the western world, people are more on India and Asian music. It is still long overdue. I am very happy to open doors and the world to embrace my culture.


View more AP Academy Awards coverage


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