All eyes in India will be on the Academy Awards as Naatu Naatu competes to win Best Original Song at the prestigious awards ceremony.
A track from the Telugu blockbuster RRR, short for Rise Roar Revolt, Naatu Naatu is the first Indian film song to be nominated for an Oscar.
Its singers are also set to perform at the Oscars, which will air Monday morning in India.
The song became a global sensation – inspiring endless Instagram reels and social media dance trends – after the film was released in the US last year, where its fast tempo and synchronized choreography were a hit. instant with the public.
Composed by MM Keeravani with lyrics penned by Chandrabose, Naatu Naatu already made history once in January when it won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, beating contenders like Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga. The same month, the song also won the Critics Choice Award for Best Song.
Its composers now hope to repeat their success at the Oscars.
“It’s not just because of the music or the dance – the whole story of RRR can be summed up in these 10 minutes of Naatu Naatu,” the film’s director, SS Rajamouli, told Vanity Fair.
A historical fantasy, starring superstars Ram Charan and Jr NTR in the lead roles, RRR tells the fictional story of two revolutionaries who struggle against British rule in India.
Rajamouli says he envisioned Naatu Naatu as a “fight scene” in which two freedom fighters bring a British officer to his knees – through dance.
“The song is a story within the larger story of the film,” the filmmaker said.
In 2020, when RRR was still in production, all Rajamouli told Keeravani was that he needed a song that would showcase his heroes’ dancing skills.
Keeravani then turned to his favorite lyricist Chandrabose and said, “Write whatever you want. But this story is set in the 1920s, so use era-appropriate words.”
With no melody or melody to work with, Chandrabose first came up with the hook line of “Naatu Naatu” which means “Dance, Dance” in Telugu.
He told BBC Telugu that he wrote an uptempo song with a fast beat, which he knew Keeravani preferred. The rhythm is commonly used in the folk songs of the two Telugu speaking states of India – Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Drawing inspiration from his childhood in Telangana, Chandrabose included several folk references – such as eating chilli with jowar roti (red sorghum bread) – in the song.
The majority of the song was completed in two days, Chandrabose said. But it took 19 months for the remaining part to come together.
Rajamouli and Keeravani credit much of Naatu Naatu’s success to the song’s choreographer, Prem Rakshit, who composed around 95 dance steps for the track.
“Each of them (the actors) has their own style,” Rajamouli said in a previous interview. “So he had to find something that suited them both.”
Rakshit said he did 30 versions of the signature step in which NTR Jr and Ram Charan dance with their arms around each other. The delightful sequence had to be further improvised after Charan asked the director “if there was anything they could do” with the costume.
The song ends with a marathon dance as all the dancers unleash a storm, slowly collapsing one by one from exhaustion until only the heroes are left standing.
Ram Charan and NTR Jr then turn to face off and a dance contest between the two heroes ensues. Rajamouli said he tried to define the film’s themes of friendship, rivalry and togetherness through the sequence.
Since the film’s release last year, fans have tried to replicate the intricate foot moves and catchy dance moves. At film screenings in Los Angeles, audiences were often seen rushing onto the stage to dance as the song played.
Even though the track was shot in front of the Mariinskyi Palace, a stunning navy blue structure in Ukraine, Rajamouli said his goal was to recreate the atmosphere of an Indian village. In past interviews, the director has confessed that people called him “crazy” for filming in a country on the brink of war.
The team shot the song for 15 days, working 12 hour days with 150 dancers and a crew of 200.
Rakshit said that every time he accepted a take, Rajamouli asked for “one more shot”.
“He went frame by frame to make sure we were in sync,” Charan said in an interview.
Almost a year after its release, the song continues to win over audiences. And with an Oscar nomination and a performance at the awards show, the excitement is at an all-time high.
As Charan said, “The song is no longer our song. It belongs to the public. People from different age groups and cultures have adopted it.”
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