India wins two Oscars for ‘Naatu Naatu’ and ‘The Elephant Whisperers’

Published : 13 Mar 2023 08:56 PM

The energetic song-and-dance number "Naatu Naatu" from Indian movie "RRR" was awarded the Oscar for best original song, beating competition from superstars Lady Gaga and Rihanna. Another Indian production, "The Elephant Whisperers", a tale of an orphaned elephant calf, won the Oscar for best documentary short.

Bollywood star Deepika Padukone was on hand at the Oscars on Sunday to introduce the performance of best original song nominee (and later winner) "Naatu Naatu,"from "RRR." 

In presenting the song, she noted its anti-colonialist themes - but it's also "a total banger," she said. 

The "Naatu Naatu" performance featured playback singers Kaala Bhairava and Rahul Sipligunj flanking a squadron of high-energy dancers. The film's lead actors, N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan, did not perform. The music "Naatu Naatu" was written by Keeravani and lyrics by Chandrabose. 

"It's just the beginning of everything," Keeravani said backstage. "For the world, particularly the Western world, folks are more on India and Asian music. It's just long due. I feel very happy to open doors and the world to embrace my culture." 

"Naatu Naatu" is the first song from an Indian film to earn a nomination and win in the best original song category.

Keeravani delighted the Oscar audience by saying he grew up listening to The Carpenters and then began singing the band's "Top of the World" with new lyrics, including "'RRR' has to win/Pride of every Indian." 

"Naatu Naatu" is one of the most memorable sequences from the the Telegu-language action epic "RRR" with its catchy tune and accompanying dance by actors Ram Charan and N.T. Rama Rao Jr. 

In a recent interview, the song writer Keeravani said he felt compelled to use the Oscars' platform to highlight other artists from India. 

"It's important so that more and more music and talented artists from my country can have a chance to get this kind of recognition, so that the world embraces India music more than ever," he said.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the dedicated team for winning two Oscars from Inidia. In a Twiteer post he said, India is "elated and proud" after scoring two Oscar wins on a historic night for Asian films.

"The popularity of 'Naatu Naatu' is global. It will be a song that will be remembered for years to come," Modi added.

"Congratulations to @mmkeeravaani, @boselyricist and the entire team for this prestigious honour," he said, referring to the team behind the winning song.

Modi also congratulated director Kartiki Gonsalves and producer Guneet Monga for helming the documentary "The Elephant Whisperers".

"Their work wonderfully highlights the importance of sustainable development and living in harmony with nature," Modi tweeted.

The field of nominees in the category included Lady Gaga's "Hold My Hand" from "Top Gun: Maverick" and Rihanna's "Lift Me Up" from "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever".

"Naatu Naatu" was shot outside Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky's official residence in 2021, before Russia's invasion, according to director SS Rajamouli.

Produced by southern India's Telugu-language film industry last March, "RRR" has become a huge hit, both in India and abroad, with moviegoers dancing in cinema aisles.

It tells the story of two colonial-era revolutionaries, featuring echoes of Hindu mythology alongside fighting, fire and action galore -- as well as gravity-defying stunts and even a punch-up with a tiger.

Set in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, "The Elephant Whisperers" tells the story of an orphaned elephant calf named Raghu who is put in the care of Bomman and Bellie, an indigenous couple.

The documentary celebrates the bond that develops between them as well as the natural beauty of their surroundings.

"Tonight is historic as this is the first ever Oscar for an Indian production," an elated Monga wrote on Twitter.