Indian song “Naatu Naatu” wins the Oscar


The high-energy song “Naatu Naatu” from the movie “RRR” went viral, beating out well-known competition from Lady Gaga and Rihanna at this year's Oscars.

The dance scene to the song “Naatu Naatu” in the Indian hit film “RRR”

< p>Two Indian men in western clothing are standing in front of a magnificent palace, surrounded by English ladies in sumptuous dresses and no less noble dressed gentlemen. The scene depicts a confrontation between English colonizers and their Indian subjects in early 20th century India.

“No salsa, no flamenco. Do you know Naatu?” the Indians ask as they start dancing, raising a lot of dust and breaking all conventions. The whole thing finally culminates in a real dance duel between Indians and English. The English women support the two rebels – to the dismay of their male compatriots ?wmode=transparent” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Giant worldwide success – also thanks to TikTok

“Naatu Naatu” means “dance, dance” in Telugu, a language spoken by more than 80 million people in southern India. The song of the same name comes from the movie “RRR”, the title of which stands for “Rise, Roar, Revolt”. It is a mix of action film and musical and tells the heavily fictionalized story of Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, who rebelled against the British colonial rulers in the 1920s.

M.M. Keeravani's piece won the Golden Globe for Best Movie Song in January 2023 and the Critics' Choice Awards a few days later. Then he made it onto the   shortlist for this year – and on March 12, M.M. Keeravani actually receive the coveted trophy: “Naatu Naatu” received the Oscar for best film song.

What is special about “Naatu Naatu”?

The song has an intoxicating energy. Parvathaneni Rambabu, founder of the Indian PR firm Cinejosh, writes on his website that the powerful kicks and the dust raising make the dance so appealing, as does the fact that it is a metaphor for represents the victory over the colonial power England.

Chris Willman describes “Naatu Naatu” in the film magazine “Variety” as “a dance sequence that is perceived worldwide as one of the most exciting scenes in movies of 2022”. The song is a “film music adrenaline rush”. His energy may have carried him away from the competition at the Oscars, where “Naatu Naatu” was up against entries from Lady Gaga and Rihanna.

One aspect that makes “Naatu Naatu” and its worldwide success so special for Indians is that “RRR” is not a Bollywood production from Mumbai, i.e. a film in Hindi, but one in southern India produced, so-called Tollywood film in Telugu.

Most expensive Indian film production

Indian film “RRR” gains worldwide success for song “Naatu Naatu”

In addition, “RRR” with a budget of the equivalent of 62 million euros is the most expensive Indian film to date. The dance scene for “Naatu Naatu” alone cost 1.7 million euros. It was filmed in front of the baroque Marienpalast in Kiev, the ceremonial residence of the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, about six months before the start of the Russian war of aggression.

T.M. Natarajan, who was in charge of choosing the locations for the film “RRR,” told Indian news website The News Minute that they had to negotiate with Kyiv city officials, including Mayor Vitali Klitschko, to get the filming permit to obtain. The city of Kyiv, after hearing about the excellent reputation of director S.S. Rajamouli and it became clear that the film could be very successful. 

As of January 15, “RRR” had been in the top ten non-English language movies on Netflix for 16 weeks – longer than any other film. The film has grossed over $100 million since it opened in March 2022.

Scene from “The Light That Dreams Are Made Of” by Pan Nalin


This text was adapted from English by Philipp Jedicke. It was updated on 3/13/23.