A ‘Naatu Naatu’ Night at the Oscars: India Takes Home Two Statuettes at the 95th Academy Awards
- One of the highlights of the evening was the electrifying performance by Kaala Bhairava and Rahul Sipligunj who got the audience roaring and clapping to a standing ovation.
India made history at the 95th Academy Awards with two Oscar wins. ‘Naatu Naatu’ won Best original song from the Telegu blockbuster motion picture “RRR”, and “The Elephant Whisperers” won Best Documentary Short. However, the third Indian nominee, “All That Breathes,” up for Best Documentary Feature, directed by Shaunak Sen, lost to the political documentary thriller, “Navalny” – thus missing the 3 for 3 for India at the Oscars on Sunday, March 12.
The ‘Naatu Naatu’ fever pretty much enveloped the Dolby theatre at the very start of the show, with the dancers of the song (performing in the show) appearing on the stage on cue doing the Naatu moves in jest to physically shove winners off stage – after host, Jimmy Kimmel joked about the consequences winners would face if they had long speeches.
Later in the show, Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone presented the dance-busting number before the Oscars stage erupted in thumping footwork of the dancers to the now-famous Naatu Naatu choreography. Padukone said, “An irresistibly catchy chorus, electrifying beats, and killer dance moves to match have made this song a global sensation. It plays during a pivotal scene in “RRR,” a movie about the fictional account of the friendship between real-life Indian revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem. In addition to being sung in Telugu and illustrating the film’s anti-colonialist themes, it’s also a total banger. It’s earned millions of views on Youtube and TikTok.”
Singers Kaala Bhairava and Rahul Sipligunj belted the song on the Oscars stage and matched the dancers’ energy. It was an electrifying performance that got the audience roaring and clapping to a standing ovation.
Backstage in the winners’ room, Oscar winners M.M. Keeravani (music) and Chandrabose (lyrics) told American Kahani about the inspiration behind the song. “Naatu Naatu is the pure original cultural and genre of Indian music, particularly South Indian music which has a lot of percussions and the rustic texture of the music,” explained Keeravani. “And to bring it out with the beautiful words written by Chandrabose and beautiful steps composed by our choreographer Prem Rakshith. So it’s a great deal of teamwork, which brought us this far, and to win this greatest award.”
Chadrabose added, “And the lines I wrote in the song, all are the experience in my village.”
In his acceptance speech, Keeravani said, “I grew up listening to The Carpenters, and now here I am with the Oscars.” He then sang the melody of the 70s pop hit “Top of the World” (by The Carpenters) with his version of the lyrics: “There was only one wish on my mind…RRR has to win, pride of every Indian, and must put me on the top of the world.”
‘Naatu Naatu’ is the first Indian film song ever to win an Oscar.
When “The Elephant Whisperers” was announced as the winner of the Best Documentary Short, director Kartiki Gonsalves and producer Guneet Monga jumped out of their seats. “This is India’s first-ever film to win. And it’s two women from a country of 1.4 billion, and this is India’s first production to win. So very grateful for that, and thank you, Academy, thank you, Netflix, it means the world to us. And this is for Indian cinema, and this is for my country,” an ecstatic Monga told American Kahani.
“The Elephant Whisperers” revolves around Bomman and Belli, an Indigenous couple, and their orphaned elephants, Raghu and Ammu, that they help raise in the Theppakadu Elephant camp within the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in South India. Director Gonsalves spent five years following the couple and the calf elephants for her Netflix documentary.
A very grateful Gonsalves, in her acceptance speech, said, “I stand here today to speak for the sacred bond between us and our natural world. For the respect of Indigenous communities and empathy towards other living beings, we share our space with, and finally, for co-existence. Thank you to the Academy for recognizing our film, highlighting indigenous people and animals. To Netflix for believing in the power of the film. To Bomman and Bellie for sharing their sacred tribal wisdom. To Guneet, my producer, and Sikhya; to Douglas Blush [executive producer], my mentor; and my entire team. Finally, to my mother, father, and sister, who are up there somewhere. You are the center of my universe. To my motherland, India.”
Here’s the complete list of the 95th Oscar winners.