As Monday Arrived and Memory of Oscars Night Receded, I Overheard My Son Humming Under Breath … ‘Naatu Naatu’
- Now, onto cracking the “Oscar code” for the best big 5 awards (Best Film, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay), recognizing that it is still a long and tedious trek for Indian filmmakers.
The Oscars this year were held on a Sunday that coincided with the daylight saving weekend. While all of us complained (at least a bit) about losing an hour, folks like me with children felt an extra pinch as we persuaded our youngster(s) to wind down their day and go to bed an hour earlier.
But just before my almost 13-year-old son scurried off to his room he spent a few minutes leaning against the family room wall catching the announcement of “RRR” (short for ‘Rise, Roar, Revolt’) winning the Best Original Song category for “Naatu Naatu.” “But Naatu should have won for best choreography,” he said. Of course, he doesn’t understand the significance of Indian film songs growing up in the U.S., but luckily, he has a sense of humor to comprehend the fun they bring to Desi vanilla lives.
“Naatu” winning the Oscar did not come as a surprise. The song’s award-winning momentum has been in the making for months and became even more pronounced as it won the best original song award at the Golden Globes this January. With over 125 million views on YouTube, the song became a viral sensation inspiring a TikTok challenge to recreate the high-energy dance moves. The song has not only been the centerpiece of “RRR” but has also found an enthusiastic showcasing at the Oscar performances as Deepika Padukone (looking much better than her “Pathaan” avatar) introduced the song amidst much cheering).
What is surprising though is that this was not the only win for India this year. “The Elephant Whisperers” was named the best short documentary last evening as well. It is the first Indian film to win in this category. Set in Mudumalai National Park in India, the film is a sensitive portrayal of how a couple saves and takes care of a baby elephant. It is a timely tale highlighting the importance of sustainable development and living in harmony with nature.
Both are being streamed by Netflix, which is a latecomer in India competing with 70-plus other streaming services. It is yet to see what this double win will do for Indian films, but it will most probably boost Netflix’s stature in India.
This is not only a double win but also the triumph of two contrasting streams of creative consciousness—the raw unfiltered regional talent and nationalist sentiments bereft of even a smidge of subtlety on one hand and a delicate portrayal of the bond of man and animal on another.
Cracking the “Oscar code” for the best big 5 awards (Best Film, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay) is still a long and tedious trek for Indian filmmakers reminding those attempting to do so of the importance of behind-the-scenes activities—a complicated web of marketing, an expensive publicity campaign, more screenings and building a buzz around the films. But it is no longer an impossible feat.
Since 2020, the Academy Awards has inaugurated new categories to make the Oscars more inclusive. ‘Representation’ is becoming increasingly important as is evident from the list of winners. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” dominated the Oscars this year making it a breakthrough night for Asian and Asian American representation. While a manic multiverse fantasy film might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the admiration for the actors winning the top spots is unanimous and gives the international film communities the will to continue making great films and sending them to the Oscars.
As Monday arrived the memory of the Oscars silently receded into the shadows as chores and work took over but when my son returned from school, I heard him humming a familiar tune as he hung his jacket up. “Naatu Naatu Naatu…”
Sreya Sarkar is a public policy analyst based out of Boston.