The song ‘Naatu Naatu’, from the wildly popular Telugu film RRR, made history at the 80th Golden Globes as it became the first Indian song to win the Best Original Song award. Composed by M M Keeravani, and sung by Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava, it is an energetic song featuring the film’s lead actors Ram Charan and Jr NTR.
Some of the other nominees in the category were Rihanna’s ‘Lift Me Up’ from Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Taylor Swift’s ‘Carolina’ from Where the Crawdads Sing and Lady Gaga’s ‘Hold My Hand’ from Top Gun: Maverick. RRR was also nominated in the Best Non-English Language film category but lost to Argentina 1985.
Directed by S S Rajamouli, who earlier made the Baahubali films which started the pan-Indian movie trend, RRR is an action drama of epic proportions. Set in 1920, it tells a fictionalised story of two real-life Indian revolutionaries, Alluri Sitharama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (Jr NTR). Even though the two never actually met, the film is centred around their friendship and how they overcome the odds during the freedom struggle.
‘Naatu Naatu’ comes at a pivotal point in the film: the two heroes are at a party hosted by the British elite and decide to show the British what ‘real dancing’ is all about. It is an assertion of their pride as Indians, and as some white people at the party enthusiastically take to the song, it is also an indication of how the tide is turning against the strictly enforced sense of superiority that the British had enforced on their colonial subjects.
What’s so special about ‘Naatu Naatu’?
‘Naatu Naatu’ is easily one of the tunes that defined 2022, globally. Its choreography went viral on various social media platforms, as people across the world tried to emulate the steps and energy of the original. Particularly, its virality on TikTok is considered a major reason for the film’s success in the American market.
“I did not guess there would be this kind of response for this song, even in my dreams,” its composer Keeravani told Variety. “But as a paradoxical statement, it’s a dream coming true.” It has been reported that he wrote 20 different songs for Rajamouli to choose from, just for the dance-off sequence. Keeravani added.
“The ‘Naatu Naatu’ song has to make you forget everything — and not just the viewer who is watching the movie, but the characters from the story, too, need to forget every other thing happening around them and pay their full attention towards the song. And the coda, the end part of the song, consists of so much stamina, you cannot call it merely a song — it is an action sequence.”
After winning the Golden Globe, the song’s lyricist Chandrabose told ANI “It’s a big deal for me…I
wrote 90% of the song within half a day and the rest 10% took 1.7 years. My effort, hard work and patience have paid off.”
Earlier, Keeravani had described the song as something that tests “the endurance and stamina” of the dancers. Jr NTR similarly joked about how Rajamouli had ‘tortured’ the dancers for days. “We shot that song for 12 days, and this man would torture us from 8-8, we would sleep at 11:30, and wake up at 5:30. This happened after 7 days of rehearsals. He was so hell-bent on synchronisation, watching on the monitor if the legs and hands went together, and I was like ‘Jesus, why are you doing this?’” he said.
Who are the people behind the song?
The song is composed by Keeravani, who went onstage to receive the Golden Globe. He is the cousin of director Rajamouli, and also composed songs for the Baahubali series. Keeravani has composed songs across Indian languages, and has previously won a National Award for the same. His Hindi compositions include ‘Tum mile dil khile’ (Criminal, 1995) and ‘Gali mein aaj chand nikla’ in Mahesh Bhatt’s Zakhm (1998).
Those speaking Tamil and Malayalam may know him as Margatha Mani, the name under which he is credited in the two industries.His son Kaala Bhairava is one of the two singers of ‘Naatu Naatu’, along with Rahul Siplingunj. Bhairava has sung for Telugu films such as Baahubali, Dear Comrade (2019) and Jersey (2019). Sipligunj started as an independent singer before he was noticed by Keeravani, and he went on to sing for films like Dammu, Eega and Maryada Ramanna. He has singing credits in over 50 films to date.
Director Rajamouli is also seeing global success, after receiving widespread recognition across India in the last few years. His Baahubali films have also been popular in Japan, as mentioned by the RRR cast often during their red-carpet interviews. He has been signed by the American talent agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which manages Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Zendaya among others, indicating an interest in actively working in Hollywood.