India enthuses over Oscars for ‘Naatu Naatu,’ elephant doc



HYDERABAD, India — India celebrated its two historic Academy Awards with enthusiasm befitting the high-energy best original song “Naatu Naatu.”

The dance anthem from the blockbuster Telugu-language action epic “RRR” is the first from an Indian film to earn a nomination and win and has dazzled audiences everywhere with its energetic tempo and choreography.

“The Elephant Whisperers” was named best short documentary at Sunday’s night’s ceremony in a first for an Indian production. The documentary, which is streaming on Netflix, follows the story of a couple in southern India who devote themselves to caring for an orphaned elephant and explores the bond between humans and animals.

“Congratulations India” trended on Twitter after “Naatu Naatu” by M.M. Keeravani and Chandrabose trumped the likes of Rihanna and Lady Gaga to win best original song.

In the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, where the predominant language is Telugu, fans were elated over the Telugu song’s global triumph. “It’s an incredible feeling. Finally, a Telugu film did it and we have won an Oscar,” rejoiced Venkata Ramanna, a software engineer, who described the win as “exhilarating.”

From Indian celebrities and politicians to cricketers and regular citizens, social media in India was awash with congratulations.

“#NaatuNaatu on top of the world!!!” cheered Chiranjeevi, a prominent Telugu film actor and former politician, on Twitter.

“Exceptional! The popularity of ‘Naatu Naatu’ is global,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He also congratulated the female duo behind “The Elephant Whisperers,” director Kartiki Gonsalves and producer Guneet Monga, for highlighting the “importance of sustainable development and living in harmony with nature.”

Monga tweeted that the award was “historic” for India and for women: “To all the women watching….The future is audacious and the future is here,” she wrote.

Licypriya Kangujam, a young climate activist in India, called the documentary win a proud moment for every environmentalist.

But the hashtags Naatu Naatu and RRR dominated social media feeds Monday.

The three-hour maximalist action epic is one of India’s most expensive and top-grossing films of all time and pairs two of the country’s biggest stars: N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan.

It also quickly climbed U.S. box-office charts before it found an even wider audience on Netflix, where it ranked among the top 10 non-English language films for weeks. The massively popular song also won a Golden Globe award in January.

“Naatu Naatu is an emotion across the globe,” Charan posted on Twitter as he congratulated the “RRR” team. “This award belongs to every Indian actor, technician and filmgoer,” he wrote.

The song was shot in August 2021 in front of Ukraine’s Mariinskyi Palace, the official residence of the president in Kyiv, months before Russia invaded the country. The crew took 15 days to shoot the music video, which featured around 50 dancers and up to 400 extras.

In an interview with Variety in January, director S.S. Rajamouli said he wanted to explore the movie’s anti-colonial themes in the song through an action sequence that saw the film’s two main Indian actors out-dance the British. He said he wanted choreography “that would look great with two people doing it together, but not so complicated that no-one could do it.”

The fast-paced dance steps quickly went viral, sparking a TikTok challenge where users attempted to recreate the acrobatic moves. The catchy tempo became an internet sensation, having racked up more than 122 million views on YouTube.

Backstage at the awards ceremony, Keeravani was emotional about the win. “It’s just the beginning of everything,” he said. “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.”

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