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, kicking up a lot of dust and breaking all conventions. The whole thing ends in a real dance duel between Indians and English. The English women support the two rebels – to the dismay of their male compatriots.
Gigantic 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 film “RRR”, whose title stands for “Rise, Roar, Revolt” (Eng. “Get up, roar, rebel”). A mix of action film and musical, it tells the heavily fictionalized story of Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, who rebelled against British colonial rulers in the 1920s.
Composed by MM Keeravani, the track 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 Shortlisted for this year’s Oscars – and on March 12, MM Keeravani was actually able to 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 dust raising make the dance so attractive, as does the fact that it is a metaphor for defeating 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 produced in southern India , so-called Tollywood film in Telugu.
Most expensive Indian film production
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 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, about six months before the start of Russia’s war of aggression.
TM 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 . The city of Kyiv agreed after learning of director SS Rajamouli’s excellent reputation and realizing the film could be very successful.
As of January 15, “RRR” had been in Netflix’s top ten non-English language films for 16 weeks – longer than any other film. The film has grossed over $100 million since it opened in March 2022.
Adaptation From the English: Philipp Jedicke. The text was updated on 03/13/2023.