(This article is authored by Alar)
Naatu Naatu, the hit song from the Indian film RRR, has become a global sensation, winning the Best Original Song at the 2023 Oscars. But what's the story behind this catchy tune? It all started with the film's director, S.S. Rajamouli, who wanted a song that would capture the spirit of the film's two main characters, Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem.
The trio began working on the song in early 2021, with Rajamouli giving them some direction, Keeravani composed the music, while Chandrabose wrote the lyrics. They went through several iterations, trying different melodies and lyrics until they finally landed on the final version.
The song had already gone viral across the Globe, with millions of YouTube views and countless fan-made videos of people imitating the intricate dance moves. Before the Oscars honor, millions of heads bopped along with the addictive steps of the stars. The five-minute sequence played a crucial role in translating the South Indian film to an international audience, becoming one of the most exuberant moments in cinema of the year.
Director S.S. Rajamouli and choreographer Prem Rakshith were the creative minds behind the mirror dance moves featured in the scene. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Rajamouli explained how the dance number also doubles as an action sequence in the movie. He wanted an interlude that would drive the story forward while entertaining the audience.
The scene occurs at a fancy party where British police officer Raju has made friends with Bheem, a tribal rebel he is tasked with apprehending. Raju comes to Bheem's defence when some hostile Englishmen, led by Jake, try to throw them out of the party. Together, they teach the revellers the meaning of "naatu" in Telugu. Lyrically, the song's wild dance is compared to a green chilli, a dagger, and a bull "dancing in the dust of the fields."
Rajamouli envisioned more intricate choreography, with Bheem and Raju performing movements that were carbon copies of one another. Prem Rakshith, who has collaborated with Rajamouli for the past 15 years and has choreographed for dozens of films, was the man he turned to in order to make this idea a reality. Rakshith tried out a whopping one hundred different motions before settling on the select few—including a signature hook-step motion—that were most in sync with the athleticism of the two stars.
The major part of the "Naatu Naatu" sequence was filmed in Ukraine, with the Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv serving as the backdrop and many Ukrainian actors and dancers serving as cast members. The location was used for filming in 2021 as a workaround for the Covid regulations that had previously hampered production. Shooting the song in Ukraine allowed the filmmakers to take advantage of the scenic location to create a visually stunning scene, despite the fact that RRR is set in and around colonial Delhi.
Thanks in part to international OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, because of the way, foreign audiences who previously believed that all Indian films were over-the-top loud musicals have now been exposed to the diverse categories of content that exist in the country.