Indian film RRR makes Oscars history with its Best Original Song nomination

The critically acclaimed South Indian production is already a box office hit

Telugu film RRR is set in 1920s India and stars Ram Charan, left, and N T Rama Rao Jr as revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem. AP
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Indian film RRR made history on Tuesday after it was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Original Song category for its title track Naatu Naatu. It's the first song from an Indian-made film to have been nominated for the award.

The Telugu film has been winning audiences and critics over since its release in March last year. Naatu Naatu won Best Original Song at the Golden Globes, beating Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Lady Gaga. The film also took home Best Song and Best Foreign Language Film at the Critics Choice Awards.

Naatu Naatu, which translates as Dance, Dance, is a track by Indian composer, record producer, singer and lyricist M M Keeravani, who was responsible for the film’s score, as well. The track is performed by singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava and written by Indian lyricist Chandrabose.

Also nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar are Applause from Tell It Like a Woman, Hold My Hand from Top Gun: Maverick, Lift Me Up from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and This Is a Life from Everything Everywhere All at Once.

While a historic nomination for Indian cinema, if Naatu Naatu wins the Oscar, it won’t be the first track written by Indian songwriters to do so.

Jai Ho, composed by A R Rahman for the film Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, won the Best Original Song Oscar at the 81st Academy Awards in 2009. However, Slumdog Millionaire was a British production, while RRR is an Indian one.

What is RRR about?

The film is a historical fantasy set in India in the 1920s during the country’s battle for independence from the British.

It presents an alternate history of real-life Indian revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju (played by Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (played by N T Rama Rao Jr), with a look at their friendship and fight against the British Raj.

Directed and co-written by S S Rajamouli, known for his epic action and fantasy films, RRR stands for Rise, Roar, Revolt. It is one of the most expensive Indian films ever made, reportedly costing 5.5 billion rupees ($67.6 million), but it has already made more than 12 billion rupees ($147 million) at the global box office, according to its producer DVV Entertainment. It has been dubbed and released in Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada among other languages.

The film is available for streaming on Netflix, and was in its top 10 list of most-viewed non-English films. It was viewed for more than “45 million hours" across the globe within its first month on the platform.

Other Indian nominees at the Academy Awards

Along with RRR, two more Indian-made documentaries have also been nominated for Oscars.

Hindi film All That Breathes, directed by Shaunak Sen, is up for Best Documentary Feature. It follows the story of two brothers who run a bird hospital. Tamil film The Elephant Whisperers, directed by Kartiki Gonsalves nominated for Best Documentary Short, is an endearing story about a couple in South India devoting their lives to caring for an orphaned baby elephant.

Should Keeravaani win the coveted award, he'll join a small group of Indian Oscar winners including Rahman, Bhanu Athaiya, who won Best Costume Design for Gandhi in 1983, and lyricist Gulzar and sound engineer Resul Pookutty, who won for Best Sound Mixing for Slumdog Millionaire in 2009.

The 95th Academy Awards will on March 12.

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Updated: January 25, 2023, 10:59 AM