SS Rajamouli’s Indian action-drama film now becomes an International hit turned global phenomenon. The film “RRR” was nominated for the two Golden Globes on Tuesday night. The movie may not become the best non-English-language picture in “Argentina, 1985” but nominated for the best original song and the viral sensation “Naatu Naatu.”
The song has come into the race like an underdog with the music superstars Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga. The director-songwriter Guillermo del Toro also competes in the category. On Tuesday, the miracle happens as the awards show that interest in “RRR” has picked up in recent weeks as the crowd-pleasing action-drama-musical cult status achieved serious awards attention.
M.M. Keeravani was picked up the Golden Globe as a composer-songwriter of the cult song. For those, the credit goes to his lyricists, arranger, family, and director-writer S.S. Rajamouli. The song’s Globes achievement increases anticipation that “Naatu” will become the rare song by Indian composers to get an Oscar nomination later this month. It has already made the Academy’s 15-song shortlist.
Backstage at the Globes, Keeravani was clearly processing the latest chapter of “RRR’s” unusual journey through Hollywood. “I feel amused, thrilled, excited,” he said. “I feel I am very grateful to the universe.”
Keeravani explained, “Naatu Naatu,”, and also added, “it’s a song of celebration. We all wanted to showcase in the song lots of stamina and energy.”
Ram Charan, S. S. Rajamouli, M. M. Keeravani, N. T. Rama Rao Jr. at the Q&A for “RRR” held at TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on January 9, 2023, in Los Angeles, California.Gilbert Flores for Variety
The night before the Globes, Rajamouli, Keeravani, and the film’s two leading men, Ram Charan and N.T. Rama Rao Jr. convened in America for the first time at a raucous screening at the Chinese Theatre, sponsored by the American Cinematheque and Beyond Fest. The screening had sold out within just over 90 seconds. The audience whooped and screamed throughout the three-hour-plus film, with dozens taking to the floor in front of the Chinese’s IMAX screen for a “Naatu Naatu” danceathon, before the final settling down for a nearly hour-long Q&A with the four guests. Filmmaker J.J. Abrams was a surprise guest introducing the Chinese screening.
Chinese’s Abrams called “RRR” he also added, “a film I love and a filmmaker I so admire. … I love its exuberance. I love its friendship. I love its heart. I love what it says about fighting for what’s right. I love the music. I love the insanity. The fever-dream madness of this movie is more fun than you’ll have in a theater — (more) than I can imagine having in any other film.”
Keeravani said, “I did not guess there would be this kind of response for this song, even in my dreams,”. “But as a paradoxical statement, it’s a dream coming true.”
The “RRR” filmmaking team has TikTok to thank, in part, not just for the global popularity of the song but for how homemade clips set to “Naatu Naatu” propelled the movie’s U.S. domestic box-off success right out of the gate. Well before the film’s theatrical opening, TikTok users had latched onto a short clip of lead actors Ram Charan and N. T. Rama Rao Jr. doing the peculiar dance step that characterizes the choreography and attempting their own versions of it.
“When I envisioned the ‘Naatu Naatu’ song,” said Rajamouli, “while both of them are great dancers, I didn’t want the steps to be so complicated that people can’t do it. It should be like any two people — whether it be friends, mother, and daughter, father, and son, two brothers or two sisters — would see it and feel like, ‘Let’s try this.’ And they did; millions and millions of people were trying to do the steps and posting on it. It became such a big phenomenon when we released the song, and it clearly public interest in the film.”
Keeravani says the beat holds a great deal to do with the popularity, although it’s so fast that, like videography of a hummingbird’s wings, you almost have to slow it down to recognize it. “The beat is 6/8 — that’s not very frequently heard from the West, but more frequently heard from India and sometimes from Africa and countries like that,” said the composer.
“To be precise, it’s even a South Indian kind of beat, not so much North Indian. And in ‘Naatu Naatu,’ this beat took another dimension and another level of BPM (beats per minute) which is very rarely heard in the West. So that’s what primarily got the attention of the Western audience.” He also points to his singers: “I picked Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava to do justice to this melody and they gave their best. That’s why the song is what it is now.”
At the Chinese Theatre the night before the Globes, Keeravani took in the thunderous crowd response and said, “It’s true that I have composed music for the movie ‘RRR,’ but the best music I have heard today is your laughs and applause… I wish to listen to that music on and on, again and again, and forever.”