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

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HYDERABAD, India, March 13, (AP): 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.

M.M. Keeravaani, (left), and Chandrabose, winners of the award for best original song for ‘Naatu Naatu’ from ‘RRR’, pose. and Kartiki Gonsalves, (left), and Guneet Monga accept the award for best docu short film for ‘The Elephant Whisperer.’ (AP)

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 US box-office charts before it found an even wider audience on Netfl ix, 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.”

List of 2023 Oscar winners
LOS ANGELES, March 13, (AP): Oscar winners announced Sunday:
■ Best picture: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
■ Best actress: Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
■ Best actor: Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”
■ Best supporting actor: Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
■ Best supporting actress: Jamie Lee Curtis, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
■ Original song: “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR”
■ Film editing: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
■ Best director: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
■ Best animated feature: “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”
■ International feature film: “All Quiet on the Western Front” (Germany)
■ Documentary feature: “Navalny”
■ Live action short: “An Irish Goodbye”
■ Cinematography: James Friend, “All Quiet on the Western Front”
■ Makeup and hairstyling: “The Whale”
■ Costume design: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
■ Documentary short: “The Elephant Whisperers”
■ Animated short: “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”
■ Production design: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
■ Music (original score): Volker Bertelmann, “All Quiet on the Western Front”
■ Visual Effects: “Avatar: The Way of Water”
■ Original screenplay: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
■ Adapted screenplay: “Women Talking”
■ Sound: “Top Gun: Maverick”

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