Road to the Oscars 2023: Why “Naatu Naatu” could beat Rihanna and Lady Gaga for Best Original Song


In the category of Best Original Song at Sunday night’s Oscars, the nominees include songs by pop superstars Rihanna and Lady Gaga, rock star David Byrne and legendary songwriter Diane Warren, plus one outlier: “Naatu Naatu,” from the Indian film RRR. 

The first song from an Indian film to be nominated in this category, “Naatu Naatu” is sung in the Indian language of Telugu and is the centerpiece of the film’s critically acclaimed dance number. It’s already won the Golden Globe and the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Original Song. Many feel it also deserves the Oscar because, unlike the other nominated songs, it’s part of the plot.

RRR is about the friendship between two Indian revolutionaries during the time the British ruled India. “Naatu Naatu” soundtracks an important scene in which the main characters, Raju and Bheem, are insulted by a rude Englishman. Instead of fighting him, they dance him under the table.

“That is one of the reasons it has great emotion,” Ram Charan, who plays Raju, tells ABC Audio. “And that’s why you’re enjoying the steps and enjoying that song.” Charan says the title “Naatu Naatu” means “local local” or “rootedness,” in terms of being “rooted” in the Indian soil.

The song is being performed at the Oscars this Sunday, but Charan says he doesn’t know if he’ll be doing the dance.

“I would love to do it,” says Charan. “It’s like giving back to the audience … a way of saying a big ‘thank you’ to everybody across the world.”

What Charan is sure about is that he’s going to have a “fanboy moment” on the red carpet and will be excited that, as he says, “I am actually witnessing this and experiencing this — and I’m so grateful to God for that.” 

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