How Naatu Naatu evokes life in the countryside, and a sense of identity

How Naatu Naatu evokes life in the countryside, and a sense of identity

Composed in the manner of a traditional Telugu folk song, the number from RRR serves as an anthem of strength and hope during times of oppression and injustice

At the 95th Academy Awards held on March 12, the Telugu song Naatu Naatu by music composer MM Keeravani and lyricist Chandrabose from the film RRR, directed by SS Rajamouli won the awards in the Best Original Song category. While most of the world is celebrating the win with much love and gusto, some of us in India, including film critics, argue that there is nothing special about the song and is simply not deserving of the honour. This piece is an attempt to dispel any doubts of its worthiness.

Naatu Naatu celebrates life in the countryside. The lyrics are simple yet evocative, using metaphors to paint images of rustic life. The song is an aural masterwork with rhyme and rhythm par excellence. The short lines and abundant use of alliteration in the song lends it a musical quality which the music composer foregrounds and allows to crackle like fireworks. The song is a sublime sensory experience for the listener.

Extraordinary sensory experience

All the five senses — sight, sound, smell, taste and touch — arrest the attention of the listener (as well as the viewer). The repetitive nature of the chorus Naatu Naatu adds a hypnotic quality to the song, even making it easy to sing along, the greatest achievement a songwriter would aspire to accomplish. Overall, the lyrical quality of the song is poetic, picturesque and reflective of the beauty of the rustic lifestyle of the Indian countryside.

Also read: Oscars 2023: ‘Naatu Naatu’ creates history, wins Best Original Song

The song evokes feelings of nostalgia, happiness, and a connection to one’s cultural roots. The lyrics and vocals evoke vivid images and emotions associated with rural life and nature, which stir up feelings of joy, longing as well as a sense of identity. The sensory experience of the song is beyond ordinary. With the multifarious dance sequences and  POV shots SS Rajamouli has created a carnivalesque canvas.

The repetitive nature of the chorus Naatu Naatu adds a hypnotic quality to the song.

A poetic transcreation

Here I take the liberty to offer a poetic transcreation of the first stanza of the song for those who do not understand the Telugu language and, thereby, the cultural nuances rendered therein.

Like the leap and the landing
Of a now young bull
In dry earth
Along the edge of the fields

Like the hysterical dance
Of the human deity painted yellow and red
In the centre of an electrified gathering
At the altar of the village goddess

Like the trained swirl of cane
In the ancient art of stick-fight
Fought sporting
Squeaky sandals of animal hide

Like ecstatic lads making merry
In the shade of a banyan tree

Like the awakening of taste buds
When flatbread made of red sorghum
Is eaten with hand-ground red chili chutney

Listen to my song
O listen to my song

Rustic, rustic, rustic, truly rustic
Rustic, rustic, rustic, crazy rustic

Rustic like the heat of a green chili
Rustic like the edge of a handmade dagger

Also read: What is the meaning of ‘Naatu Naatu’?

An anthem of strength, hope

Naatu Naatu is composed in the manner of the traditional Telugu folk song. The music has elements of rhythm and melody that create a sense of energy and involvement. The song is composed with an upbeat tempo which reflects the strength and courage of the colonized people to keep going despite the struggles they face. The song also emphasizes the importance of unity and solidarity among the colonized people. It serves as an anthem of strength and hope during times of oppression and injustice.

The poetic value of Naatu Naatu is its ability to evoke emotion within its listeners. The lyrical content of the song speaks of everyday aspects of rural life in India like fun, food and festivals which can be connected to by people of all ages. Truly, Chandrabose and MM Keeravani have spun magic together.

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