India roars at OscaRRRs: From ‘Naatu Naatu’ to ‘The Elephant Whisperers’

India roars at OscaRRRs: From ‘Naatu Naatu’ to ‘The Elephant Whisperers’

India scripted history at the 95th Academy Awards as Naatu Naatu from RRR won Best Original Song and The Elephant Whisperers won Best Documentary Short.

Adding icing to the cake, Deepika Padukone attended the award ceremony as a presenter. Deepika is the third Indian to present an Oscar after Persis Khambatta and Priyanka Chopra.

Naatu Naatu created history by becoming the first Indian track to win the Academy Award in the Best Original Song category. Sung by Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava, the song plays during a crucial scene in RRR, a movie about the friendship between real-life Indian revolutionaries – Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem.

Also read: Oscars 2023: ‘Naatu Naatu’ performance receives standing ovation

Standing ovation

Team RRR – including director SS Rajamouli and actors Ram Charan and Jr NTR – were at the awards and Naatu Naatu was performed live during the ceremony. Dressed in a black off-shoulder Louis Vuitton dress, Deepika introduced the performance, which received a standing ovation. She had to pause at least thrice in between owing to the loud cheers from the A-list audience while introducing the performance.

Deepika Padukone at the 95th Academy Awards ceremony.

For the over two-minute-long act, the organisers recreated the set of the song which was originally shot in the lawns of the Presidential Palace of Kyiv, Ukraine. The two male dancers – who were dressed as Ram Charan’s Ram and Jr NTR’s Bheem – were lip syncing the song. American dancer Lauren Gottlieb, who has worked extensively in the Indian film industry, was also part of the dance troupe.

In the category, the Telugu song was nominated alongside Applause from Tell It Like a WomanHold My Hand from Top GunMaverickLift Me Up from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and This Is a Life from Everything Everywhere All at Once.

RRR‘s winning spree

This is the third major international recognition for the chartbuster Naatu Naatu, composed by MM Keeravaani and penned by Chandrabose, after a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award.

RRR (Rise Roar Revolt), a pre-independence fictional story, follows two real-life Indian revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (Jr NTR) in the 1920s.

“There was only one wish on my mind…RRR has to win …the pride of every Indian…and it must put me on the top of the world,” said an ecstatic MM Keeravaani on the Oscars stage, as he went on to thank director SS Rajamouli.

Also read: After Gangnam, desi Naatu Naatu became global sensation; what explains it?

The composer made a special tribute to the music of The Carpenters, whose music had inspired him in his career, and sang his own take on their classic “Top of the World” number in his acceptance speech.

Modi hails RRR win

The official Twitter handle of RRR posted after the historic win: “We’re blessed that #RRRMovie is the first feature film to bring INDIA’s first ever #Oscar in the Best Song Category with #NaatuNaatu! No words can describe this surreal moment. (folded hands emoticon) Dedicating this to all our amazing fans across the world. THANK YOU!! (red hearts emoticons) JAI HIND!”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the Team RRR for their Oscar win. “Exceptional! The popularity of ‘Naatu Naatu’ is global. It will be a song that will be remembered for years to come. Congratulations to @mmkeeravaani @boselyricist and the entire team for this prestigious honour. India is elated and proud. #Oscars,” tweeted PM Modi.

‘Two women did this…’

Guneet Monga and Kartiki Gonsalves after receiving the award for The Elephant Whisperers in Documentary Short category.

Similarly, Tamil documentary, The Elephant Whisperers, created history by becoming the maiden Indian production to win in the Documentary Short Subject category. Directed by debutante Kartiki Gonsalves, the Netflix documentary bested Haulout, How Do You Measure a Year?, The Martha Mitchell Effect and Stranger at the Gate to scoop the trophy.

Also read: Deepika, 3 nominations, a live show: Catch India at Oscars 2023 on Monday

“I stand here today to speak for the sacred bond between us and our natural world, for the respect of indigenous communities, and empathy towards other living beings we share space with and finally, for coexistence,” Gonsalves said in her acceptance speech.

The director went on to thank the Academy, producer Guneet Monga, her family and dedicated the win to her “motherland India”. “Thank you to the Academy for recognising our film, highlighting indigenous people and animals… to Netflix for believing in the power of this… to Bomman and Belli for sharing their sacred tribal wisdom, to Guneet, my producer… my mentor and my entire team and finally, to my mother, father and sister who are up there somewhere and you are the centre of my universe, to my motherland India,” she added.

Glory for India

The Elephant Whisperers, in its 39-minute runtime, depicts an unbreakable bond between two abandoned elephant calves Raghu and Amu and their caretakers, Bomman and Belli. It is produced by Monga and Achin Jain of Sikhya Entertainment.

Monga didn’t say anything on stage but struck an exultant pose lifting the coveted golden statuette high up in the air. Moments later in an Instagram post, she described the Tamil documentary’s win as a moment of glory for India with “two women”.

Also read: Elephant Whisperers: This documentary, up for Oscars, is a triumph of empathy

“Tonight is historic as this is the first ever Oscar for an Indian production. India’s Glory with 2 women. Thank you Mom Dad Guruji Shukrana. To my Co-Producer Achin Jain, Team Sikhya, Netflix, Aloke, Sarafina, WME Bash Sanjana. My lovely Husband Sunny. Happy 3 months anniversary baby! Kartiki for bringing & weaving this story. To all the women watching. The future is audacious and the future is here. Lets go! Jai hind,” Monga wrote in her post.

Earlier, two India-set titles backed by foreign productions — Smile Pinki and Period. End of Sentence, won Oscars in the Documentary Short category. Monga was the executive producer on 2018’s Period.

Everything Everywhere All At Once sweeps awards

Michelle Yeoh celebrates after winning the Best Actress award.

Meanwhile, Everything Everywhere All At Once dominated the Oscars night and won seven awards out of the 11 it was nominated for, including Best Picture and Best Director for the Daniels. The film’s star Michelle Yeoh created history by winning Best Actress, as she’s the first Asian women to do so, beating the likes of Cate Blanchett who was nominated for her acclaimed turn in Tar. Her co-stars Key Huy Quan, who has swept the awards season, and Jamie Lee Curtis won Best Supporting Actor and Actress. Everything Everywhere All At Once also won Best Film Editing. The film also bagged the award in the Best Original Screenplay category.

Here’s the list of winners:

Best Picture: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Director: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Actress: Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Actor: Brendan Fraser, The Whale

Best Supporting Actress: Jamie Lee Curtis for Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan for Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Original Song: Naatu Naatu – RRR

Best Original Score: All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Original ScreenplayEverything Everywhere All at Once

Best Adapted Screenplay: Women Talking

Best Documentary Feature Film: Navalny

Best Documentary Short Subject: The Elephant Whisperers

Best Animated Feature FilmGuillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Best Animated Short Film: The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse

Best Live Action Short Film: An Irish Goodbye

Best International Feature Film: All Quiet On The Western Front (Germany)

Best CinematographyAll Quiet On The Western Front

Best Production Design: All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Sound: Top Gun: Maverick

Best Visual EffectsAvatar: The Way of Water

Best Costume Design: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Best Hair and MakeupThe Whale

Best Film Editing: Everything Everywhere All at Once

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