If one were ever to count the number of musical sequences in films in the classic movie-musical tradition, the Indian film industry would almost certainly account for their multitude every year. But nominating an Indian lyricist for the Best Song Oscar? This last happened in 2008, when AR Rahman and lyricist Gulzar won for a song in the Danny Boyle-directed cross-cultural hit “Slumdog Millionaire”. When was the last time this happened with a song from a film that truly originated from Indian film culture? never And that’s one reason why there’s so much interest in the potential of “Natu Natu,” the shortlisted song from “RRR” over the tune’s Golden Globe nod: the opportunity for presentation.
But that’s nowhere near the main reason the song has such a vocal cheerleading squad in the U.S. It would be sheer joy, as the musical number that comes about a third of the way through the three-hour film is a dance. The sequence is almost universally recognized worldwide, as one of the most exhilarating scenes anyone has experienced at the movies in 2022. Such enthusiasm could be a dark horse for less than one of the final five slots for the song, even if not the win. If this year’s song contest can mirror the actual dance-off sequence in “RRR,” we might be able to slowly weed out some of the other candidates from the sheer exhaustion of keeping up with the year’s most obvious movie-music adrenaline blast.
“I didn’t expect this kind of response for this song, even in my wildest dreams,” says composer MM Kiravani, who penned the number with lyricist Chandrabose. “But as a paradoxical statement, it’s a dream come true.”
The “RRR” filmmaking team has TikTok to thank, in part, not only for the song’s global popularity but also how the homemade clips set to “Natu Natu” have propelled the movie’s US domestic box-off success out of the gate. Ahead of the film’s theatrical opening, TikTok users watched a short clip of lead actors Ram Charan and NT Rama Rao Jr.
“When I conceived the song ‘Natu Natu’,” says director SS Rajamouli, “Though both of them (actors) 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 – be Be it friends, mother and daughter, father and son, two brothers or two sisters – look at it and think, ‘Let’s try it.’ And they did; millions and millions of people were trying to do the steps and posting on it. When we released the song it became such a big event and it obviously increased public interest in the film.”
Kiravani says the beat has a lot to do with popularity — even though it’s so fast that, like a videography of a hummingbird’s wing, you almost have to slow down to recognize it. “The beat is 6/8 – it’s not heard very often from the West, but more often from India and sometimes from countries like Africa and the like,” says the composer. “Specifically, it is even a South Indian type of beat, not so much North Indian. And in ‘Natu Natu’ this beat took another level and another level of BPM (Beats Per Minute) which is rarely heard in the West. So that’s what initially caught the attention of Western audiences.” He also hinted at his singers: “I chose Rahul Sipliganj and Kala Bhairav to do justice to this tune and they gave their best. That’s why the song is what it is now.”
It is reported that Kiravani wrote 20 different songs for Rajamouli just to choose for that sequence. He’s not positive about the actual number, but after working with the director on every film he’s made — 12 over a 20-year span — Kiravani is happy to have a lot of potential picks. It comes naturally, however. “Some artists find it very difficult to come up with a second option. But I’m used to it because, thanks to my father, who forced me to do some hard work as a child to constantly make tunes. I am used to making tunes like children’s games. So that makes my job easier when the director wants to substitute a song. With this particular song ‘Natu Natu’ I think I lost count, but I made 10, 15, maybe 20 different tunes for this song.
He’ll admit it’s not his favorite of the six songs that make up the “RRR” soundtrack, the other five being less upbeat, more emotional numbers. “Let me be clear here: ‘Natu Natu’ is definitely my favorite song to watch. With my eyes closed, I don’t think I’m going to enjoy it that much. If it closes my eyes, my favorite song is the background song that I used as the central theme of the movie: it’s ‘Janani’, a song about mother and motherland, which goes like this…” He begins to sing part of it. On a zoom call – not a huge stretch, since it’s the only song he himself sang on the film’s soundtrack.
Director Rajamouli says that even before he set his constant musical collaborator to work on it, he was confused about how the upbeat song he envisioned would fit into a movie that, for Hollywood-style action bravura, had such a serious cultural context, India. Dealing with the brutality of colonizers in earlier eras. “It would be easy for any other film, but here, even though it is a fictional account, I am telling the audience that these two men are basically real freedom fighters. But luckily, I saw it mainly as an action sequence, not a dance sequence and turned it into a competition. By the time the song starts, we already want Rama to do something to defeat those (British bad) guys,” and taking on their friend in a dance competition is a mild foreshadowing of the more intense fight to come. “So I think that’s the biggest takeaway for me. is to incorporate how the song comes into the film without breaking the narrative. Because it’s a film that deals with a lot of brutality, and so you have to be careful about how you present the more absurd moments.”
Says the composer: “The song ‘Natu Natu’ makes you forget everything — and not just the audience watching the movie, but the characters in the story also make them forget everything that’s happening around them and give them value. Full attention to music. And the coda, the last part of the song, consists of so much endurance, you can’t just call it a song – it’s is An action sequence.” An action sequence that by the end, TikTok users can no longer recreate in their homes but will still watch in happy exhaustion.
You might think Kiravani himself would be tired after scoring 420 films over 33 years. He came close to admitting that the international acclaim for his “RRR” song and score has spurred him on. “This recognition makes me feel completely young again,” he says. “I feel motivated and I’m motivated again now. After working for 33 years, most people walk away and they look for a different job, because after all, you have to try different things in your life. But it gives me some motivation and energy to continue making music again, maybe try new styles and explore new horizons.”
when diversity Speaking to Kiravani via Zoom, she was at home, about to come to L.A. to make some FYC appearances — including one at a Chinese theater with her director and co-stars, together for the first time in America. “I think I’ll be constantly on cloud nine for the next few weeks,” he said.
He elaborated on what the song meant to all of them. “Let me disclose something here: I said every song except ‘Natu Natu’ (on ‘RRR’) is an emotional song. But because of the attention and recognition it brought to me and the ‘RRR’ team, you to be able to Sing an emotional song ‘Natu Natu’ – not for the world, but for the team.