MUMBAI (Reuters) – Indians erupted in celebration on Monday after “Naatu Naatu,” the breakout hit from the action movie “RRR,” won the Academy Award for best original song, making history as the first movie from the country to win the honour.
The song – a fast-paced number that has found fans all over the world, spawned a TikTok challenge and has millions of views on YouTube – won a standing ovation when it was performed at the 95th Academy Awards on Sunday night.
Indians had won Oscars previously, but no Indian film had won an Academy Award before Sunday night in Los Angles. “RRR” and “The Elephant Whisperers,” which won best documentary short film, gave the country two Oscar-winning films in one night.
“No words can describe this surreal moment. Dedicating this to all our amazing fans across the world. THANK YOU!!,” the Twitter account for “RRR” posted.
Television showed images of people dancing to the song in the streets, minutes after the award was announced, even as #NaatuNaatu was a top trend on Twitter.
“The popularity of ‘Naatu Naatu’ is global. It will be a song that will be remembered for years to come,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on Twitter, congratulating the team behind the song.
“Entire India is proud. They have brought India to the world stage,” singer Prudhvi Chandra, one of the singers of “Naatu Naatu,” told the India Today news channel.
In the film, made in the South Indian language of Telugu, and directed by S.S. Rajamouli, “Naatu Naatu” begins when the two leads, played by Ram Charan and N.T. Rama Rao Jr., flaunt their dance skills after being bullied as the only Indian people invited to a British party in colonial times.
When a young British man aims racist insults at the leads, they decide to educate him using the song “Naatu Naatu.”
During the scene, which was filmed at Ukraine’s grand Mariinskyi Palace, everyone at the party, including the scoffing British man, tries to master the moves.
At the Oscars, composer M.M. Keeravani burst into song while accepting the award on stage, along with songwriter Chandrabose.
“I feel this is about just the beginning of everything so that the world ‑‑ particularly the Western World ‑‑ focuses more on Indian music and Asian music, which is long due,” Keeravani said backstage after winning the award.
“The Elephant Whisperers” is about a couple in South India who adopt a baby elephant and care for him.
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai additional reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles; editing by Jonathan Oatis)