From viral dance hit to Oscar winner, RRR’s ‘Naatu Naatu’ has a big night

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WASHINGTON (NPR) –  In a field full of heavy hitters — including Lady Gaga, Rihanna and perennial nominee Diane Warren — RRR‘s “Naatu Naatu” won best original song at Sunday’s Academy Awards, becoming the first-ever song from an Indian film to win the prize.

Songwriters M.M. Keeravani and Chandrabose received the Oscar statuettes, but the success of “Naatu Naatu” had many authors, from the stars who danced to it in RRR (N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan) to the vocalists who performed it (Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava) to the choreographer who helped make its video a viral sensation (Prem Rakshith). Unlike its fellow nominees for best original song, “Naatu Naatu” was central to the film from which it came; the song pops up an hour into RRR, soundtracking a fierce dance battle between the film’s main characters and a group of stuffy British colonizers.

“Naatu Naatu” was widely considered the frontrunner in this year’s field of nominees, which included Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” (from Top Gun: Maverick), Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” (from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Sofia Carson’s “Applause” (from Tell It Like a Woman) and Son Lux, David Byrne and Mitski’s “This Is a Life” (from Everything Everywhere All At Once). “Applause” was written by Diane Warren, who missed out on a competitive Oscar win for the 14th time without a victory.