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What does ‘Naatu Naatu’ mean? The 'RRR' song just made Oscars history

The Telugu-language song has already gone viral, racking up millions of YouTube views and inspiring fans to imitate the dance sequence.
/ Source: TODAY

"Naatu Naatu," the irresistible standout track from the movie musical “RRR," has made history. On Sunday, March 12, the song became the first song from an Indian film to win best original song at the 2023 Oscars.

The jaw-dropping, choreography, which has racked up 123 million YouTube plays and launched a TikTok challenge, was brought to the stage at the 95th Academy Awards before composer M.M. Keeravani and lyricist Chandrabose accepted their Oscar.

"Thank you, Academy. I grew up listening to the Carpenters, and now here I am with the Oscars," Keeravani said at the start of his speech before he began to sing.

"'RRR' has to win, pride of every Indian, and must put me on the top of the world," he cheerfully sang to the crowd.

Clocking in at nearly five minutes of non-stop, energetic dance, it's easy to see why "Naatu Naatu" — whose name means "Dance Dance" in English — has gone viral.

Dance scene from "RRR"
The "Naatu Naatu" dance scene from "RRR."YouTube

The joyous tune is the first Telugu-language song to earn an Academy Award, and the first song from an Indian movie to land a nomination for the Academy Award in that category.

"Naatu Naatu" was just the second Indian song to be nominated at the Oscars for best original song, following “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire,” which won the award in 2009. The Dev Patel flick, which also won best picture, was technically a British-produced movie, Variety reports

Singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava performed the song at the 2023 Oscars, held at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

"RRR," which stands for "Rise! Roar! Revolt," is an action adventure following two real-life revolutionaries, Alluri Sitarama Raju (played Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.), who fought to liberate India from British colonial rule in the 1920s.

In the "Naatu Naatu" sequence, Rao and Charan's characters challenge their English foes to, well, a dance-off, in an effort to show their pride for their homeland.

Composer Keeravani told GoldDerby the characters' sentiments are reflected in the music.

“This is what we are, let us present ourselves with what we’ve learned, what we know, what we enjoyed in our childhood,” Keeravani said. "Let us enjoy this beat, this 6/8 signature beat talking about all the things we enjoy, all the things we feel energetic and feel high about, all the things that belong to the motherland, and everything about us. So just look at us. It’s kind of exhibiting and displaying and showcasing their inner energy, packed with lots of stamina.”

“RRR," currently available to stream on Netflix, is an international phenomenon, inspiring people to recreate the dance online — or just sing along. BTS member Jungkook recently made headlines for a video he posted of himself enjoying "Naatu Naatu."

Choreographer Prem Rakshith designed the song to be participatory, director SS Rajamouli told ScreenDaily.

“He had to compose a step that would look great with two people doing it together, but not so complicated that no-one could do it. We wanted people to imitate the steps," Rajamouli said. "We wanted brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, friends to see it and say, ‘That looks so fun, let’s try it’. And after a couple of tries, they should be able to do it. We wanted it to go viral on social media, and it took a lot of time (to choreograph).”

The upbeat track went up against nominees Rihanna, David Byrne, Diane Warren and Lady Gaga at the 2023 Oscars, but was a frontrunner to win.

In January “Naatu Naatu” made history as the first ever Asian song to win a Golden Globe, beating out competitors like Taylor Swift and Rihanna. 

NBC's 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Show
M.M. Keeravani accepting the award at the Golden Globes.Rich Polk/NBC / NBC via Getty Images

"This is the best news to wake up to," the "RRR" account tweeted.