2023 Oscar for “Best Original Song” Goes to Telugu Ballad “Naatu Naatu,” Songwriter Visits FoCo


Vakiti Creations

Performers pose with the legendary songwriter, Chandrabose, who holds his prestigious OSCAR award. Audience members during the Sri Chandrabose Felicitation in Atlanta event were entertained all evening by various exceptional performances, some which were practiced and put together just days before.

Rathna Malapati, Assistant Clubs Editor

Naatu, a “local” Telugu word originating from South India, is now being spoken and heard throughout the world after a catchy Telugu ballad, “Naatu Naatu,” won the 2023 Oscar for Best Original Song.

The popular song is from the movie “RRR (Rise Roar Revolt)” (2022), directed by the famous director of “Baahubali” (2015), SS Rajamouli.

Repeated almost seven times, the term “Naatu” roughly translates to “local” or “native.” The entire song describes the lifestyle of a local person in a rural village situated in the Telugu region (present-day Andhra Pradesh and present-day Telangana). 

The song won the 2023 Academy Award (OSCAR) for “Best Original Song,” a Golden Globe Award and a Critic’s Choice Award, among others. The OSCAR awards were presented Sunday, March 12, 2023 to the song’s Music Director, M. Keeravani, and the lyric writer, Chandrabose.

The song appears in the film when the two heroes, Ram (Ram Charan) and Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.) attend a British party and join a dance competition, swinging their leg as the major dance step to the song.

M. Keeravani, SS Rajamouli (SSR) and Chandrabose have shared the credit with the singers Kaala Bhairava and Rahul Sipligunj, all the 40+ fabulous dancers and the noted choreographer, Prem Rakshith, who perfectly designed the popular “hook steps” among other movements to match SSR’s reasonable conditions of having a unique, popular dance move that the song would be noted for but would still be doable if the viewers wanted to try it. 

“He had to compose a step that would look great with two people doing it together,” Rajamouli stated, “but not so complicated that no one could do it.”

The choreography also had to comply with SSR’s condition of being a dramatic fighting scene, without any violence, but still have the same intensity.

“Naatu Naatu” was filmed in Ukraine, in front of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s residential palace, just a few months before the notorious Russian invasion. Over 15 takes were filmed, with over 350 dancers being there (most were extras), and Music Director, M. Keeravani, had composed over 20 versions of the song, which was finalized by a voting procedure by the RRR team.

“I give a lot of the credit to Rakshith. His choreography made the song. He is not just a choreographer — he understands the drama, the emotion of the scene, the nuances, the stardom of the actors, the requirements of the director, everything.” Rajamouli recently told Screen Daily.

Rajamouli, known for his perfectionism, would make the famed actors practice an over 12-hour rehearsal session each day for 15 days to make sure they could do it in perfect sync, one of the most important aspects of the song’s popularity.

Chandrabose, the lyricist of over 3,600 songs in his 28-year career, came to Atlanta on Tues., March 14, his first stop after winning the Oscar. At Forsyth County’s Lanier Tech Campus, he was welcomed and “Felicitated in Atlanta” by over seven Telugu and other Indian associations, including Telugu Association of Metro Atlanta (TAMA), Telugu Association of North America (TANA), American Progressive Telugu Association (APTA), etc.

While explaining his process of creating the lyrics of “Naatu Naatu,” Chandrabose told the crowd how he had a lot to consider when writing the song. He had to add words from dialects spoken in present-day Telangana to represent Bheem, one of the main characters, and words from present-day Andhra Pradesh, to represent Ram, the other main character.

He explained how, when entrusting Chandrabose with the task of writing the song, SS Rajamouli had several conditions for the lyrics: there should be no insults to the British with whom they were having the dance competition, and the song’s lyrics had to represent the movie’s time period of being in the early 1900s; the song couldn’t have any English words, but at the same time, people today should be able to understand the meaning and descriptions that the song employs. 

Chandrabose himself was surprised at how long it took him to write the song lyrics. He talked about how he came up with the first line as he was driving home, the day SSR designated him that task. He came up with over 90% of the song in about 45 minutes, but it took him over 19 months (mainly during the peak of the Pandemic) to come up with the remaining lyrics.

Still awed at his great accomplishment, Chandrabose also shared his belief that he was meant to have the OSCAR award. The unique number of the lyric writer’s OSCAR trophy was 4409, which when added, resulted in the number eight. 

“That was the same number of words in each line of ‘Naatu Naatu’,” he said during the ceremony in Atlanta.

Prior to becoming a songwriter, Chandrabose studied electrical and electronics engineering. When asked about how his education helped him write the song lyrics, he responded with a Telugu alliteration, which roughly translated to, “[My electrical (skills) invoked the scholar in me].”

Johns Creek Mayor John Bradberry and Sheriff Ron Freeman came to congratulate the legendary songwriter. 

“I never try to upscale a mayor, but he came straight to GA, and specifically Forsyth County. So on behalf of Forsyth County and the Forsyth County Sheriff’s office, welcome to the best place in GA, with the best Indian Community in GA, and the safest county in GA,” Freeman said. “Congratulations, sir, and what an accomplishment.”

Mayor John Bradberry of Johns Creek spoke as well. He congratulated the Oscar winner and he ended his time on stage saying the words everyone was waiting to hear: “Naatu Naatu!”