Days after ‘Naatu Naatu’ won the Oscar for the Best Original Song, searches for the Telugu dance track on Google have increased by 1,105% worldwide

But some people look at it as Hollywood’s design to woo India, a market of 1.4 billion people with passionate interest in cinema. This is akin to India winning at the Miss Universe pageant and the Luddites starting their theory of cosmetic companies setting eyes on the dark-skinned, fair-skin obsessed India and that the crown was just a way to make their presence felt. The chatterati will go on an overdrive tweeting or engage themselves in social discussion forums such as Quora.

Frankly, there does not seem to be any big deal in the song Naatu Naatu winning at the Oscars. All that the Oscars ask for is that the song must be: Clearly audible, intelligible, substantive rendition (not necessarily visually presented) of both lyric and melody, used in the body of the motion picture or as the first music cue in the end credits. Simple, no? The song ticks off all the boxes in the above list. Then, of course, comes the look and feel of the song.

The song took 19 months from start to finish. Composer Keeravani came up with 11 tune variations for the song. Lyricist Chandrabose took 21 months to write the lyrics in two phases. Choreographer Prem Rakshit conceived 87 hook steps for the Naatu Naatu phrase. The actors took 12 days and over 165 full dance rehearsals before it was filmed.

Actor Jr NTR, one of the dancers of the iconic song recalls how he and Ram Charan, the co-actor of the film RRR, rehearsed and shot from 8 am to 8 pm only to end the day with more rehearsals. The actor said his body still hurts from all the dancing he did for the song. The result is there for all to see. The song Naatu Naatu is rocking the world.

The Telugu song released on November 10, 2021 and recorded at JB Studios, Hyderabad is a 3.36-minute song with pop, folk, western and classical tunes composed by music director M.M. Keeravani, written by Chandrabose and sung by Rahul Sipiligunj and Kalabhairava.

It has every element that music lovers want. It has a catchy, foot-tapping beat. The tempo builds up at a rapid pace to keep you on your toes. The high-energy vibe of the song coupled with easy lyrics and in-sync dance movements won everyone's hearts.

One need not know the language, the actors, or the movie to enjoy a song. Recently, the diplomatic staff at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea danced to Naatu Naatu song at their New Delhi-based embassy. Music has no boundaries, a universal language indeed. A video of American pop sensation Lady Gaga, who was also the nominee from the same category, cheering the RRR team the loudest has been killing the internet.

India has been making musicals for over 90 years since the release of Alam Ara in 1931.

The big question is why this song and why now? Cut to 2020, the year the pandemic shook the world. While the world's biggest cinema industry - the Indian cinema industry - came to a grinding halt for almost eight months in that infamous year, there was also another happy side to the story.

Across the world, everyone was homebound due to COVID-19 and the prolonged 'stay home stay safe' syndrome continued, making people look for avenues to keep themselves engaged with something entertaining. That is when streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hot Star and Prime video recorded a spike.

Between March to June 2020, Netflix added 26 million global subscribers, superseding all expectations from all quarters. The streaming company leveraged the same to pump fresh content into the platform. Indian cinema was, of course, one of their biggest attractions.

Nielsen research found that the time spent streaming video from services including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video has more than doubled from where it was one year ago. So, the rise of Indian cinema on global platforms was partly because of COVID19 and the streaming networks going all out to showcase their content.

It was during this time that Indian cinema grabbed more eyeballs than ever. The romance, the ragas, the masala, the mass elements, the swag and the style appealed to cinemagoers across the world.

Bollywood Nights of Netflix and chill became a reality by the end of 2020. Somewhere in Chicago, the Americans logged into their streaming devices to catch Indian cinema. Slowly and surely, the Indian cinema bit them and they got addicted to Indian cinema. The spotlight on Indian cinema was real, prolonged, and intense.

Blockbuster movies from India from every language started getting their spot under the sun. Naturally, the interest in Indian cinema started hitting a high wave in mid-2020 and the successful run continued. As big Indian movies such as Baahubali, KGF, Padmavat were attracting eyeballs, blockbuster director SS Rajamouli announced the RRR outing with two of Telugu cinema's biggest and most popular stars NTR Jr and Ram Charan.

The announcement itself shook the country as it was coming together of the titans. Not just an ensemble cast, it also had Bollywood biggies such as Ajay Devgn, Shriya Saran and Alia Bhatt in key roles.

In fact, the movie garnered so much talk and discussion about its title that the director had to appease his fans by asking their suggestions for the final title. In short, the audiences were heavily invested in the movie. Within 24 hours of its release on YouTube in April 2022, the song crossed over 17 million views in Telugu (becoming the most-viewed Telugu song), and 35 million views in all five languages on YouTube.

It also became the fastest Telugu song to cross 1 million likes. Social media reels shook with two Indians joining together to dance to the beats. The way the common man owned the song stood testimony to the way the song got intertwined into the lives of Indian music and dance lovers. It was but a natural extension of the popularity of the song that team RRR went ahead and submitted their song for Oscar original composition entry.

Once the Golden Globe was announced, a month ahead of the Oscars, there was no stopping Naatu Naatu. It had engulfed the world like no song had done ever before. As listed under the Oscar official website, works are judged on their effectiveness, craftsmanship, creative substance, and relevance to the dramatic whole.

Five nominees for original song will then be chosen by a second round of balloting, again using a preferential voting system. It is pretty much possible that every single jury member of the Oscars may have been touched by this peppy track and have given their thumbs up to it.

Does the success of Naatu Naatu sound too simplified? Well, the best things are original and simple. For now, let us just nacho nacho to the beat. Time to dance like there is no tomorrow.

***The author is a Hyderabad-based journalist; views expressed are her own