We've Got Hollywood Covered
|

How ‘RRR’ Composers Wrote the Euphoric, Show-Stopping Tune ‘Naatu Naatu’

TheWrap magazine: The insanely catchy song would be the first Indian-composed nominee in the Best Original Song category in 14 years

This story about “RRR” composers M.M. Keeravani and Chadrabose first appeared in “The Race Begins” issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

The question is pretty simple: Are voters going to watch the Indian movie “RRR” — and in particular the euphoric, extravagant dance sequence set to the song “Naatu Naatu”? Because if they do watch it, or even look at clips on YouTube where the scene has became a viral sensation, it’s not hard to imagine the song getting the kind of awards attention that no song from Indian composers has received since two A.R. Rahman songs from “Slumdog Millionaire” were nominated 14 years ago.

“Some songs over the years have gotten attention, but this was the first one to get this kind of international response,” said composer M.M. Keeravani, who co-wrote the percussive, insanely catchy number with lyricist Chandrabose. “This response was not anticipated.”

The Telugu-language song is heard during a scene at a stately garden party thrown by the British colonial rulers of India in the 1920s. When a snobby Brit ridicules a pair of local men for not being able to dance, they break into a near 10-minute explosion of flying feet, snapping suspenders and terpsichorean frenzy that brings down the house anytime the movie is shown. “There’s a lot of energy flowing and happening,” Keeravani said in what has to qualify as a significant understatement. “The lyrics describe different kinds of energy and how energy flows, and then you have the high-energy beats.”

While the description of the sequence was fairly straightforward in writer-director S.S. Rajamouli’s script, it grew in the writing and the shooting. It was a foot-tapping number, but then it escalated,” Keeravani said. “It’s not just a song, it’s an entire experience.”

But that experience didn’t come easily. Keeravani said he wrote 20 different songs for that point in the script in an attempt to give Rajamouli (who is his cousin) some options. “It was very difficult to zero in on one particular tune, so we asked the opinions from the inner circle of the movie. Most of them voted for this song, and their judgment didn’t go wrong.”

The choreography, he admitted, played a major role in the success of the song — not just the crazed moves from stars N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan, but also the work of the actresses who played young British women swept away by the infectious energy. “Some of them were laughing, rolling on the floor, literally,” he said. “And some of them were trying those steps. So it became everybody’s experience. The spectators became one with performers. It created a vibe that made it more than a song to me.”

And what about those other 19 songs that weren’t chosen? Will they ever see the light of day? “That’s an interesting question,” Keeravani said. “Those 19 songs will be utilized for some projects, maybe. Most of them will not be wasted. They’re just waiting for release.”

Read more from the Race Begins issue here.

Photo by Jeff Vespa for TheWrap

And what about those other 19 songs that weren’t chosen? Will they ever see the light of day? “That’s an interesting question,” Keeravani said. “Those 19 songs will be utilized for some projects, maybe. Most of them will not be wasted. They’re just waiting for release.”