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[Lee In-hyun] ‘Naatu Naatu’ proves universal power of music

March 30, 2023 - 05:31 By Korea Herald

Los Angeles, the heart of the movie and entertainment industries, held two big festivals recently: the Golden Globes and the Oscars. In my opinion, the Oscars is more valuable and popular than the Golden Globes. Although not many people sit and watch the Oscars on TV, I personally enjoy watching it every year.

While many tend to focus on who won the best movie, the best actor, or the best actress award, I am most interested in who won the best music award.

Three years ago, the Oscars gave four prizes to director Bong Joon-ho’s “The Parasite” for the best picture, the best original screenplay, the best international film and best director. However, Bong’s movie did not secure any recognition for its music.

At this year’s Oscars, Park Chan-wook’s Cannes-winning romance-thriller “Decision to Leave” made it to the shortlist for international feature films, but failed to become one of the five nominees.

The best original song of this year was “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR” and the best original score was “All Quiet on the Western Front” and the best sound was “Top Gun: Maverick.” They are well balanced and combined well into the films.

Thanks to the music, I was able to concentrate better on the movies, and I was quite immersed by them.

The surprising moment came from the best original song section. The movie “RRR” was sensational when it was released by Netflix. However, I did not expect its main song “Naatu Naatu” to win the Oscars.

“RRR,” which was made in India, portrays a fictional story of two legendary revolutionaries fighting for freedom. The setting of the film is India, which was a British colony in the 1920s. Since the film features many genres (action-adventure drama), I found it difficult to concentrate on it, but I enjoyed experiencing the Indian culture through this movie.

At first, the scene of dancing to the song of “Naatu Naatu” came off as a little awkward for an action-drama movie. Afterwards I came to understand its meaning when I heard that it was a necessary element for movies made in India.

The addictive melody and the dance moves greatly appealed to people around the world. Those who enjoyed the film started posting videos on TikTok, and a “Naatu Naatu” trend spread beyond India to the rest of the world. Although the lyrics are in the Telugu language, I think many people have become enthusiastic about the music because, at the end of the day, it works as a universal language uniting cultures and transcending national boundaries.

I believe the music won the Oscar thanks to its popularity. Notably, it is the first Indian film song ever to win an Oscar. Ram Charan, star of “RRR,” said in his interview, “the song is no longer our song, it is the people’s song.” And M. M. Keeravani, who composed “Naatu Naatu,” finally earned his recognition globally.

The song is not very long. Maybe you, just like me, may get interested in Indian movies after watching the scene involving the song. Furthermore, you may even find yourself humming the melody and dancing along.

Unlike in the past, the current selection committee for the Academy Awards is giving opportunities to diverse films and actors. I believe this positive change will herald a better future and have a positive influence on the global film industry.

Lee In-hyun

Lee In-hyun is a classical pianist and author of the award-winning book, “The Classic Class.” Lee works both in South Korea and the United States, and currently resides in Los Angeles. She can be reached at -- Ed.