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India’s legions of film lovers are in a state of rapture after director S.S. Rajamouli’s action epic RRR made history at the Academy Awards on Sunday night by becoming the first-ever homegrown Indian movie to take home an Oscar. In a widely expected win, composer M.M. Keeravaani scored the statue in the best original song category for RRR‘s crowd-pleasing number “Naatu Naatu.”
The film’s star, actor Ram Charan, put out a statement shortly after RRR‘s big moment at the Oscars, saying: “This award belongs to every Indian actor, technician and filmgoer. My heartfelt thanks to all the fans across the world for all the love and support. This is our country’s win.”
Keeravaani later shared similar sentiments backstage at the Oscars, stating, “I feel very blessed to have this kind of greatest recognition of the world for my country, for my culture, my motherland, my movie industry. I feel this is just the beginning of everything, so that the rest of the world focuses more on Indian music, which is long due.”
Even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined the celebratory moment, tweeting: “Exceptional! The popularity of ‘Naatu Naatu’ is global. It will be a song that will be remembered for years to come. Congratulations to @mmkeeravaani, @boselyricist and the entire team for this prestigious honour. India is elated and proud.”
The celebratory moment wasn’t without some awkwardness, however, thanks to a cultural flub by Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel. But the host first got an early laugh from a bit referencing RRR.
“This year we are not going to play you off stage,” Kimmel said. “Instead, we have a group of performers from the movie RRR who are going to dance you offstage.” He was then swarmed by the dancers who performed “Naatu Naatu” in the film.
But later in the monologue, Kimmel mistakenly referred to RRR as a “Bollywood film,” when it is actually a Telugu-language movie that was produced in the southern region of India known as “Tollywood.” Bollywood refers to the Hindi-language filmmaking tradition centered in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. The conflation of two drastically different ethnic identities and cultures sparked umbrage in India, with many RRR fans taking to Twitter to express their disappointment.
Indian actress Deepika Padukone later set the record straight when she appeared as an Oscars presenter to introduce the night’s performance of “Naatu Naatu,” clearly stating that RRR is a Telugu film and an Indian production.
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