It seems India has completely arrived on the world map. From Politics to Economics and now the Entertainment! It was indeed an elated and a proud moment for all Indians with two unique acceptance speeches. First, accepting the award for the Best Documentary Short for The Elephant Whisperers (the first Oscar ever awarded to an Indian production), director Kartiki Gonsalves made a dedication to “my motherland India”, and second music director MM Keeravani accepting an Oscar for Best Original Song for Naatu Naatu from the Telugu film RRR (the second Oscar ever awarded to an Indian production), saying “RRR has to win, pride of every Indian”. Keeravaani shared his sentiments backstage after the much deserved win, “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.” The film’s star, actor Ram Charan too added, “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.”
Never before has India had three productions nominated at the Academy Awards — besides an Indian celebrity presenter, actor Deepika Padukone, in the same year. This is enough to evoke jubilation among film lovers in the country. The awards have also put the spotlight on Indian talents as well as the country’s unique storytelling traditions. This global attention was long overdue. In spite of the foreign audience appreciating the films of several Indian filmmakers including Satyajit Ray, Guru Dutt, Shyam Benegal, Mira Nair and others, their work had not received such a sweeping response.
Even the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not resist but 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 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. #Oscars https://t.co/cANG5wHROt
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 13, 2023
On the other hand, the producer for The Elephant Whisperers, took to Twitter shortly after the Oscar win to express her happiness. “We just won the first ever Oscar for an Indian Production!” she wrote. “Two women did this! I am still shivering,” she added. The documentary story relates to a land of ancient coexistence with the natural world, and tribes that still worship elephants. The stars of The Elephant Whisperers are a couple from Tamil Nadu’s Kattunayakan tribe. They raise lost elephant calves as their children, resulting in an exceptionally high success rate for baby pachyderm survival. The documentary takes its time letting the viewer immerse themselves in the lives of this unusual family and their lush forest world.
My heart is full of love and excitement, most of it imbibed from everyone in India cheering for our win.
So grateful to the visionary filmmaker @EarthSpectrum and to @netflix who gave us the biggest stage in the world. This is for my beautiful, diverse country, India. #Oscar pic.twitter.com/yq6bur69LH
— Guneet Monga (@guneetm) March 13, 2023
Whereas, RRR is a celebration of a very different kind. The Telugu blockbuster, made on a massive budget of ₹550 crore, is set during the British Raj and designed to evoke nostalgia and national pride. Naatu Naatu invites the world to celebrate this land as it does, unapologetically, through vibrant dancing men and pulsating rhythms.
As for the timing, this year’s Oscars were a clear nod to new audiences, new demographics. In the meantime, as India heads up in the rankings, from fifth-largest market for cinema by box-office revenue to third-largest, the India moment can be expected to last. One never know Best Director or Best Picture may be the next! For now, it’s just Naatu Naatu!