Watch ‘Naatu Naatu’ Performance Bring Explosive Tollywood Energy to the Academy Awards

Expectations were high for a performance of “Naatu Naatu” sending the Oscars telecast into hyperdrive, and the song-and-dance number did not disappoint the global audience tuned in to see how the “hook dance” steps from the Indian film “RRR” translated to the stage. Singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava recreated their vocals from the movie’s soundtrack, as a troupe of more than 20 dancers had their exuberant way with the choreography that became the year’s biggest movie-music meme.

Introduced by Deepika Padukone as “a total banger,” as well as “the first song ever from an Indian production to be nominated for an Oscar,” the performance energized the telecast by recreating the dance-till-you-drop narrative of the number as it appears in “RRR,” all the way down to some suspenders-popping — albeit with even more colorful costuming than appears in the film’s 1920s setting

The “Naatu Naatu” performance took place about an hour and a half into the telecast, but viewers didn’t have to wait that long to get a taste of the dancing that captivated audiences in the U.S. as well as back home in India and around the world. Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monolog ended with an “RRR” gag, as Kimmel declared that winners going long in their speeches would not be played off by the orchestra. Rather, he said, “we have a group of performers who are going to dance you offstage,” as dancers who would later take part in the “Naatu” number gathered around to swarm him.

“Naatu Naatu” came into the ceremony as an unlikely frontrunner, marking the first time that a Telugu song — i.e., from “Tollywood” — had been nominated for the best original song Oscar, let along pegged over a host of superstars like Rihanna and Lady Gaga as a favorite. Composer M.M. Keeravani, who scored the film as well as co-writing its many songs, and lyricist Chandrabose are the honorees for their work on the S.S. Rajamouli-directed film. The song previously won the Golden Globe award for best song.

The film’s leads, Ram Charan and NTR Rama Rao Jr., were on hand to celebrate the high profile for “RRR” but did not participate in the telecast’s dancing.

There has been plenty of dancing among moviegoers to make up for any that the stars haven’t been doing lately. A recent screening at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in L.A. attended by many key participants in the film had patrons dancing in the aisles and in front of the screen, as did an earlier sold-out showing during the run-up to awards season at the Chinese Theatre.

Coming at about the one-hour point in the three-hour film, “Naatu Naatu” is a highly light-hearted moment amid otherwise tense action and drama. The scene was filmed on location in front of the Ukrainian palace before war broke out. “RRR” follows two patriotic but philosophically opposed men who team up to rescue a girl from British colonial officials in 1920s Delhi.

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