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India at Oscars: ‘RRR’, ‘All That Breathes’ Earn Nominations

Los Angeles: ‘Naatu Naatu’, the hit dance track from SS Rajamouli’s blockbuster ‘RRR’, on Tuesday continued its winning march by earning a coveted nomination for the Original Song at the Oscars 2023 where Indian documentaries ‘All That Breathes’ and ‘Elephant Whisperers’ walked away with nods in Documentary Feature and Documentary Short categories.

‘The Last Show’, India’s official entry in the International Feature category, however, failed to make the cut in the final five. But there was much to celebrate as it is perhaps for the first time that three films from the country are competing in different segments.

‘Naatu Naatu’ will compete with ‘Applause’ from from ‘Tell It Like a Woman’, ‘Hold My Hand’ from ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, ‘Lift Me Up’ from ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ and ‘This Is a Life’ from ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’.

The song, filmed on Ram Charan and Jr NTR, translates to bucolic in Telugu and demonstrates the spirit of fun in country music over 4.35 breathless minutes of song and dance.

Composed by MM Keeravani and choreographed by Prem Rakshith, it has legions of followers on social media trying to master its steps. “WE CREATED HISTORY!! Proud and privileged to share that #NaatuNaatu has been nominated for Best Original song at the 95th Academy Awards,” the film’s official Twitter handle posted.

Keeravani shared his excitement over the nomination on Twitter. “Congratulations to my team !! Big hugs to all,” he tweeted.

Rajamouli’s father and the film’s screenwriter V Vijayendra Prasad told PTI that it was a ‘proud moment for India’. “It is a proud moment for the entire team of ‘RRR’. It is a proud moment for India, for Telugu movie industry and for Indian cinema,” Prasad told PTI.

This is the third major international recognition for ‘Naatu Naatu’, sung by Kaala Bhairava and Rahul Sipligunj, after Keeravani won a Golden Globe as well as a Critics Choice award for the track. The film also won the Critics Choice Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

‘Jai Ho’ from the 2008 British film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, directed by Danny Boyle, was the first Hindi song to win an Academy Award in the Original Score and Original Song categories. It was composed by AR Rahman and penned by Gulzar.

Bhanu Athaiya was the first Indian to win an Oscar. She won the Costume Design Oscar for her work in the 1982 film ‘Gandhi’.

“All That Breathes”, which is competing for an Oscar alongside ‘All the Beauty and the Bloodshed’, ‘Fire of Love’, ‘A House Made of Splinters’ and ‘Navalny’, has also emerged as one of the best documentaries this year.

Set in Delhi, the documentary follows two siblings, Mohammad Saud and Nadeem Shehzad, who have devoted their lives to rescuing and treating injured birds, especially black kites.

“All That Breathes” is also nominated for a BAFTA Award. It previously won the ‘World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary’ at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, a film gala that promotes independent cinema and filmmakers, and earned the Golden Eye award for the best documentary at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. Sharing his joy, Sen said he was ?a bit lost for words? at the moment.

?It’s feeling extraordinarily difficult to say something that doesn’t sound like a cliche. We’re utterly besides ourselves with joy and a bit lost for words at this moment. Utterly relieved, happy and somewhat discombobulated.

“I want to offer my deepest, most heartfelt thanks to our incredible characters and the whole film team and I am grateful to the Academy for recognising their work,? Sen said in a message to PTI.

Last year, Indian feature documentary ‘Writing With Fire’ was part of the final Oscars nominations list in the Documentary Feature section but lost out to ‘Summer of Soul (Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)’. It was the first Indian feature documentary to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Tamil documentary ‘The Elephant Whisperers’, an endearing story about the unbreakable bond between two abandoned elephants and their caretakers, is nominated in the Documentary Short Subject category where it will compete with ‘Haulout’, ‘How Do You Measure a Year’, ‘The Martha Mitchell Effect’ and ‘Stranger at the Gate’.

Earlier, two entries set in India – “Smile Pinki” and “Period. End Of Sentence”, won Oscars for Documentary Short.

“It’s such an honour to have an Indian Indigenous documentary from the heart of South India acknowledged across the world. Thank you, members of the Academy for nominating The Elephant Whisperers,” director Kartiki Gonsalves said in a statement.

The Netflix documentary is produced by Guneet Monga and Achin Jain of Sikhya Entertainment. Monga was also the producer of ‘Period. End Of Sentence’. “Today’s nomination strengthens my faith in stories with heart and people who tirelessly submit themselves to a larger vision… It is the innocence and honesty that transcended these boundaries and made The Elephant Whisperers travel from a small quaint town of Ooty to the biggest stage of Cinema!? Monga tweeted.

The producer also shared her joy over ?RRR? and ?All That Breathes? nominations.

“This journey has also been about the representation and making our country proud. So here’s to India, and here’s to all of us…. RRR and All That Breathes. OMG! This is for INDIA,” Monga tweeted.

Her words about Indian representation at the Oscars were also echoed by Rahman, who became the first Indian to win two trophies at the Oscars.

Rahman said it was surprising that it had taken so much time for Indian films to register nominations at the Oscars. “I thought it would start ten years back, it’s 12 years late. This should happen every year from India because India is a country of 1.3 billion people… Most of the movies are not even entered. At least, they (makers of RRR) had the thing to put it there and Golden Globes… And they did little promotion and that’s how it works,” the composer said at a song launch event.

The nominations for 23 categories of the 95th Academy Awards were announced by Hollywood actors Riz Ahmed and Allison Williams here. The Oscar ceremony will be held on March 12, 2023, at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood.

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