Words cannot express the pride and joy I felt as a part of South Indian community when the Telugu action drama “RRR” (short for “Rise Roar Revolt” won the title of Best Original Song for “Naatu Naatu,” written by lyricist Chandrabose and composer M.M. Keeravani, at the 2023 Oscars. When I first heard about the movie’s Oscar nomination, I was transported back into the theater where I watched “RRR” and coactively, the famous “Naatu Naatu” song and dance for the first time. Even though Hollywood has demonstrated the growing inclusivity of South Indians in the media, I was both shocked and ecstatic when I heard the news. So, you can imagine the sounds of cheers erupting from my family as we witnessed “RRR” become the first ever Indian film to ever win the award.
Following the release of “RRR” on March 24, 2022, the song became a global sensation as it was popularized by countless participating in various dance trends on social media. The song grew even more popular after winning Best Original Score at the Golden Globes in January of this year. Apart from being known for its now-popular song, “RRR” is a phenomenal movie.. From well-crafted plot and action-packed scenes to the colorful costumes and detailed execution, “RRR” will deservedly go down in history.
Even though the film’s wins at both the Golden Globes and the Oscars had global fans excited, several members of the South Indian community were left feeling disappointed and upset at the lack of inclusion of Indian dancers during the Oscar performance. We are then left asking, why during a major moment in media for the South Indian community are we excluded? The problem doesn’t lie within the film itself, and everyone who had a hand in creating “RRR” and producing “Naatu Naatu” should be rightfully congratulated. The problem lies with the dance performance put on during the Oscars, to celebrate a triumphant South Asian accomplishment, in which not one South Asian dancer was highlighted. Instead, choreographers thought it adequate to highlight two men who looked Indian. As Indian dancer and choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan puts it, “The truth of the matter is, there are Indian dancers out there. It’s just that the effort wasn’t made.”
While South Indians like me can be upset about the current situation and demand a change, it is likely the event will be swept under the metaphorical rug like we’ve seen in the past. Unfortunately, the best we can hope for—at least as the past has taught us—is that the same mistake doesn’t happen again. After all, we as a community still hope for more opportunities for South Indian representation in the media, and causing an uproar could potentially deter industry professionals from awarding us that opportunity. But, when do we decide that we accept that anymore? When do we decide that enough is enough?