Choreographer Prem Rakshith reveals what went into the Golden Globe-winning dance number.
Just about everyone is dancing to Naatu Naatu from SS Rajamouli’s global blockbuster RRR – from fans in India and elsewhere in the world to voters at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which hosts the Golden Globe Awards.
On 10 January, the Globes named Naatu Naatu as the winner in the category of Best Original Song – Motion Picture above Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Lady Gaga – for the first time in India. Among the people whom music composer MM Keeravani thanked in his speech was Prem Rakshith, the choreographer of the song. The honor was completely unexpected, Rakshith told Scroll.in.
Rakshith has worked on each of Rajamouli’s films since Chatrapathi in 2005. Rajamouli’s brief for Naatu Naatu (roughly translates as native or native) was a number in which Indian heroes outdid their British colonizers.
Shooting for Naata Naata in August 2021 in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv at the Mariinsky Palace – which is also the official residence of President Volodymyr Zelensky – Rakshith could only think of one thing: “save himself”.
The song is one of the key moments of Rajamouli’s pre-independence drama, which stars Ram Charan and NT Rama Rao Jr as fictional versions of revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem. Charan’s Rama and Rao Jr’s Bheem join forces to overthrow a despotic British general. Before doing so, they will demonstrate their ability to act in unison at the British Ball.
“I had two superstars, so much pressure,” Rakshith recalled. “I had to match both of their steps because their styles are different. If Ram Charan is graceful, NT Rama is energetic – as different as “Hrithik Roshan and Prabhudeva”, as Rakshith put it.
Rakshith’s inspirations included Tom & Jerry cartoons and Charlie Chaplin’s silent films. At least 110 moves have been tried and tested for the hook step.
The preparations took almost two months. Rakshith’s assistants had torn ligaments during the trials. In Kiev, the temperature was over 30 degrees.
Naatu Naatu begins when a racist British officer criticizes Bheem’s inability to waltz: “Look at all those brown scumbags. What do they know about art? About subtlety? About dancing?”
The answer is a display of energy and coordination unlike anything we’ve seen in movies recently. The hook’s intricate step alone has inspired a number of fan videos.
Rakshith made ‘Naat’ easy for everyone by posting a tutorial on YouTube. Among the biggest compliments he received for the song was a phone call from Prabhudeva. “He congratulated me and that was huge for me,” Rakshith recalled.
The 44-year-old choreographer was born in Puducherry and brought up in Chennai. His first assignments included a stint as a dancer in a Telugu film in 1994. Among those who helped Rakshith during his toil in Hyderabad were Kallol and Madhuri Biswas, who ran a dance school where he worked as a teacher.
Rakshith is currently working on Pushpa 2: The Rule and Indian 2. Apart from Naatu Naatu, the songs that Rakshith encourages his fans to look up on YouTube are Manohari (Baahubali), Bangaru Kodipetta (Magadheera) and Naachore Naachore and Nagamalli (Yamadonga) .
You can add another video to the list: Laurel and Hardy doing Naata.