The Irrepressible Pleasure of RRR’s ‘Naatu Naatu’ Dance Sequence

Ora Sawyers

Photograph: Raftar Creations and Sarigama Cinemas

The ideal portion of watching Spider-Person: No Way Residence in a theater final December was all the hooting and hollering in the audience every time familiar actors appeared. But the seem of Marvel fans dropping it over Andrew Garfield quantities to a well mannered whisper in comparison to the thunderous in-theater responses to RRR, S. S. Rajamouli’s Telugu-language Indian blockbuster that strike about 1,000 North American screens (and over 8,000 throughout the world) past month.

Viewing RRR with a packed viewers common with Tollywood means finding swept up in fiery, frenzied motion scenes that defy physics devoid of apology and in fist-pumping dance figures that invite you to sign up for in. It means cheers and wolf whistles when its revered stars, Ram Charan and N. T. Rama Rao Jr., make their entrances — or sing or dance or do practically anything at all else onscreen. One sequence, the pulsating, passionate musical amount “Naatu Naatu,” has resulted in impromptu theater-wide dance parties, specially in Indian cinemas, the place the line among appreciation and celebration can be razor-thin. On YouTube, you will discover dozens of clips of audiences tossing homemade confetti in the air and dancing in entrance of the display.

When this mode of participatory viewing may perhaps feel alien to western viewers — apart from selected midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the like — it is par for the training course when it will come to South Indian blockbusters. Films like RRR exist a entire world aside from the Hindi-language, Mumbai-primarily based Bollywood business that when dominated the Indian mainstream but has been eclipsed in the latest several years by films in languages like Tamil (Kollywood) and Telugu (Tollywood). Where by Bollywood actors are adored, their southern counterparts are practically worshipped — statues of perennial Tamil celebrity Rajinikanth are often bathed in milk like Hindu idols.

I considered it would be entertaining to relay specifically none of this cultural context to my two American good friends, who I certain to accompany me to a packed opening-night screening of RRR in Manhattan. Neither experienced ever found an Indian movie on the major monitor. As much as I could inform, they were being the only two non-Indians in attendance. And three several hours afterwards, they emerged not just as followers but as advocates they’ve been singing the praises of “Naatu Naatu” to anybody who’ll pay attention. As one of them told me, “When the lights came up, I felt like I could have walked through a brick wall.”

“Naatu Naatu” is a standout scene in a film made of almost nothing but standout scenes. Again in November, a 10-next clip from the sequence — appearing 30 seconds into a marketing online video — went viral on line, inspiring fan-produced copycat films in India and abroad. It showed its two primary adult men dancing energetically arm in arm, grinning as they stepped and bowed their way across an opulent backdrop. No trailer had been launched however all any one realized about the film was that it focused on two men’s friendship at a fraught time in heritage, 1920s colonial India. Yet Prem Rakshith’s zestful choreography and the camaraderie palpable involving its stars were sufficient to persuade legions — myself integrated — to buy a ticket. (In just two weeks of its launch, RRR has develop into the fifth-highest-grossing Indian film worldwide, and the 2nd-highest domestically guiding Rajamouli’s have Baahubali 2: The Summary.)

When the movie lastly hit theaters around the globe in March after virtually two several years of delays for the reason that of COVID, and we at very long previous noticed the “Naatu Naatu” sequence in comprehensive, there was a shock: That 10-next little bit that had absent viral is in fact the most minimal-crucial component of the complete factor.

Charan and Rama Rao Jr. play true-lifetime Indian revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, respectively — two adult males who under no circumstances satisfied in genuine existence, but whom Rajamouli transforms into big-screen superheroes in fanfiction as ludicrously around-the-top as it is nakedly sincere. “Naatu Naatu” will come along when the duo is invited to a celebration at a British mansion. Bheem has covert explanations for attending — the plot worries his makes an attempt to rescue a youthful tribal girl from the clutches of a British officer, played by Ray Stevenson — but all of that is briefly set on maintain. Not that the sequence is a meaningless detour as an alternative, it’s a concentrated dose of the film’s anti-colonialist themes. When a group of white adult men begins ruthlessly mocking Bheem for becoming uncultured (he does not speak English and is unfamiliar with “classy” European dances like salsa and flamenco), Raju arrives to his rescue with an impromptu drum solo. This kicks off an explosion of song and dance that lets both equally leads to enable loose, demonstrate the wild vitality of Indian choreography, and clearly show up their snobbish oppressors.

Each adult men have been onscreen for an hour by this point. But when Raju strides towards his good friend in gradual movement (as composer M. M. Keeravani’s percussions envelop the soundscape), it’s like watching him stroll out onto an great stage and get the highlight cue the first of many, a lot of viewers cheers all through the sequence. The digital camera luxuriates in Charan and Rama Rao Jr.’s unabashed vigor. Rajamouli and cinematographer K. K. Senthil Kumar’s body stays wide more than enough to capture each men’s actions in total, and editor A. Sreekar Prasad rarely cuts absent, letting their methods to play out as if just about every shot is its very own motion established piece. The lyrics, meanwhile, are not about anything other than the dance itself, and it’s an complete blast (is there something a lot more Indian than comparing energetic choreography to spicy foodstuff?).

The scene performs out like a mini-motion picture with its own spectacular beats, character arcs, and passionate subplots, all making up to an extended dance-off for cultural supremacy. At 1 position, the duo dances spiritedly towards the digicam, and their extreme star electricity seems to thrust the full frame backward in response. In a further moment, they conduct a stupendous regimen involving their suspenders, which they tug and jostle in sluggish movement as their feet shuffle sideways at lightning pace, producing it look like they are floating on air. There are various photographs in which they ramp up and gradual down their actions, turning their physicality into seamless exclusive effects. The pièce de résistance, nevertheless, is that with just about every action Charan and Rama Rao Jr. choose, they kick grime and dust up into the air, including a feeling of tactile excess weight to each individual movement. It’s like the floor is quivering beneath their ft.

With the right group, the earthshaking strength of this scene finishes up getting drawn from the screen out into the theater. One of the friends I saw it with experienced noticed Rajamouli’s two Baahubali films on Netflix and was stunned not only by how boisterous the screening was (“There ended up some points in the film where the whistling experienced grow to be so loud that I was not guaranteed if it was portion of the movie or not,” he stated) but by his personal participation, as well: “I was bewildered, but I received swept up in it. I even cheered numerous periods. I experienced no notion that would take place.” Few movies need dwelling-comprehensive theatrical viewing as significantly as RRR. Fortunately, it’s nonetheless actively playing in cinemas.

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