‘Naatu Naatu’ From ‘RRR’ Wins Best Original Song

“Naatu Naatu,” the rollicking dance hit from the Indian blockbuster “RRR,” won the Oscar for best original song, beating out two songs featuring American pop megastars.

It’s not the first Indian number to win the award — that would be A.R. Rahman’s tune for the British-made “Slumdog Millionaire” — but it is the first from an Indian production.

In the Telugu-language film, set in 1920s colonial India, the song figures in a marathon dance-off that was filmed in front of the Mariinsky Palace in Ukraine before the Russian invasion. M. M. Keeravani, the song’s composer, used duffs, an Indian skin drum, for the main beats, adding in mandolins for the melody. The lyricist Chandrabose, who is known for his work in Tollywood, that is, Telugu cinema, has said he wrote most of the words in about an hour.

“I grew up listening to the Carpenters, and now here I am with the Oscars,” Keeravani said in his acceptance speech, singing a rendition of the group’s song “Top of the World” but with lyrics about his joy at winning the award.

What does “Naatu Naatu” mean? As Keeravani explained to The Times, “Naatu means ethnic: something we own ourselves, something completely unique, something that belongs to one’s own identity. That is Naatu. Naatu means country. It’s a song from the countryside. It’s about everything that happened in our own country, in our own village; something you cherish for life.”

The Oscars ceremony included a performance of the song, with its rapid-kick choreography and roguish suspender snapping.

The song beat others from “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Tell It Like a Woman.”

Rihanna’s “Black Panther” hit, “Lift Me Up,” was also a front-runner for the award. The hymnlike ballad with a prominent string section was the pop star’s first solo song in years, drawing significant attention. On Sunday, the pop star’s performance ended with a standing ovation.

For “Top Gun,” Lady Gaga performed “Hold My Hand,” an emotional power ballad. Written by Gaga and BloodPop, the song’s music video featured the pop star in classic “Top Gun” apparel: a white tank top, a dog tag necklace and aviator sunglasses.

The nominated song from “Everything Everywhere” was “This Is a Life,” by the indie-rock band Son Lux, featuring Mitski and David Byrne. The song is played in the end credits, and the lyrics — “I choose you, and you choose me” — speak to core messages in the film.

The original song nomination was the only nod for “Tell It Like a Woman,” which features seven short stories with female protagonists, some of them fictional and some inspired by true events. Written by Diane Warren, the song, “Applause,” would have been a major victory for the songwriter after 13 previous nominations in the same category and no wins. She did take home a Governors Award earlier in the season, the Oscar equivalent of a lifetime achievement honor. At that ceremony, held in November, she said, “I’ve waited 34 years to say this: I’d like to thank the academy!”