Oscars called out for casting non-South Asian dancers in ‘Naatu Naatu’ live performance

16 March 2023, 09:23 pm | Updated: 30 March 2023, 10:42 pm

Oscars called out for casting non-South Asian dancers in ‘Naatu Naatu’ live performance
Photo: collected

The live performance of the high energy “Naatu Naatu”, from the Indian blockbuster “RRR”, received a standing ovation at the Oscars. The song, that went viral worldwide, is the first song from an Indian film to win an Oscar.

Despite all the positivity surrounding the song, the live performance at the award show has been called out as many netizens pointed out that “none of the dancers were of Indian descent”.

International media have identified the two men who danced the key roles — played in the film by South Indian actors Ram Charan and Jr NTR — as Billy Mustapha and Jason Glover, who are Canadian and American, respectively, reports NDTV.

Several netizens have openly criticized this, stating that using non-South Asian dancers weakens the song's anti-colonial message in the film, set in pre-independence India.

Bollywood star Deepika Padukone introduced the thrilling performance of “Naatu Naatu” at the Oscars, which was sung live by Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava, the singers behind the now worldwide popular number.

The authenticity ended there, said many, as none of the dancers appeared to be South Asian, yet were misidentified as such.

Although Indian audiences enthusiastically enjoyed the performance, which was undeniably exciting and a highlight of the Oscars event, the South Asian community in the United States protested the lack of representation.

"The Oscars Naatu Naatu performance was meant to have been a tremendous celebration of pride for all of us, and yet we were left feeling empty-handed and rejected," US-based dancer Joya Nandy Kazi wrote on Instagram.

“Two brown passing guys sang a song about colonialism with lyrics that said no dance is as wonderful as a villager's dance. They were fantastic, but why weren't two skilled dancers from our own community selected as leads with a mostly South Asian ensemble?” — Joya asked.

“The colonists are the butt of the joke of this song, and trying to replicate the movie scenario even with a bunch of men who should represent the natives as anything other than South Asian leaves me balancing between being stunned and smiling at the absurdity. We need to do better," she said.

Shivani Reddy, a Telugu-American film critic, told CBS News, “It just felt very exclusionary that the one race they didn't include was the one that was supposed to be represented because of the film and where it's from…It's unfortunate because there are so many South Asian dancers that I know that are in the industry trying to get into those spaces that just don't get afforded those opportunities. And for the one time that we maybe could have gotten access, we were denied.”

Raj Kapoor, Oscars producer, said in an interview that the initial intention was for lead actors Ram Charan and Jr NTR to dance to “Naatu Naatu”, overseen by “RRR” choreographer Prem Rakshith.

“In late February, we were informed that Ram Charan and NT Rama Rao Jr would be attending the Oscars, but they did not feel comfortable performing the live number on stage. The change was brought on because of their other professional commitments and the limited amount of time to rehearse,” Kapoor stated.

“Naatu Naatu”, from SS Rajamouli's mega hit “RRR”, won the Oscar for Best Original Song, beating out Lady Gaga's “Hold My Hand” and Rihanna's “Raise Me Up”, among others.

Category : Entertainment