The 95th Academy AwardsPhoto: Kevin Winter (Getty Images)
A week after airing, the 95th Academy Awards continues to attract scrutiny from critics, particularly for its handling (and cast) of a much-anticipated performance of the international film sensation’s hit “Naatu Naatu.” RRR. As reported in pieces by diversity, The LA Times, IndieWireand more, the performance of “Naatu Naatu” has come under fire for having exactly zero dancers of South Asian descent, despite being taken from a film by Indian filmmakers about Indian history and heavily influenced by the styles of Indian music.
It wasn’t originally meant to be that way; Oscar producers actually reached out to the film’s stars, NT Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan, to recreate their high-energy dance battle from the 2022 film. But both men declined, apparently uncomfortable with the short window they had to master the Oscar-winning version of the dance. Instead, choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon D’uomo (aka NappyTabs) reportedly hired dancers they were familiar with to perform the piece, including Lebanese-Canadian dancer Billy Mustapha and American dancer Jason Glover, to perform for the piece step in RRR Stars.
Namely the Oscars version of the dance was More technically diverse than the one in the movie — which is mostly about NTR Jr. and Charan’s characters dancing the shit out of a bunch of constipated British whites — South Asian pros in the dance community are still screaming for the Oscars for ignoring the opportunity for more South Asian artists on such a huge stage. “With all due respect, where’s the substitution?” asked choreographer Joya Kazi in an Instagram post leading up to the performance (but no news on her casting). Meanwhile, dancer Achinta S. McDaniel didn’t mince words and talked diversity“Some people say, ‘Just be happy with what we have,’ and that’s part of it [the problem] – this idea of just accepting the scraps that are thrown at you. Be happy that an Indian song was nominated [and won]. Don’t be mad at the overwhelming racism displayed in the performance.” Several critics also drew contrasts between the Naatu Naatu performance and the Jai Ho performance Slumdog Millionaire at the 2009 Oscars, which, according to media studies professor Shilpa Davé, featured “Indian singers and a multiracial group of dancers and musicians.”
So far, the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences has not issued an official statement on the reviews.