RRR star Ram Charan said he wanted to perform on the Academy Award-winning track Naatu Naatu at the 95th edition of the Oscars. During Sunday's ceremony in Los Angeles, dancers belonging to different ethnicities performed on the foot-tapping number, sung live on the Dolby Theatre stage by singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava. Charan said the dance troupe was "fantastic" with their performance.
"I was 100 per cent ready to get that call but I truly don't know what happened. But let's not talk about it because the troupe who did it there, they were fantastic and they did a better job than us," the 37-year-old actor said.
Charan, who landed in the national capital earlier in the day, was speaking at the India Today Conclave 2023. "I have done it so many times and on so many stages, now it's for us to relax and enjoy the show and see somebody else perform for India. I feel it is no longer our song, it is India's song. It's the people who have taken us to the carpet," he said at the event.
Naatu Naatu, which was originally picturised on Charan and Jr NTR in the SS Rajamouli-directed period action film, created history after it won the Best Original Song Oscar. The trophy was received by composer MM Keeravaani and lyricist Chandrabose.
Charan said the film's Oscar win is just "another feather on the hat" as he believes audiences love is the biggest reward. "I was just fortunate to be in the midst of that celebration. That kind of an event, we've been seeing it. I was a fanboy of the Academy since I was a kid.
"But nothing is more than the audience and the theatre, that is my biggest award. What India has given us is my biggest award and rest everything was another feather on the hat," he said.
The win for Naatu Naatu is a recognition for the collective Indian film industry, said the actor. "It is such an honour... What this acknowledgment did to us, not us, but for India, it's for technicians and directors, from Satyajit Ray to Rajamouli now, we have all been recognised.
"This is a unique acknowledgment our industry has got and for us to just represent that and be a part of it was definitely a responsibility. It was weighing on my shoulder but I was just enjoying the moment. That was more important than getting tense about the award." Charan believes the Academy and its voters have appreciated good cinema and "the excellence of director Rajamouli and his great team of MM Keeravani and Chandrabose".
RRR or "Rise Roar Revolt" is a pre-independence fictional story following two real-life Indian revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju (Charan) and Komaram Bheem (Jr NTR) in the 1920s.
Charan and Jr NTR had been friends before they worked on "RRR" and it needed somebody like Rajamouli to bring them together on the big screen.
"If not for Mr Rajamouli, I swear I don't think we would have done this combination for any other director. Everything we have earned and built our careers... they used to say we were the rival families for 35 years but we never had it personally...
"And to bring both of us together, to put our trust in somebody, it has to be Rajamouli and he knows that. It will only happen because of him," he added. Charan, who earlier starred in Rajamouli's 2009 Telugu hit Magadheera, said he enjoys working with filmmakers who are quite a taskmaster.
"I like somebody who puts me on my feet... It keeps me up and going. Every time you think, 'Wow, I have learnt enough and I know it all', you work with Rajamouli and he will tell you it's just the beginning.
"It's like going back to school. I always learn something new, he always gives the best career hits with every actor, be it Prabhas, Jr NTR or myself." Asked about movies from the south having their big moment now, the actor said it all started with Rajamouli's two-part Baahubali series.
At the same time, Charan believes stories rooted in Indian culture will always make an impact in western markets. "We have so many industries, from Bengal to Tamil Nadu in the south, we have fantastic directors. I feel what will make an impact with the West or in Japan or Australia is the stories of our soil that should come out. Magadheera was like that. Lagaan was like that.
"India has so much of all of this, and the West and the global audience is ready to accept somebody who is original and India has many original directors, many states who have their own beauty, music and storytelling. That is what I feel will transcend," he said.
The Indian film industry is one unit and "there's no more Telugu, Bengali or Bollywood, Hindi cinema", Charan said. "This is Indian cinema... I want the global audience to feel that all of us are one cinema," he added.
Charan was also quizzed about the rumours that he might make his Hollywood debut soon. "I don't know. I would leave it in LA what I said. We are seeing something, working on something. It's too early for me to say... Who doesn't wish. Everybody wishes and all of us want to work in every industry where talent is appreciated and that is why I want to work (there)." Apart from the Telugu song, Netflix's Tamil documentary The Elephant Whisperers, directed by debutante Kartiki Gonsalves and produced by Guneet Monga, also became the maiden Indian production to win in the Documentary Short Film category.
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