'RRR' Stars Ram Charan and Jr NTR Talk Historic Oscar Nomination for 'Naatu Naatu' (Exclusive)

The stars of the Indian film talk to ET about its breakout success.

RRR, the Indian film starring Ram Charan and Jr NTR as two revolutionaries fighting against the British colonialists in the 1920s, has not only enjoyed crossover success in the United States, but it made history when the breakout musical number, "Naatu Naatu," was nominated for Best Original Song at the 95th Academy Awards

"RRR is about friendship. It's celebrating friendship," NTR says. 

While speaking to ET's Ash Crosson, both actors reacted to all the accolades for the film, which is now streaming on Netflix, and what it was like filming the epic dance number for the Indian Telugu-language song written by the now-Oscar nominees, M. M. Keeravani and Chandrabose.

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In the film, which is directed by S. S. Rajamouli and choreographed by Prem Rakshith, "Naatu Naatu" is presented as a fight sequence in which the duo, Ram (Charan) and Bheem (NTR), out-dance their affluent British counterparts at the behest of Bheem's love interest, Jenny (Olivia Morris). 

"We were practicing it every day for three hours," NTR says, explaining that while "each person has a different style of dancing […] it was so important that in the film, when the two friends are alike, when they align together, you don't really need to look at each other." 
According to Charan, the actors, along with 150 dancers and a crew of 200 people, rehearsed that sequence for seven days, before shooting it in front of the actor-turned-Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy's palace. In total, it took about 17 days to complete. 

Not only were they trying to make sure everything was perfectly synchronized, the two actors performed all their own stunts in the elaborate dance number. "There was no head replacement at all. There was no dupe at all. It was us doing those hardcore stunts," NTR reveals. 

"My knees still wobble when I think about it," Charan quips, before adding that "all that torture, the beautiful torture led us to this… I think it's worth it." 

Since the clip debuted online 10 months ago, "Naatu Naatu" has garnered over 124 million viewers and quickly became an international sensation. "I feel it's no more our song. It's become the public's song," Charan says, happy that it's been embraced by "different age groups, different cultures and people." 

"We went to Japan [and] was surprised with the amount of love and affection, which was showered on RRR," NTR says of the growing international excitement surrounding the film before exploding in the U.S. "RRR literally crashed into the West."

Of course, it's no surprise that the song -- as well as the acclaimed film -- garnered awards season attention. In addition to the Oscar nomination, "Naatu Naatu" has won the same category at the Golden Globes and several critics associations while also garnering nods at the Critics' Choice Awards and Satellite Awards. 

As a result of the film's Oscar nomination, Indian singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava, who recorded a version of "Naatu Naatu" heard on the soundtrack, will be performing live during the 2023 Oscars, while the two actors will get a chance to appear on the champagne-colored carpet. 

"The reason we are all here is thanks to the original song, which is nominated," Charan says, adding that he's "so happy for my music composer, M. M. Keeravani. "We're all just here as a family, as a support system for the film."

And because of the team's success, it "made it possible for all of us to walk," he adds. 

"I mean, what else could a film ask for?" NTR says of getting to "be a part of the biggest celebration of cinema, globally." While he's also excited about appearing at the ceremony, the actor says he's not there just to represent the movie. "I'm going to walk as an Indian on that carpet with pride filled in my heart, carrying my nation in my heart."

The 2023 Academy Awards hosted by Jimmy Kimmel will air live on Sunday, March 12 starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC. In the meantime, keep checking back into ETonline.com for complete Oscars coverage.