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'RRR' Director Breaks Down the Oscar-Winning Naatu Naatu Scene

S.S. Rajamouli, director of Indian smash hit film 'RRR,' discusses everything about the "Naatu Naatu" scene from selecting the Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv as the location, working with Prem Rakshith for the choreography, the inspiration behind the costumes and more.

Director/Producer: Ashley Hall
Director of Photography: Matt Krueger
Editor: Cory Stevens
Talent: Director of RRR: S.S. Rajamouli
Line Producer: Jen Santos
Associate Producer: Emebeit Beyene
Production Manager: Andressa Pelachi
Production Coordinator: Peter Brunette, Kevin Balash
Talent Booker: Meredith Judkins
Camera Operator: Shay Eberle Gunst
Sound: Kari Barber
Production Assistant: Ariel Labasan
Post Production Supervisor: Edward Taylor
Post Production Coordinator: Andrea Farr
Supervising Editor: Kameron Key
Assistant Editor: Andy Morell

Released on 03/06/2023


I must have seen this song

many, many, many, many, many times.

I sometimes watch it on YouTube

or go to the streaming platforms

and watch the song again.

I was worried that I wouldn't give you the notes

and I myself will keep watching this song again.

[Naatu Naatu song playing]

Hello, this is S. S. Rajamouli.

I'm the director of Telugu language Indian film RRR.

And I'm so happy to be here

to give you the notes on the scene,

notes on the song Naatu Naatu.

The first thing that comes to me

when we talk about Naatu Naatu is the location itself.

It was shot in Kyiv, actually the Presidential Palace.

This was actually supposed to happen India,

but because it was monsoon time then

so we were trying to scout the locations.

And we found this and I really loved it,

and then they told me it's the Presidential Palace.

I thought, Oh, maybe then I had to look

for another location,

but they said, No, no, no, this is Ukraine.

You can get the job done.

And, so thankful for the Ukrainian team.

The colors of the palace, the size of the palace,

the size of the ground for the dancers to be there

was the exact right size.

[Naatu Naatu song playing]

Because we are talking about Kyiv,

the beautiful thing about the song

that many tend not to notice

are the background dancers.

If you look here, the bunch here,

all of them are not extras,

all of them are dancers.

And if you can see how the men are not comfortable

with these two Indian guys taking their scene over,

but the girls are really, really enjoying the steps.

You can see all of them are perfectly enacting the scene

before their turn comes when they have to dance.

I was really, really surprised

that the level of professionalism,

the dancers there in Ukraine had.

Really loved working with them.

[Naatu Naatu song playing]

The choreographer Prem Rakshith,

he has worked with me before.

He has worked with Charan before.

He has worked with Tarak before.

He gave one of the most memorable numbers for both of them.

He knows their style,

exactly what their body language is.

He exactly knows what their fans expect out of them.

Here he has a very difficult job

because here both the actors have to dance together.

Each of them have their own style,

but he has to find out a style,

which will suit both of them.

A dancing style which would be not complicated

because I also wanted him to figure out steps

which people would like to do for themselves.

So it should be nice.

It shouldn't be too difficult.

It should suit the style of both actors

and it should be fantastic.

Quite number of instructions,

and he has come up with,

you wouldn't believe it,

more than hundred variations for this 3/4 signature,

Naatu Naatu Naatu Naatu,

for that line.

I remember he sent me the video,

it was going on and on and on and on.

And I had difficult time picking

up the best 3/4 variations for this style.

So the first credit to Prem Rakshith.

I've had enough of this nonsense.

You two, out.

No Jake, I've had enough of your bullying.

[Girls] Go away.


[upbeat music]


[upbeat music]

This for me is the best step in the entire song.

The costume designer Rama, who also happens to be my wife.

She didn't give the costumes like a song

because it was supposed to be a scene.

She gave the costume like a scene

and when Prem saw the dress and he saw the suspender,

he said, Can I use the suspenders?

She said, Okay.

He composed a couple of steps and he said,

If the suspenders are too tight,

they can't be doing it so easily.

It has to be a little bit loose for the dance step.

So it was Prem's idea to bring the suspenders in.

And the funny thing is, like, they had the loose suspenders

only for this particular shot.

Before and after it were tight suspenders

and just in the before shot when Jenny,

she pulls the suspenders and gives it and says go,

the suspenders are actually the tight suspenders.

And across their chest and they had a wince

on their face, but they were smiling until I said cut.

And the moment I said cut,

they were like walking away in pain.

[upbeat music]

Even for them this was the most difficult step

doing all the things on the top of the suspenders,

moving and sliding,

right foot also has to go to the side

and come as they're sliding.

I would say the genius of the choreographer.

When I instructed him,

I told him, Yes, for the audience this is a song.

This is fun.

They're dancing and everything.

But for the story, it is actually a fight scene.

Because it starts off with a,

on a bad note, an English guy is coming and insulting them,

humiliating them.

But both of them are there on a purpose.

They cannot really fist fight,

do a fist fight and blow their cover off.

It moves into a kind of competition.

You're seeing a song, you're seeing a dance,

but in effect, you are getting the emotion of a fight.

So that's the instruction that I gave Prem.

That's what I needed.

You see their body language,

how they're standing,

how their body moment is,

it looks like a fight.

That's how brilliant Prem is.

Senthil, my cinematographer, I worked,

this is my eighth film with him.

Initially, he shows me what kind of tone

that he's looking at for this particular film.

He'll give me two or three references

and then I don't meddle with the lighting

or the tonality of the film.

My production designer Sabu,

he had a lot of idea on how Colonial India was,

what the properties were, what the costume colors were.

He had a lot of ideas,

so he was really rushing through Kyiv

to find the right kinds of properties.

And all this flower arrangements,

Sabu was sitting there with the art director there

and he was particularly telling, This color,

this color should come at the bottom,

this color should come at the top.

And he was really putting all his effort

into it and Senthil was there to look at.

So I don't look at that at all.

My job is to see whether my actors are doing the step

the correct way that I want to.

Their expression is perfect or not.

That's the only job I look at.

[upbeat music]

We were shooting in the Presidential Palace,

like I said.

And here is the parliament,

Parliament of Ukraine.[laughs]

I was so shocked.

I asked my line producer there,

Is it okay to shoot a song

and a full volume right by the side of the parliament,

in front of the Presidential Palace?

He said, Yeah, fine.

No problem, go ahead. [laughs]

Only thing is it'll be in actual metallic in color.

In post, we made it like lime plastered.

One more point is all the background musicians

who are holding the clarinets, the violins,

and all that stuff, they're also actual musicians.

I wanted them to be musicians

because they hold the violin properly,

they hold the clarinet properly and all that.

I asked Anna, Is that okay?

Can I place the musicians there?

Is it okay for them to just stand there and act,

not actually play?

She said, Yeah, okay, no problem.

Go ahead.[laughs]

[Naatu Naatu song playing]

This is the step which was like on TikTok

or all the social media platforms,

where everyone was trying to do,

whether it's friends, brothers,

mother and daughter, husband and wife.

Everyone were doing the step

and posting on the social media,

which really, really went viral

and helped the film gain the popularity a lot.

[Naatu Naatu song playing]

I like that effect.

I mean, it's not new.

It has been used many times,

where the track goes forward and we zoom back.

So the artists are always occupying the full frame,

but the background really comes forward.

Initially we tried moving it around,

but we're losing the essence of the step.

So we used this one,

just track forward and zoom back.

[Naatu Naatu song playing]

[upbeat music]

This is where the nightmare started for the costumers,

from a solid ground we moved onto a place

where it was dusty.

I wanted the dust to fly,

but the costumes were made with such a delicate material

and we were making them do this,

the Naatu Naatu step

in the dust with this dress.

And the dress were getting really, really dirty and spoiled.

The costumers had to make two dresses, three dresses,

and every day they had,

after the shoot they had to go

and clean them very delicately.

It's not that you can put them in a washing machine

and take them out.

They had to be hand cleaned properly.

So after long working hours of working eight hours a day,

the costumers were taking the dresses

and cleaning them properly and doing it again.

[upbeat music]

I really like to go lengthy takes.

I don't like to cut in between.

Here, I had a long discussion with my editor

on having this group coming into a formation.

The idea is like all the guys are with Jake

and all the girls are with Ram and Bheem.

And I wanted this mixed crowd to separate

into the girls coming behind Ram and Bheem

and the boys coming behind Jake.

It was clearly established in the top angle shot.

For me, it would have been nice

if this entire thing was in one single shot.

So you can see all the girls coming from the mixed position

and you see from the mixed position,

all the boys going here.

And at the same time we see Jake is moving this way

and Ram and Bheem are moving towards this way.

It was very well choreographed,

but the editor said, The punch would be nice

if we cut it into three or four cuts.

Well, sometimes even the director

have to give into your technicians.

[upbeat music]

I must have seen this song

many, many, many, many, many times.

Not just on the editing table,

even after the release I sometimes watch it on YouTube

or go to the streaming platforms

and watch the song again.

I watched the background dancers.

I became a fan of these guys.

You can see they were,

they're really acting like pros.

They're not just dancing,

but they had to do the steps wrong sometimes,

and they had to express that they're not doing it properly

and collapse one by one.

I like each and every dancer here.

This guy, this guy,

how they were performing

and you should also see the girls,

how Jenny goes back and he pulls her again,

the expressions, how the girl just falls down,

they're tired but still really, really enjoying it.

This girl, I think it's a very beautiful frame by Senthil.

He got that dark dressed girl in the foreground

whereas the action is happening in the background.

One of the inspirations for me for this kind of frames,

is a completely different thing,

in Ten Commandments when the sea is parting,

there is a shot of three ladies watching

what is happening in front of them.

And the arrangement is like a painting.

This is not exactly like that

but a kind of inspiration is from there.

[upbeat music]

And look at the guys expression when Jake falls down,

these guys absolutely perfect.

Tarak and Charan are really exceptionally good dancers.

I always feel dance is not about

how acrobatic you are,

how perfectly you can do your step.

There are two important things,

one is that you should really, really enjoy your dance.

Only then can audience really get the enjoyment

out of your dance.

And second thing is, like, in every moment

on that dance, you are conveying something

to the audience, some kind of emotion.

They really infused that energy,

they're conveying that even though we are humiliated by you,

we have this weapon of giving it back to you.

Quite a subtle and difficult emotion to portray.

But these two guys nailed it.

[upbeat music]

So the Indians have won.

Actually the story's over,

but we know that N. T. Rama Rao and Ram Charan

are two top heroes, commercial heroes.

And the fans would love to see them compete

against each other.

They continue the dance looking at each other like,

Okay, we defeated them.

What about you and me?

[upbeat music]

That wow expression of Jenny is the best.

There are countless messages, memes,

everything saying that the entire audience expression

towards the song is exactly that.

And when this shot was made,

the dust really flew.

Everyone in the unit were coming into the tent

and like peeking in, looking in.

Can we see that again?

Can we play this again?

This was the shot that everyone really, really loved.

[upbeat music]

Come on, Akhtar.

She's rooting for Bheem/Akhtar at that point of time

and he sees that Jenny is in love with Akhtar and he loses.

[upbeat music]


[upbeat music]

Being his innocent self, he doesn't get it.

He continues, dances and he finishes it.

For me, Naatu Naatu one of the reasons why I think

it is such a hit is not just because of the music,

not just because of the dance,

because there is a beautiful story in itself.

The entire story of RRR is within that 10 minutes

of Naatu Naatu lead scene

and the complete song.

No one in America or across the world

really knows the meaning of the lyrics.

But it is the catchiness of the lyric,

the way, the flows.

I think that is,

the credit should be given to Chandrabose, the lyricist.

We had a blast shooting it.

We had a blast enjoying the audiences having the blast.

Thank you everyone who were involved in Naatu Naatu.

Starring: S. S. Rajamouli

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