One of our favorite movies of 2022 has been RRR, the smash Indian action drama directed by S. S. Rajamouli. A fictitious story about two legendary revolutionaries and their journey away from home before they started fighting for their country in the 1920s, the film is the sugar-addled fever dream of a 10-year-old, with a strong anti-colonialist bent. RRR came to the English-speaking world courtesy of a Netflix release, which allowed the film to find its way into theatres for an #encoRRRe screening.
Thanks to vibrant action sequences – one man fighting a crowd of thousands! A leopard thrown as a weapon! Blowing up an ammo depot with a motorcycle! Plus one of the catchiest song-and-dance numbers to ever explode on screen, RRR rapidly made many lists for the best of the year, and the song that soundtracks that dance number, Naatu Naatu, has even been shortlisted for the Academy Awards.
We spoke with the craft team behind RRR and took the opportunity to ask about how this film has exploded around the world with composer and songwriter of Naatu Naatu, M.M. Keeravani, along with re-recording mixer Boloy Kumar Doloi.
STARBURST: Naatu Naatu has become an international hit. While you’ve received dozens of awards for your work, you’re now being shortlisted for Best Original Song for this year’s Oscars. What’s it been like, seeing the international explosion for RRR?
M.M. Keeravani: Like everyone, I have been pushed to a higher limit every time I work with the director. This time, there’s a challenging song sequence, which we are calling Naatu. The character says, “We are naatu,” then the song begins, and I did not expect that single Naatu to grow and grow and grow to an international level, and it’s naatu, naatu, naatu, naatu, naatu.
This many naatus, neither I expected, nor the characters for the movie. So, I’m very happy for the acclaim and the recognition of the song, and I’m expecting more and more. I’m very hopeful and optimistic here.
But, you asked me to explain about the kind of work we did for Naatu. The song is in 6/8. Normally, 6/8 songs are very rare from the West. This is a very African or Indian form of percussion. So, we selected that genre, and we are doing some rhythm patterns with the minimalistic melodic instruments used in the song. And, of course, we are doing the choreography and the proceeding scene and the emotions in the scene, so the song was highlighted, and it came into animation in a much bigger way than we expected.
Given the sheer scale of this film and the amount of musical numbers and action sequences, how do you work in re-recording things so that it seems as though it were done on one set? Given the sheer number of locales in which this movie takes place, that must have been a massive job.
Boloy Kumar Doloi: Sound mix comes at a later part of the filmmaking process, so after all of these people have given their best to visually create and assemble everything together, we come in at a later stage, and we have to make the film believable. We have to maintain the pace. We have to give the visuals life.
Firstly, the film was very challenging. As the film flows, it was a very difficult task to maintain the pace. To keep up with the sound, it was a very challenging job, but because the director served us with his vision and Keeravani served great music, along with great visuals and great VFX coming across together, we did it. And we took a lot of time getting there – almost six months getting it right – but we figured it out every day. Every day was a challenge. If I think of it now, every day was a sheer challenge for us, but we made it work, and everybody loved what we could eventually deliver out of sheer [laughs] – we can’t express it.
Our work is so different, it’s hard to express it in words, but yeah, it was such a pleasure to work on such a massive, massive, massive film. Going through the journey of the film: it begins with a village, and it keeps going on and on and on and on and on, so yeah, it was quite difficult, but we pulled it off, I think. [Laughs.]
RRR is now streaming on Netflix.