It is difficult to say how exactly the picturisation of the song ‘Naatu Naatu’ in the movie RRR is above the ordinary, but the fact that it has won the ‘Golden Globe’ award for ‘Best Original Song’ shows how Indian popular culture is catching on globally. This increased acceptance is undoubtedly due to the presence of India’s large Diaspora in almost all parts of the world and its multi-dimensional influence. Not a day passes without mention of a person of Indian origin achieving something big like becoming Prime Minister of a country – Rishi Sunak is passé – the latest is Ranj Pillai who has become Premier of Yukon Province in Canada – or being appointed NASA’s Chief Technology Officer – AC Charania – and so on and unending on. This increasing clout compensates somewhat for the times when India’s numerous greats in literature, the arts, sciences and film industry were overlooked for lack of global exposure. One needs only to look back at the grace and beauty of much of Indian cinema’s early years, especially in contrast with its extroverted nature today.
Owing to the present widespread Indian presence, other people have become more acquainted with India’s living culture and civilisation, outside of the colonial stereotypes that dominated, particularly the western mindsets. At the same time, however, the celebrations for something like a ‘Naatu Naatu’ win should not overlook the fact that, in many ways, India still has a long way to go before it achieves its full potential. It should not be forgotten that the cinematic arts are facing an unprecedented crisis domestically in terms of content and public acceptance. The economics of movie-making requires a major rejig, faced as it is by the challenge of streaming services and lack of breakthrough originality. Where are the Satyajit Rays, Mrinal Sens, Hrishikesh Mukherjees, Shyam Benegals, Guru Dutts, Girish Karnads, Anands, Kapoors, etc., of today? Where are all the writers who could capture the mood of the people in their scripts, and the directors in their visualisations?
Hopefully, the present day churn of viewer discontent and disinterest will bring about the transformation in content – even while retaining the unique essence – that will satisfy the increasing acceptance of the global audience. Otherwise, it will just be another missed opportunity and Naatu Naatu a flash in the pan.