Keeravaani and Chandrabose with Oscar. (Credit : AMPAS.)

By Mabel Pais

While audiences around the world watched the 95th Oscars on Sunday, March 12, 2023, India made history at the event by winning in the MUSIC category for ‘NAATU NAATU’ from the film ‘RRR’ (short for ‘Rise, Roar, Revolt’) and the BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT, ‘THE ELEPHANT WHISPERERS.’

from RRR; Music by M.M. Keeravaani; Lyric by Chandrabose

Oscar-winning Best Original Song from ‘RRR,’ ‘Naatu Naatu’ — made this year’s ceremony and much more special was the infectious song-and-dance number from RRR was recreated onstage during Hollywood‘s biggest night.

Deepika Pudukone, the Mumbai Film Industry’s (also called “Bollywood”) own, introduced the performance, highlighting the historic nature of “Naatu Naatu” being “the first song ever from an Indian production to be nominated for an Oscar,” and also “a total banger.” Singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava performed the song — which you can watch below — and in doing so, brought the Telugu Film Industry (also called “Tollywood”) to Hollywood for the night.

“Naatu Naatu” made history again when the Telugu-language track won BEST ORIGINAL SONG, becoming the first song from an Indian film to win in the category. (Indian composer A.R. Rahman previously won in 2009 for “Jai Ho,” though Slumdog Millionaire was a U.K. production.)

“I grew up listening to the Carpenters, and now here I am with the Oscars,” composer M.M. Keeravaani said onstage, before breaking into his own rendition of the band’s song, “Top of the World”: “There was only one wish on my mind, so was Rajamouli’s and my family’s. ‘RRR’ has to win, pride of every Indian, and must put me on the top of the world.”

‘RRR’ has also received an ‘Naatu Naatu,’ two Golden Globe nominations and one win (nominated for Best Non-English Language Film and winning Best Original Song for “Naatu Naatu”), five Critics Choice Awards nominations and two wins (nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Visual Effects, and winning Best Original Song and Best Foreign Language Film), been named Best Music/Score and runner-up for Best Director by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, been named a top 10 film by the National Board of Review, and won over 23 regional/online critics association awards out of dozens of nominations.

Watch the ‘Naatu Naatu’ performance on Oscar Night.

Video 1

Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga

The Elephant Whisperers. (Credit :

An indigenous couple in South India, Bomman and Bellie, fall in love with Raghu, an orphaned elephant given into their care, and tirelessly work to ensure his recovery and survival. ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ portrays the dignity of both the magnificent elephants and the indigenous people who have lived with them and cared for them for centuries. Filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves points out that she wanted to get the audience to stop seeing animals as “the other” and start to see them as one of us. “In this time, there are so many stories of animals being killed and species dying out — and this is a positive story that highlights the beauty of man and animal working together. I believe coexistence is the way we need to move forward into the future, only with mutual respect and cooperation can we save the planet,” in an interview with the AMPAS publication.

“In my eyes, I feel that human empathy transcends diversity and connects us all in our environmental cause. I also seek to give a platform to women and indigenous tribes, especially those working to conserve the planet and bringing new perspectives and a deeper public understanding to the environmental and humanitarian issues. I believe that strong imagery has the unique power of changing minds. Storytelling is bringing stories that inspire, raise awareness and ultimately effect change,” she continued.

Producer Monga adds that the film introduced her to an indigenous community that is fiercely protective of their work and derives great purpose, dignity, and community from what they do. They have made her reflect on one of the deep questions the film asks which is, “How much is enough?” There’s a beautiful line in the film where they say, “We take only what we need from the jungle and it is enough for all of us.” That really resonated with her.



‘Writing with Fire,’ poster (Credit :

By Mabel Pais

In a male-dominated media landscape, the women journalists of India’s all-women-run Khabar Lahariya (“News Wave”) newspaper risk it all, including their own safety, to cover the country’s political, social, and local news from a women-powered perspective. Founded in 2002, Khabar Lahariya is an entirely digital organization doing on-the-ground reporting in India’s small towns and villages. They believe in the power of technology to tell stories that matter. From underground network to independent media empire — now with 10 million views on their YouTube site—they defy the odds to redefine power. Watch the video –
(VIDEO 2 here)
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Women@NJPAC focuses on India’s only all-female news network. The documentary film, ‘Writing With Fire,’ captures the bravery, tenacity and charm of a small group of rural Dalit women, considered members of a low caste, maybe outcaste. In spite of their social status and limited means, they fearlessly uncover their country’s inequities and wrongdoings.

While in the United States, a changing media landscape has shuttered many print newspapers and reduced the budgets for local reporting. While local journalists strive to keep their communities informed, they must also contend with the challenges of monetizing an online media presence.

Women@NJPAC is curating the virtual panel conversation on the importance of a free press and the power of journalists to transform their communities. The panelists will also share ideas on how to effect change and chip away at systems of oppression that have shaped lives for millennia.

How to participate:

Register at

You’ll receive a link to watch ‘Writing With Fire’ at home.

Join NJPAC for a virtual panel discussion at 7PM on March 20.



Anurima Bhargava
executive producer, writing with fire; founder/president, anthem of us

Stefanie Murray
director, center for cooperative media, montclair state university

Alejandra Sorto
campaign strategist, american civil liberties union of new jersey


Shumita Basu
broadcast journalist; host, apple news today and in conversation

(Mabel Pais writes on Social Issues, The Arts and Entertainment, Health & Wellness, Cuisine and Spirituality)

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