As award season ramps up, RRR—one of the best historical fantasy action films we’ve ever seen—has so far nabbed Golden Globe and Critics Choice Awards for its music. Composer M.M. Keeravaani recently chatted with io9 to discuss working with RRR director S.S. Rajamouli on the film’s epic music, the international reaction to the film, and the viral video sensation of “Naatu Naatu”—thanks in no small part to the film’s charismatic leading men NTR Jr and Ram Charan.
Sabina Graves, io9: I’m so excited to speak to you! I’m in Los Angeles and have been lucky enough to see the film multiple times in IMAX and Dolby theaters. And Dolby was definitely one of my favorites, as you really get immersed in the incredible music and sound. Just to get started, what was the process writing the songs? How much did the script inform you, or did you work with S.S. Rajamouli on developing the songs as the script was being written?
M.M. Keeravaani: I take the narration of the story initially, and I come to know how many songs are there, and what are the song situations [and] some sequences. So I started composing [the song] for RRR about friendship [“Dosti”] that happens after [NTR Jr. and Ram Charan’s characters, Bheem and Raju] meet for the first time and the train accident—that was done first. And then I composed the song that Malli, the small child character, sings [“Amber Se Toda”]. And then the song where Bheem is tortured—that was song number three, then the celebrate the flag song, and then “Naatu Naatu,” and then the background songs. This is the order of the songs I composed, and then once the songs are composed the movie’s ready and I take care of the background score—that’s the process.
io9: That’s so incredible to hear, having gone to the theater here and seeing a lot of the videos online of people doing the dance for “Naatu Naatu.” What was your reaction as the song went viral and now has won awards?
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Keeravaani: Amusing and interesting. And I felt happy because it’s something that catches people’s attention and interest, and it feels happy.
io9: Going back to beginning your relationship with S.S., what stands out to you about him as a collaborator that keeps you coming back to work on new ideas?
Keeravaani: It’s just that he understands my capacities and my limitations and what all I can give. He perfectly understands me and I understand perfectly what he means and what are his requirements. It’s a matter of understanding other, like to be in harmony all the time, and that’s what makes our association strong. In other words, he has a master key in his hand to my house so he can come any time. And then when he gets an an idea he can immediately approach me wherever I am, it saves lots of commuting time and communication time.
io9: Definitely. And along those lines, I know it’s probably too early, obviously, to discuss anything about RRR 2, but just based on the music you’ve already written for these characters, have you already thought of ways to continue their story through music?
Keeravaani: Maybe but right now, [Rajamouli] is busy with two different productions. It may take [years] for him to complete [those projects]. So after that, maybe there’ll be [more] RRR. Who knows?
io9: It’s so incredible to see the film’s effect on a global scale. And just from a a fan’s point of view, you and the whole team have inspired, I would say, filmmakers coming up. I want to know for you, what were some global films that inspired you as a composer to write for movies?
Keeravaani: Movies like Fiddler on the Roof, Phone Booth, Sliding Doors, The Exorcist, Enter the Dragon, 36 Chambers of Shaolin, Groundhog Day, Coming to America, and movies like that. I’m a big fan of Jim Carrey—I forgot how many times I watched Liar Liar. [I’m a] great fan of his work. So there are many movies. And not only movies these days, you know, there’s some TV series like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. They’re great shows. So I enjoy [those] a lot too. Sometimes they look better than the movies, You know, the quality, the sound, everything. And is that is great.
io9: I would like to hear your take on those types of projects. Good luck on awards season! We hope to see “Naatu Naatu” at the Oscars.
Keeravaani: Thank you.
RRR is currently in select theaters for awards season—we recommend watching it on the biggest screen possible, in its original Telegu presentation if you can. Otherwise, it’s also streaming with a less-than-ideal dub on Netflix.
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