Critics are pointing out how the Naatu Naatu performance at the Oscars this past Sunday lacked South Asian representation in the choreographers and the ensemble.
The performance recreated a scene in the film RRR where the stars Ram Charan and N.T. Rama Rao Jr. danced to the Oscar-winning song.
However, the pair was not able to make it to the performance, being replaced by lead dancers Billy Mustapha and Jason Glover who are Lebanese-Canadian and American respectively, according to Yahoo! News.
Critics also state that the choreographers, So You Think You Can Dance duo Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo, are not of Indian descent, The Wrap reported. The ensemble also did not prominently feature performers of South Asian descent.
A representative of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences told IndieWire that it “was incorrect” that there were few, if any South Asian artists in the performance, though they did not provide further clarification.
American dancer Lauren Gottleib posted rehearsal videos of Naatu Naatu prior to the Academy Awards, but has since deleted the posts because of backlash, IndieWire reported.
L.A.-based choreographer Joy Kazi and member of the Television Academy who worked on Never Have I Ever, New Girl, and more, posted on social media that her agents submitted her to work as a choreographer for the performance but did not book the gig.
Kazi stated in her post how there was a lack of representation in Gottlieb’s rehearsal videos.
“I also don’t need to book everything under the sun, because there are plenty of talented South Asian dancers and choreographers to choose from,” Kazi said in her post. “I’m just wondering why I don’t see people of the culture in the room in these rehearsal videos. Are we going to see even one South Asian dancer on that stage?”
Dancer and choreographer Ramita Ravi also stated her discomfort with Gottleib’s posts.
“Here are people like me, like Joya, like Kavita Rao, like Achinta [McDaniel], like Nakul [Dev Mahajan] who have very, very much been in the industry,” Ravi told IndieWire. “[We] have the agents, have the reps, have union status, have all of it and still were not … considered for a job like this where it’s our culture on display.”
Naatu Naatu took home the gold for best original song.
AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Please consider making a donation and following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Information about interning, joining the staff or volunteering is here. We are supported by a grant from the California Library Commission and its Stop the Hate program. You can find more resources here.