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Golden Globes 2023: Who's the Indian woman voter behind RRR's 'Naatu Naatu' win?

India's historic Golden Globes success rode on one vote from the country, by film critic and festival curator Meenakshi Shedde, and a sea of sentiment outside.

January 13, 2023 / 02:28 PM IST
Film critic, columnist and festival curator Meenakshi Shedde, the 2023 Golden Globe Awards' only voter from India.

Film critic, columnist and festival curator Meenakshi Shedde, the 2023 Golden Globe Awards' only voter from India.

India had one vote at the Golden Globe Awards this year, the country's first in the event's 80-year-long history. For Naatu Naatu, one proved to be a lucky number on the awards night. The first Indian song to be nominated for the Globes, the RRR number walked away with the honours, sweeping aside stiff competition from formidable figures like Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift while landing India a historic win at the American awards.

"Small enabler in a sea of joy, bravo India!" wrote film critic Meenakshi Shedde, the only Indian on the international voters' list of the Golden Globe Awards this year, on Facebook after the RRR song's win for the Best Original Song. The Mumbai-based Shedde was among the 103 international voters from 62 countries choosing the winners at the Globes.

"Sometimes destiny gives you a chance to make India and South Asia happy," added Shedde in an apparent reference to her choice at the Golden Globe Awards. "So proud to be a Golden Globes international voter." "Naacho, naacho India," continued Shedde, also a curator and filmmaker. RRR, which was also nominated in the Best Picture — Non-English Language category (formerly Best Foreign Language Film), lost to Argentina, 1985.

RRR's music director MM Keeravaani, who composed the award-winning song, received the Golden Globe statue after the winner's name was announced to roaring applause from the audience at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the venue of the awards on Monday night in Los Angeles, the seat of Hollywood.

Naatu Naatu, sung by Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava, beat the other Best Original Song nominees, Rihanna's Lift Me Up from Black Panther: Wakanda ForeverHold My Hand by Lady Gaga from Top Gun: MaverickCarolina by Taylor Swift from Where the Crawdads Sing, and Ciao papa by Alexandre Desplat from Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio.

AR Rahman had won the Best Original Score for Slumdog Millionaire at the Golden Globes in 2009 where the film's Oscar-winning song, Jai Ho, wasn't a nominee. Naatu Naatu won where actor Dev Patel had missed twice. Patel was a nominee for the Best Actor award in 2020 for The Personal History of David Copperfield and earlier in 2016 for Lion. Ben Kingsley had won the Best Actor prize in 1982 for Gandhi, and Ang Lee won the Best Director award for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001) and Brokeback Mountain (2006).

"Now that Naatu Naatu has won the Golden Globes, the song's chances of winning an Oscar are greatly increased," says Judy Gladstone, a Canadian film industry professional and chairperson of the jury at the ongoing 8th Ajanta-Ellora International Film Festival in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. "If it wins an Academy award, the film will ever be known as an Oscar-winning film," adds Gladstone. "Nobody distinguishes it won for Best Song or Best Makeup. Everybody associated with the song, their international careers are launched too."

Founded in 1944 by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the Golden Globes was hit by a huge controversy two years ago when the Los Angeles Times revealed alleged racism and corruption inside the organisation. Reports cited the total absence of Black journalists among the Globes' then 87 voters. The reports led to a boycott of last year's Golden Globes by famous actors like Tom Cruise, who also returned his three previous awards and cancellation of live broadcast. The controversy followed the #OscarSoWhite campaign in 2015 that led to changes in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Eager to salvage its standing, the HFPA last year added new members and 103 international voters from 62 countries in measures aimed at increasing diversity. Shedde was among the new international voters. The association now claims 52 per cent female voters, 12.1 per cent Asian and 10.1 per cent Black voters among its new members.

"The Golden Globes has greatly increased their credibility by having established critics from around the world. This ensures diversity and inclusion. It is quite historic that they have 52 per cent female voters this year," says Shedde, South Asia delegate to the Berlin film festival. "This diversity and inclusion will ensure the Globes' own sustainability."
"Ten of the 14 Globes winners this year were non-Americans or Americans from other nationalities' origin," Shedde says. "There was an overwhelming majority of global diversity and inclusivity." Among this year's winners were Malaysian-born Michelle Yeoh and Vietnamese-born American actor Ke Huy Quan, both for Everything Everywhere All at Once.
The new steps didn't stop American comedian Jerrod Carmichael, the first Black American to host the Globes in its 80-year-long history, from criticising the association over its diversity claims in his opening monologue on the awards night on Monday. Naatu Naatu's win gave the much-maligned Globes a windfall following in India and respite from a turbulent controversy-filled two years.

In the first phase of voting, Golden Globes' voters watched 350 movies in two months during October-November to choose five nominees each in 14 categories. "It was very challenging. For each film we were looking at all 14 categories. You needed the same amount of commitment for each," says Shedde. In the second and final phase in early January, the voters chose the winners in 14 categories.

Shedde believes for RRR's director SS Rajamouli, the Globes win is only a first step. She adds, "I am impressed by Rajamouli's determination to present the film on the global stage and his interest in potential collaboration with global talent."

Faizal Khan is an independent journalist who writes on art.