King’s College London’s annual ‘Kings of Gaana’ event, the world’s largest inter-university Gaana competition, took place for the 10th year in a row on December 11. This year it was held in the Eventim Apollo theatre, and hosted by British Tamil event personalities Kutti Hari and Braha.
This year’s chosen charity was Tamil Diaspora Alliance whose mission is to unite the Tamil diaspora in order to protect and enhance the identity and origins of the Tamil diaspora and promote Tamil language, culture and heritage. Their projects include a partnership with Unicef to advance health and education of children and rebuilding a school destroyed by fire in Mullaitivu. All profits from the show went to the charity.
After 22 universities entered the competition, 8 universities were selected to enter the grand finale: University of Cambridge, University of Hertfordshire, Imperial College London, King’s College London, University of Lancaster, University of Newcastle, Queen Mary University and University of Warwick. 1880 people gathered in the Eventim Apollo theatre to watch these performances, as well as two acts: Preya, a flutist expanding her horizons from Carnatic to film music, and Thenuga, an British Tamil singer.
This year Kings of Gaana was judged by four talented and well-known Tamil dancers: Kollywood’s Sandy Master, Usha Jey, Jeya Raveendran and Jesi Sadayar.
Sandy Master is a choreographer in cinema who has choreographed for many iconic actors such as Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Dhanush and Prabhudeva. He is best known for his humorous dance acts and has performed in 1000 shows worldwide. Usha Jey is a choreographer, movement director and dancer from Paris who has performed at international stages including a Vogue runway and the Commonwealth Games 2022. Jesi Sadayar is a choreographer and creative director from Toronto, Canada and was a finalist in Canada's Got Talent 2022. Jeya Raveendran is the founder and choreographer of the dance troupe Gaana Rajas and founder of dance academy JRDA.
The Imperial College London had a lot to live up to being last year Kings of Gaana champions. The performance took inspiration from the popular film ‘Anniyan’ and the choreography incorporated elements of all three personalities from the movie. Jesi Sadayar stated that the team ‘leaned into the aesthetics of each character well.’ Sandy Master was impressed by the concept and said that the thinking was out of the box. The team's neat coordination and rhythmic moves won them the competition yet again.
The University of Cambridge’s dance was inspired by the popular Dhanush film ‘Maari’ and the choreography created unexpected and interesting images from a human auto to spelling out Maari which won the team second place. Sandy Master was so impressed by the choreography that he got out of his seat and gave the choreographer, Janusha Uthayakumar, a standing ovation.
King’s College London’s performance was choreographed by Ahinth Vijay who included a stunt which judge Jesi Sadayar was particularly impressed by. Sandy Master said he found the performance stylish and the team won third place overall.
University of Warwick was also inspired by ‘Anniyan’. The girls’ costumes were particularly unique as their blouses had hoods attached to represent the ‘Anniyan’ aesthetic. Jesi Sadyar was impressed by the transition entrances into every scene and said the lifts and formations were perfectly orchestrated.
Opening the competition was University of Hertfordshire’s Gaana team who performed a Vijay inspired dance, taking themes from Mersal by incorporating an unexpected magic trick within their act. The judges were particularly impressed with the main characters’ performances and Usha Jey expressed her appreciation for the memorable images the team created on stage.
The University of Lancaster’s team included both Tamil and non Tamil performers and Jeya Raveendran said that he was excited to see more from them and their choreography was a good cinema style. Queen Mary’s also incorporated an element of surprise by using torch lights and scenes on the sides of the stage in their dance. The University of Newcastle used a robot theme in their performance and included light up costumes which Usha Jey liked in particular.
Founded in 2012, Kings of Gaana is the crowning event of the UK Tamil society social calendar, with only Imperial’s multi-arts showcase ‘Mega Maalai’ running for longer as an annual show. Both shows and smaller events throughout the academic year illustrate the thriving cultural scene established by Tamil students at British universities.