The eleventh annual ‘Kings of Gaana’ took place at Troxy on 10th December, helmed by King’s College London's Tamil Society. British Tamil comedian Kutti Hari and returning champion Araniya Soosaipillai hosted the world’s largest inter-university Gaana competition.
This year’s chosen charity was Arobanam Children’s Fund. Founded in 1999, Arobanam Children’s Fund is a UK registered children’s charity which currently assists over 425 children in Sri Lanka and India.
Eight universities competed in the grand finale: Cardiff University, City University of London, University of Hertfordshire, Imperial College London, Queen Mary University, University of Nottingham, St George’s University of London and University College London. These performances were punctuated with other displays of Tamil musical artistry: Kowtham x MJ Melodies are a flautist and music producer respectively, alongside a trio of violinists Jashicha, Laksan and Jeshita.
This year Kings of Gaana was judged by four talented and well-known Tamil dancers: Jesi Sadayar, CC7 and Mithuja x Janusha.
Yesteryear’s returning judge Jesi Sadayar is a choreographer, creative director and movement designer from MIssissauga, Canada and was a finalist in Canada's Got Talent 2022. CC7 is a DJ, choreographer, and creative director, and a previous winner of Kings of Gaana, leading his team to consecutive victories. Mithuja and Janusha Amirthalingam are a multiple award winning choreographer, dancer and teacher duo from Zurich, Switzerland, classically trained in Bharathanatyam.
The champions of Kings of Gaana X Imperial College London based their performance from 2018’s psycho-thriller film ‘Ratsasan,’ incorporating horror elements into their dance. St George’s performance was also inspired by the same film. The judges, equally wowed by both interpretations, awarded both universities third place.
Second place winners Cardiff University were inspired by 2018’s pan-India action Kannada blockbuster ‘KGF,’ using props such as weapons and flags from the film.
University of Nottingham were championed Kings of Gaana for the first time, winning for their 2007 Rajinikanth starrer ‘Sivaji The Boss’ inspired routine. Using glow-in-the-dark outfits and incorporating moments from the film through acrobatics, the University of Nottingham proved themselves to be worthy victors.
The University of Nottingham team shared their thoughts on their win:
“We wanted our performance to showcase the talent that resides in Nottingham which we’re sure other people haven’t seen. The film we chose to recreate was 'Sivaji,' which was such a big part of our childhoods. There were numerous elements in the film that we wanted to play with and showcase for that nostalgic feeling.”
“One of the challenges we faced was cleaning the dance. As many of our dancers were first time performers, they lacked the confidence to perform to their full potential. So, as choreographers, we made sure that they were given the right encouragement and guidance. Without a doubt, every single one of our dancers took on everything we said and smashed it on stage. We couldn’t be more proud!”
The title-winning performance from University of Nottingham.
“The competition was very tough this year and all the universities definitely brought their best. One thing that we did want in our performance was for it to be visually entertaining from the get-go. We wanted to emulate the jovial nature of this Tamil classic. We did this by selecting significant parts of the plot that would bring comedic, romantic and action-packed elements to portray the story simply and effectively.”
“It feels surreal to have won the cup as it is Nottingham's first time to ever participate in KOG. We couldn’t have done it without our hard working and dedicated team. Especially those who helped us behind the scenes. We wanted to thank Kaven, Ram, Shaayini, Amy and our lead Praveen for bringing our vision to life. We couldn’t have done it without them.”