“Nila” takes place in the 150th generation of the Sun and Moon tribes and is no different. This film introduces several new ideas and like any epic film, there are important underlying messages to take away from it. So who exactly are these tribes and where are they from? Where do we even find the 150th generation in our human timeline?
For one, this is a fictional story.
On Sunday, July 14, 2019, the Canadian Tamil Youth Alliance (CTYA) hosted Thaalam 2019 – 8th annual ultimate Gaana dance competition featuring nine competitive teams. This was held in the heart of the city at John Basset Theatre located in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Being a huge proponent for dance in our Tamil community, I was happy to witness all nine teams who showcased compelling sets. I was overjoyed by the turnout. Finishing in first place was ON3 – the team behind “Nila.”
This production was phenomenal. It was like nothing I have ever seen before on any staged platform or online medium for that matter.
ON3 is a team hand-picked by two versatile and involved Toronto dancers – Jesi Sadayar and Vegin Sampanthan. Dancers who earned their place were selected based on previous display of skill, tenacity, athleticism, theatrics and commitment scoped by these two. The talents were from a mix of age groups, all parts of the GTA and a variety of dance backgrounds. Almost all dancers reign from past Thaalam competitive teams including Ottawa Crusaders, Prima, and Gaana Squad to name a few. This brought me back to the birth of Zillas Dance Crew – a dance team I had invested heavily into. Zillas, formerly known as GaanaZillas, is comprised of dancers from college and university teams who went head-to-head for years and made their debut at Thaalam 2014 embodying their motto, “once rivals, now family.”
To me, with ON3, history repeated itself.
Trusting maestros, Jesi and Vegin, this troop went to work for months to make their imprint in Toronto’s world of dance. Piratheep Kanagasabai of Wild Rabbit Entertainment was called upon as one of the Executive Producers and the sole Film Director. Just like that, the ingredients to a masterful production were in place.
This ‘film’ begins with the beating of drums and tribal snares blended with the narration, which was well-scripted. The tone for the entire production and overall setting was established from the start. We get to see the first set with all girls and a boy in matching tribal costume. The display of choreography through and through was remarkable. This first set will captivate any audience for the subtle and effective use of props at the start, the progressive change in pace in the choreography and the astounding display of musicality. There were unique isolations and ‘pictures’ formed and stage coverage was at its finest. At this point, the audience knew that they were in for a treat.
We are introduced to the female protagonist, Nila, played by Neromie Sriragurajah early on. The first set concludes with a pose, which is picked up on screen and continued in cinematic fashion for the audience to watch. For the very first time, we witness the collision of dance and cinema. This happens interchangeably throughout the performance.
Nila is the Princess of the Moon Tribe who was looked down upon by her older brother, born warrior and Prince, Chandran, played by Kajanth Harendran. The Moon Tribe is led by father/Chief, Vaenthan, played by Senduran Bhakthakumaran. Nila shows resilience in her constant physical battles where she consistently met defeat. This was when she’d challenge her older brother. This strengthens her in ways she wouldn’t know she’d need until later on in the film.
The story develops very well.
We learn about the civil struggle between the Moon Tribe and the Sun Tribe led by Chief Ayan, played by Jesi Sadayar. The executive team did a fantastic job with character development through the choreography and especially, the displayed film. With hopes to restore peace between the two tribes, Ayan delivered a message to Vaenthan for an arranged marriage between Nila and Surya, Prince of the Sun Tribe, played by Huru Kankesan.
There is no great story without trials and tribulations, twists and turns, and of course, conflict that meets its fix. I urge everyone to watch this film to witness a remarkable story of a female protagonist carrying one true, powerful message that “shifts of power occur when new ideas emerge.” Outside of being captivated by awesome choreography and absorbing fine entertainment, one can truly walk away from this experience feeling empowered.
Without dissecting the dance too much, to say the least, it was awesome. This production features choreography that fit the story on all fronts. The song choices were spot on and the method of execution was effective. Everything surrounded the story – the dance served as a driving force to hit it home. Dancers were acting; there were accenting dancers on stage playing various roles both still and/or in motion. The styles between each gaana set were different. The leadership in ON3 were meticulous about their approach whether there were performed sets with focus in formations, isolations, “swag,” being power-packed/intricate, “couple-based” and/or theatrical. It was evident that a lot of thought was put into this and I really appreciated it. All of the characters in the film did exceptionally well playing their roles. There were a handful of moments. Nila’s expressions, Surya’s smirk, Ayan’s shriek – the list continues. The acting was perfect, and I commend each and every on3 for that. Ha – see what I did there?
What I have written serves as a review, but it is also more than just that. This is a door for our community to click a link and witness something magnificent. It is an opportunity to shed light on our own backyard and the abundance of talent in it, which we need to know about, encourage, support and enjoy.
Again, I urge your undivided attention. This is for 17 minutes and 57 seconds.
This is Nila.