SINGAPORE - Mr Sandhirakasan Ganesan has been passionate about martial arts since he was 12, and has even taken part in international competitions representing India.
When the opportunity arose for him to showcase his talent in a competition here, the 33-year-old choreographed a Silambam routine with a bamboo staff for a one-minute video, which he filmed at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.
Silambam is a martial art form that originated from south India.
His video on TikTok has nearly 5,000 views and more than 80 likes to date.
Mr Ganesan, who teaches taekwondo, is among the top 20 finalists of the contest out of more than 600 entries, including ones from migrant workers like himself.
The contest is part of the Tamil-language variety show, Chill Pannu Maappi, co-produced by Cosmic Ultima Pictures and the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).
The show started on June 11 and ends on Monday (July 5) with its eighth episode, when contest winners will be announced. The show includes songs, dances and stand-up comedy gigs, and has featured local artistes and celebrities from India.
Video submissions for the contest showed talents such as dancing, singing, playing instruments and cooking. They are posted under the SG 4 Migrant Workers TikTok account.
Mr Ganesan, who teaches at Hankuk Taekwondo School and has been in Singapore for seven years, said he did not submit the video to win.
"I wanted to help people to de-stress, provide some entertainment and let more people know of the martial art," he told reporters on Sunday (July 4).
Ms Soffy Hariyanti, director of the campaigns and production department at MCI, said the talent contest segment was added to the show to better engage migrant workers on the social media platforms they frequently use.
"We are heartened by the positive reception to these programmes and the talent contest," she told The Straits Times.
This is the second year Gov.sg - the official online communication platform of the Singapore Government - has worked with Cosmic Ultima Pictures to make variety programmes for migrant workers in Singapore.
Similar efforts were made during the circuit breaker period in May last year, to both convey Covid-19-related information and provide encouragement and entertainment, said Ms Soffy.
A Bengali variety series, called Adda! which runs to July 12, was also produced with the same objectives.
Both series are available on YouTube under the Friends of SG Migrant Workers channel and the Gov.sg Facebook page.
Cosmic Ultima Pictures executive producer S.S. Vikneshwaran Subramaniam said the response for the competition was overwhelming, with some participants submitting multiple entries.
The cash prizes drove participation, he said, with $1,000 for the top winner, $500 for the second prize, $300 for the third prize and $700 worth of consolation prizes.
"Moreover with popular award-winning Tamil cinema actress Aishwarya Rajesh helming the competition as a judge, this was also a major pull for them," he said.
Another finalist is logistics handler Maruthaiyan Kumaravelu, 35, who demonstrated how to cook battered fish with the use of ingredients such as cumin, pepper, garlic and ginger.
"I wanted to show that this style of using raw ingredients instead of pre-made, mass-produced flavouring powders can also be healthy and delicious," he said.
Mr Vignesh Sathish, 27, who works in a cabling company, submitted a video of himself doing the karakattam, an ancient folk dance where the dancer balances a pot on his head.
During his spare time in the past two years, he occasionally trains and performs with a local dance group called Rameshwara, which provided him with a costume that he used for his video submission.
"There are many modern dance forms nowadays, but I wanted to show something that is more traditional, which I think people still like and admire," he said.