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Dream becomes reality for Nadia Nisha Kandhai

Sunday, August 6 2017

For many nationals, the coming-of-age story of “Green Days by the River”, written by local author Michael Anthony, has been etched in our cultural history for decades. The beloved novel follows Mayaro youth, Shellie, as he navigates life, love, and family ties in rural 1950s Trinidad, before the age of technology, proper telecommunication, and comfortable access to public health care.

Much buzz has been had over the book’s film adaptation of the same name, which will premiere later this year as the opening feature film of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (TTFF). This year not only heralds the film’s premiere but also marks the novel’s 50th anniversary, proving that it has defined and inspired many generations – and will continue to do so as the story is presented through the medium of cinema.

Nadia Nisha Kandhai will appear in the role of Rosalie, a main character in the book and one of Shell’s, and many of the village’s young men’s, love interest.

Having read the book at the age of 11, Nadia describes herself as young and insecure at the time of her first reading. She shares that her first book report was done on “Green Days”, and that she remembers Rosalie being her favourite character because she so wished to be like her.

“Rosalie was beautiful, wealthy, and confident – things a young girl aspires to be,” says Nadia of the traits that drew her to the character inked on the pages.

Fast-forward ten years and the soon-to-be-released film stars Nadia in the role of a character who she has had visions of for the last decade; something she never thought possible when she first became entranced with the novel before her entrance into secondary school.

It was a chance encounter at Piarco International Airport with Christian James, the film adaptation’s producer that led to Nadia landing the role. James approached and asked Nadia if she was familiar with the novel and that he was making the book into a film. “He said I looked exactly how he had pictured Rosalie, and encouraged me to audition.”

A second-year medical student at the UWI, St Augustine, Nadia says she had never done anything like this before. Her dreams have always been set on becoming a medical doctor and she describes herself as always having been academically inclined.

“This was way out of my comfort zone!” she says laughingly, adding that her friends and family encouraged her to audition. Although unsure of the outcome, the audition process went in her favour which came as a surprise to everyone, including Nadia herself, as she had no prior experience in acting or drama – “Besides being a very overdramatic person, as my mum likes to say,” she beams cheekily.

Before production began, she was immersed in a whirlwind of dance recitals and scene rehearsals in a short space of time, ahead of the filming schedule, which lasted 26 days.

However, the characterisation of Rosalie was not a hard one to come by for the newcomer. Several people joked that Nadia was the embodiment of Rosalie Gidharee. Of her onscreen portrayal, she says, “I am the character. It wasn’t hard for me to play Rosalie because I was reading her lines as myself. The girl you see onscreen is purely me, not someone just talking the talk and walking the walk.”

She also became friends with many of the actors off screen, and says she savoured every moment of playing her version of Rosalie.

“’Green Days by the River’ is one of my long-standing favourite books,” she says of her attachment to the novel’s rich, poignant, and nuanced stories of youthful frolic, familiar lush island imagery, and familial duty and honour. “It truly shaped the way I saw responsibility and the expectations of other people, and gave me insight on life in the 1950s in Trinidad.”

She believes that film adaptations of books should retain as much of the written word’s spirit when translated onscreen, painting the words into real life. “The film breathed life into the book, making it come alive in swirling colours and sounds,” she describes, adding that the adaptation is true to the novel’s story and characters. To the novel’s many fans and enthusiasts, Nadia says “Prepare to see your imagination projected onto a screen; I promise you’ll love it [as] we loved making it.”

She hasn’t seen the finished product yet, and will be just as mesmerised and moved as audience-goers upon the film’s premiere. She praises the film as author Michael Anthony’s words “wrapped up in the wafting greens and swirling blues of a seaside town, one long lost but recovered by producer Christian James and director, Michael Mooleedhar, who are true visionaries.”

For folks who are fans of period piece films, especially those set in our tiny island, Nadia says you are in for a visual treat.

Ahead of the film’s premiere, she looks forward to the well-deserved interest locally, regionally, and internationally. She plans on graduating in the future and realising her dreams of becoming a doctor, but says excitedly that she would not turn down the chance to act again in the future if the opportunity presents itself.

Her last words to readers and film enthusiasts alike, ahead of the “Green Days” premiere in September, are, “This film has the ebb and flow of the Mayaro waves, strong emotions and weak wills of youth, together with enchanting sequences of lush trees and flowing rivers. This film is about duty and love. This film is about life.”

Check out some of Nadia’s song covers on her Soundcloud at Nadia Nisha/Nadia Kandhai, or follow her on Instagram @nadinishi

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