About Ninjai Gang Productions
Ninjai Gang Productions was born out of a group of surfers, yoga practitioners, and martial artists in Hawai`i, long-time friends and family, who started their own production company back in 2005 because they wanted to make their own live-action martial arts movies. Over the years, they have been working on an animated feature film called Ninjai: The Little Ninja along with some live-action projects, such as Karma Kula. Ninjai Gang Productions has a number of what we think are pretty cool projects in the pipeline.
The Ninjai Gang’s original productions are inspired by the members’ unique situation of having been raised in a multicultural environment where the ancient teachings of yoga influenced a major part of their lives. In fact, Ninjai Gang Productions is led by Satya, Subhadra, and Siddha, who are the children of the world-famous yoga teacher Zhang Hui Lan (Wai Lana), who is lovingly referred to as the “mother of yoga” to modern China.
After watching many martial arts movies and TV shows, Satya and her siblings realized that people really like martial arts and saw the potential in making productions that have a deeper meaning, offer a positive impact on society, and inspire people to discover deeper insights into life. The disciplines of martial arts and yoga ultimately steered the siblings toward making their own animation and movie productions.
Satya’s Interview about the Gang – From CGW Magazine, October 2009
Satya: My siblings and I and some of our friends had been practicing martial arts our entire lives for many hours every day—and we had all grown up enjoying martial arts movies and computer games. So when we were in our late teens, we naturally began to envision ourselves doing our own martial arts movies. Since some of us had also had some experience in production, we started messing around with home video cameras. Over time, we started getting very good at it and started writing short stories and producing skits. We were typical teenagers in the sense that we felt we could do anything. Actually, we were a bit arrogant at that time, thinking, “Hey, our martial arts is as good as anybody else’s. In fact, it’s better than the Segals and the Van Dammes and some of those other people making movies! So we should be able to do this, no problem!” We didn’t have much humility at that point in our lives—but at least it gave us the confidence to go for it.
It didn’t take long for us to realize that being skilled in martial arts does not necessarily mean our martial arts performances will look good on camera. So we ended up having to spend more years learning and perfecting “movie martial arts choreography.” Anyway, we spent more years training in our martial arts and movie-making skills and so forth until we decided we should start actually making our own movie.
Before we knew it, years and years and years had gone by. Some of us had gotten married and even had children of our own, but we never stopped our daily training and moving forward in our dream of making a first-class martial arts movie. We never stopped learning and improving. In fact, our team just got bigger and more experienced. As mentioned, most of our team started simply as martial artists and stuntmen, but out of necessity we started to branch out and learn different skills—different individuals having different inclinations. People who simply started off as stuntmen and training buddies focused on music and recording, lighting and camera work, makeup and costume-making, and so forth. Over the years it’s been amazing to see how all these people improved in their skills.
Also over time, more and more spouses, sisters, brothers, cousins, and a whole lot of other friends got on board. Just my family alone adds up to at least 10. For instance, my brother-in-law, Dami, is production manager of our live-action department (as well as one of the finest stuntmen I’ve ever met). Harsha is also one of the co-directors of our live action as well as one of the many co-directors of Ninjai. Harsha’s wife, Yamuna, helps with storyboarding artwork for both our live action and Ninjai, and she is also in charge of our costume design department. Her two brothers work on special effects for our live action and used to do some of the stuff in our animation department. One of our stunt guys got his dad, who was a long-time Disney and Hanna-Barbera animator, to join the Ninjai department a few years ago. He took our animation department to a new level. Anyway, I could go on and on about all the family and friends and interconnections. We’re just one big gang of good friends who love what we do.
~ CGW Magazine, October 2009 (China’s #1 Animation Publication)