For the next week or so, I intend to document and publish my experiences as a close part of the filming of Tunde Kelani’s latest flick-in-the-making, “Ayinla”. For those that enjoy coffee-table-style literature, this is for your reading pleasure, away from the depressive news everywhere one turns to in the country. The filming of ‘Ayinla’ began last Saturday.
In the almost half a Century of our relationship, I have not seen Tunde Kelani, TK, in his present mood. It is, probably, because I have, also, never been a close part of his film community on the eve of any of his major productions. This time, we have been ‘5 and 6’, tied in a knot. TK has been ‘close marking’ me, the way Claudio Gentile marked out Diego Maradona at the 1990 World Cup. No breathing space. Everywhere Maradona went on the field of play Gentile followed him like his shadow. That was the strategy Italy adopted to stop Maradona.
In my case with TK, he may have adopted a similar ‘strategy’ to forestall any possible ‘escape’ for me. He obviously remembers my versatility as an actor, thats why he is investing a lot of time on me this time😜. Pls tell him to relax and I am all set for my expanded part in the movie.
To fill up my time after playing my part, I am going to keep a diary of the highlights, telling it all, tiworo tiworo, particularly what this faded football star thinks of the experience and how well he does in Planet Nollywood. The past two weeks have been intense, exciting and a blast. Working with TK and seeing how a movie is being put together have been a unique experience. The details in producing an epic film like ‘Ayinla’ are mind boggling. The only subject anyone can get TK to discuss these days is the film. Every conversation starts and ends with ‘Ayinla’. I am in his ‘prison’. The good news is that, at last, the filming started a few days ago in Abeokuta. That has taken over his life. Before that, TK had been prancing around like a boxer on the eve of a big fight. He reminded me of how I used to feel before a big game – restless, singleminded, anxious, poor sleep, fasting and praying, adrenalin pumping in the veins, all emotions unleashed. At such times, time moves very fast, racing at a thousand kilometers per hour. TK obviously has an exciting but challenging movie script in his hands that is taxing his creativity and stretching the limits of improvisation in securing the tools and locations for a film set a long time ago in the 1970s and early 1980s. The other day I jokingly teased him about why he is not using me as his lead actor, considering the rave reviews I got for my world class 😜 performance in Campus Queen.
His response left me confused.
The protagonist in the movie, TK says, is not Ayinla Omowura, but the ancient ‘town under the rock’ around which the movie is intricately woven, its environment, people, culture, history, language, and social life that moulded a local musical genius, whose songs were deep socio-cultural and political satire. Abeokuta provided all the ingredients that created Ayinla Omowura, and gave him all the ‘materials’ for songs that are evergreen for those that understand Yoruba language and appreciate his genre of music – Apala.
So, the movie captures the odyssey and adventures of a local musical hero, and relives them in Abeokuta, this quiet town in the heart of Yorubaland, saturated with nature’s ‘accidents’ in its resultant ‘catastrophic’ topography of meandering brooks, rocky boulders, dangerous rapids, rolling hills and valleys, deep gorges, and so on. Abeokuta also birthed some of the most accomplished and educated people in Nigeria’s history in virtually all sectors. This was where Ayinla lived, loved, worked and tragically died on the eve of his greatest triumph.
TK has been preparing to let people see and appreciate the town in all its spectacular beauty and glory. I must not take the thunder out of a movie that promises music, suspense and abundant drama. I can almost read TK’s mind about his ultimate but unwritten mission – to market Abeokuta to the world through this film. His greatest challenge, therefore, would be how to do justice to the sites, sounds, culture, architecture, people and the fear of the still lingering Coronavirus pandemic still hovering over the land in order to achieve that goal.
The Pilgrimage to Ososa.
Two weeks ago, TK told me that before any filming is done he needed to go on a pilgrimage to Ososa; that the elements had ‘whispered’ to him to go and draw some inspiration from the only man whose works in film, culture, literature and theatre define the best and richest of Yoruba traditions. In short, he needed to commune with his boss and mentor, late Dr. Albert Hubert Ogunde. He invited me to come with him. I agreed to go on the one condition that after Ososa he too would accompany me to Ipara for my own drink of inspiration.
What or who is in Ipara? How did our ‘pilgrimage’ to Hubert Ogunde’s home go?
Meanwhile, filming has finally started at locations in Abeokuta. How is it going?