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City people Entertainment on June 13, at Etal Hall, Oregun, held the grand launch of the movie, ‘Arugba’, which was produced in 2008 by Tunde Kelani for his Mainframe Productions Limited. The launch was organised in order to present to the entertainment market the DVD/ VCD version of the movie which had, since its production, been presented in cinema within and outside the country.
The event, hosted by Ropo Ewenla and Producer, Babatunde Moronfolu, had in attendance, notable personalities in the entertainment and media industries including actresses Joke Silva, Bukky Wright and Funke Akindele. Also present were former Lagos State gubernatorial aspirant, Jimi Agbaje; Wale Osun of the Lagos State House of Assembly; Secretary, Governing Council, Yoruba Academy, Dipo Famakinwa; Idiong Edward of the National Film and Video Censors Board; Journalist, Tunde Fagbenle; and Tunde Oloyede, producer of ‘ Village Headmaster’, among other prominent people.
Speaking at the event, Tunde Kelani, attributed the delay in the launch of the VCD of Arugba to the “prevailing atmosphere”, which didn’t favour the movie’s release until now. He went further to remark on the huge problem of piracy, indicating that the company was unable to hold on to the movie indefinitely till the seemingly intractable problem of piracy can be solved.
The event deviated from screening of the movie as expected in movie premieres; rather in a laudably novel manner, the launch incorporated stage performances of some scenes from ‘Arugba’, by the actors, actresses and dancers featured within the movie.
Opening the event was Muri Amulegboja of the Amulegbajo Dance Group, who performed a solo Yoruba chant (ewi), titled ‘Iba’.
The second performance featured the female singing group, ‘Adunni and Nefertiti’, which did an acapella song from its debut Album, ‘Ayeraye’, titled ‘Ori’. The performances lined up for the event were punctuated by speeches from Kelani and Tunde Adegbola, Executive Director, African Languages Technology Initiative (ALTI); as well as the unveiling of the movie and purchase pledges by guests.
Adegbola gave a brief summary of the film along with an explanation of the central themes juxtaposed in the movie. In his words, “Arugba is a story of a community and its king, a Messiah of sorts, who would acknowledge no-one else as such.” Continuing, he remarked that the story is “an intricately woven set of parallel blocks; and in a unique style of feature presentation, the story is an interplay of reality and fiction.”
Adegbola further described the characters: The king, with his many proclivities and his means of satisfying these; the king’s lieutenants, with little honour among their thieving ranks, which is full of intrigue and blackmail; Onikoyi, the circumspect, bold and honest chief; and the Arugba, who had survived a human trafficking ordeal, and is the embodiment of innocence and purity; but who soon grows and falls in love with Makinde.
‘Arugba,’ the ALTI Director said, “is a contemporary story told in a traditional voice,” lauding Kelani for his sensitive treatment of gender issues within the movie.
Kelani took the podium to recognise the support of several individuals, and governmental bodies in the production and subsequent launch and screening of ‘Arugba’. The list included Governor Babatunde Fashola, who ensured that the movie was screened in all Local Government Development Council Areas within Lagos state; former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu for his goodwill during and after the movie’s production; Tunde Olowolafe, Executive Producer on the Arugba project; and all the writers, performers, dancers, cast and crew for their unalloyed support and understanding.
According to Kelani, the movie is an attempt to export and celebrate Nigeria’s literary brilliance worldwide; even in an environment where such talent is neither encouraged nor supported. Concluding his speech, Kelani warned that, “It will be a shame if our children have to resort to archeology to discover traces of our culture in this information age.”
Present at the launch with her parents, Bukola Awoyemi, star of the movie, who acted the role of ‘Arugba’ made a stage performance of one of her song-and-dance scenes in the movie, titled ‘Afifila Perin’. And it was no surprise to all at the event that the young lady had been chosen to star in the movie after auditions which must have been no doubt competitive, as she handled her performance with grace and panache that typify a virtuoso in her craft. The rap interlude in her act was performed by Aduke, a performer with Segun Adefila’s Crown Troupe.
Subsequently, Adefila and his troupe took the stage with another excerpt from the movie, a dance drama titled ‘Mi o ni Choice’, which in Adefila’s usual penchant illustrated the difficulties faced by the Nigerian masses and the attendant consequences of brain drain, crime and other underdevelopment manifestations. As Adefila sang, “Mi o ni choice, mi o fe rob, ebi de n pa mi, ki le fe kin se” (translated: I’ve got no choice, I do not want to rob people, but I am crushed by hunger, what can I do?).
Performances and remarks
Following the Crown Troupe’s performance was a monologue act by Akeem Oyadina, titled ‘The Abiola Connection’, as his role in ‘Arugba’ was that of a cheated aspirant, depicting the struggle and eventual imprisonment of the late presidential aspirant, MKO Abiola. Other performances were Yoruba Quick lecture, a comedy piece by Jare Ademiregun; and finally, to round up the performances, another vocal and choreography performance by Adunni and Nefertiti, and Crown Troupe, titled ‘Ayeraye’.
Yinka Odumakin, the publicity secretary of Afenifere Renewal Group, and Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi of African Women Development Fund (AWDF) were called upon to support Tunde Kelani in unveiling the movie. Bisi Makinde, giving a brief speech before the unveiling, hailed Kelani as a ‘ladies man’ for his efforts in ensuring that issues affecting the female gender are addressed in his movies.
Producer and Host of the event, Babajide Moronfolu, in concluding the evening gave a pithy insight into Kelani’s inspiration for the movie. According to him, “We attended an Osun Osogbo festival where we heard that a maiden had carried the calabash three successive times, and we wondered the reason for that. Also in light with MKO’s speech during his presidential aspiration”, Morounfolu continued, “A man may accept the task of bearing a sacrifice for a community when it is under siege; and the sacrifice bearer may or may not return from this endeavour. MKO Abiola, did this in a manner of speaking, and though he didn’t return, he paved the way for the re-emergence of democracy in Nigeria.”
Odumakin remarked that before the intervention of Kelani and Mainframe Productions, “the Nigerian movie industry had been characterised by mediocrity, but Mainframe Productions has carved a niche for itself in terms of bringing professionalism to the industry”.
Other movies by Mainframe include: ‘Saworo Ide’, ‘Agogo Eewo’, ‘Koseegbe’, and ‘O Le Ku’. The company’s latest ongoing production effort is titled ‘Maami’, a movie which will star Funke Akindele, actress, and producer of ‘Jenifa’.