The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the local art industry to a halt because of the prolonged inactivity as a result of restrictions on public gatherings.
While some have attempted to soar above the challenges by diversifying their art and mode of reaching out, others have resigned to their fate as they await the day the pandemic will be over.
In the midst of the pandemic, a group of local actors has come together in a film project titled Ife Ndi Achikhalidwe championed by comedian Andrea Thonyiwa, popularly known as Mr Jokes. The project has brought together names such as Mildred Murindiwa, Anne Clara Thipa, Fanny David and Michael Usi, who is also Minister of Wildlife, Tourism and Culture, but widely known by his stage character Manganya.
According to Thonyiwa, the film idea was hatched with the view of keeping their artistic instincts alive while allowing themselves an opportunity to earn something considering the prevailing times.
“At least everyone agrees that we are going through tough times because of this disease. We cannot perform as we used to and the effect on our financial status has been huge. No matter how tough the situation, but there has to be something we can do,” he said.
And as if Thonyiwa was on a demonstration of leading an act, the comedian could not have done it better than getting on board Usi to come out of his ministerial robes and play the role of Thonyiwa’s uncle.
In the film Thonyiwa starred as Mr Jokes, David as Tadala, Murindiwa acted as Tadala’s mother and Thipa took the role of Tadala’s aunt. Ife Ndi Achikhalidwe is expected to hit the screens on April 21.
The storyline centres on the tendency among most parents to dump their pregnant female wards on those responsible as a way of forcing them to marry. The narrative in the production has tested the rationale of the act from varied extremes, including the cultural perspective.
He said: “As the title suggests this film was done in a Lhomwe setup. The arguments that have been raised are based on the Lhomwe cultural beliefs which do not provide for dowry [lobola]. If we look at this act it smells of lobola and it is in total conflict with so many cultural beliefs.”
Thonyiwa said their intention was not to undermine the people’s norms, but to see if they still make sense in the modern era.
On hooking up with Usi on the project, Thonyiwa said he was pleased that he showed interest to be part of the project when he approached him to take a role in the film.
“It is not every day that someone of his status could jump on a project like this one. But his artistic side rose above everything which was a big positive to the plans that I had for this movie. I am happy that he decided to be part of this film,” he said.
In a separate interview, Thipa lauded the project for allowing her and other actors an opportunity to star alongside other established names in the industry. She, however, rued the damage the pandemic has had on the industry.
She said: “People give little relevance to acting, maybe because there is little corporate assistance that is rendered to the industry. But the little that we get there is enough to make an impact in our lives. It is that deprivation that has had us worried now.”
The film was co-produced by Thonyiwa and Isaac Misoya. The comedian has other film productions under his belt such as Fisi, Silent Marriage, Batchala Pa Line, Jacaranda and other nine stand-up comedies.
Co-producer of the film, Misoya said: “It was encouraging to see the minister on set. The greatest experience was to see how humble he was throughout. At that moment he seemed to have forgotten his other side and he was just an actor.”