Every Friday evening, a comic dish is served on privately owned Times Television under the banner of Mdyangu television series.
Talk of inter-family fights, unsolicited relationships, gossip, intra-family love triangles, cracking jokes and foolery all is there within a community which is so closely knit, apparently brought together by their common low-income status.
The families share taps, bathrooms, toilets and household utensils. Such ties at times bring them together and at times they are a cause for their endless arguments and fights. Still, they go on with their everyday lives without any worry. It is their community and they love it that way.
The characters in the comedy series at times appear like they are not acting at all, but living their real lives. The way they fit in their roles and complement each other is just natural. The set looks like it was specifically built for the purpose.
Producer of the series, actress-cum-film producer Flora Suya said the storyline was inspired by typical ghetto life where she herself grew up in.
“In the ghetto, every day is like living a comedy where life is lived in its simplest form. You have no food, so what? If the neighbour has some, the children will eat there. There is no money for rent, the landlord will have to wait till I find it. Stress levels are not high as there is so much time for laughter,” she said.
The production has about 20 characters, who every day try to outdo each other on serious or trivial matters. For them, life is almost a contest to be won whether through uncanny or conventional means.
The adrenalin levels in the Mdyangu community are never low. If it is not a fight between Mdyangu, played by Fiddes Kumwembe, and his wives, then it is between Mdyangu and his tenants or one tenant against the other.
Tame Mwawa plays the role of Chiphwanya, Mafumu Matiki is Mlelemba, Annie Muhapala is Mai Mdyangu, Mada Kamwendo is Sasoka, Sarah Piano is Cindy, Mercy Upindi takes the role of Mercy, Patuma Danger is Mai Shokoshoko and Philip Chiphaka plays Ganizani.
In June this year, the series will clock two years and the producer says Mdyangu has turned out to be a big hit among viewers because the Chichewa language used makes it easier for people to relate to the events.
She told Chill: “The journey has been satisfying such that we don’t plan to make any serious changes to how we execute it. Maybe the only thing we need to do is to make the series available for downloads and in DVDs too.”
Matiki, who has featured in the series for a year, paid tribute to the creators of the stories whose work he said has been well-complemented by the experience of the actors, their talent, will and experience.
“Art is abstract. It is something that one cannot explain and drama needs critical minds. The stories we tell are real and reflect typical Malawian set-ups. For us to fuse such narratives with comedy, there is need for us to bring the best out of ourselves,” said Matiki.
Another actress in the series, Muhapala, who plays the role of Mrs Mdyangu, said they work with partial scripts which don’t require the actors to memorise everything they are supposed to do on set, but to get themselves in the character.
She said: “You need to follow the guidelines. That tells you what you are supposed to be doing. It is easier when you have to memorise the full script. All you need is to visualise being that person. When you start acting, you then develop what to say when you get in the mood.”
Capital FM reporter Christy Gomani is one ardent follower of the series and he says the relatability of the storyline and the setting is the biggest strength of the series.
“Many people who are living in town have similar standards and they can relate with the challenges that such set-ups bring as portrayed in the series. And it has also been a platform that has managed to unearth a lot of raw talent,” he said.