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With “Anikulapo” Kunle Afolayan Stretches his Creative Range

Anikulapo explores the character traits of humans that transcend generations.

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Kunle Afolayan has inscribed his name in our hearts as one of the best filmmakers in Nigeria and beyond. From October 1st which narrates a story around Nigeria’s colonial and post-colonial era, to Swallow, an adaptation of Seffi Atta’s 2008 eponymous novel, through the years, Kunle has not only maintained the quality of his movies, they have even gotten better.

It is not surprising that people waited with bated breath when the trailer of Anikulapo was released and the movie release date was announced, and no, it is not a movie about Fela Anikulapo. As usual, Kunle did not disappoint. A fantastical movie deeply rooted in Yoruba culture and set in an ancient Yoruba town, Oyo, Anikulapo narrates the story of Saro, played by Kunle Remi, an aso-ofi maker from Gbogan who migrated to Oyo. The second day Saro enters Oyo, he meets Awarun, played by Sola Sobowale who shelters him in exchange for his body. It didn’t take long for Saro’s expertise to be heard of in the palace, thanks to Awarun. But when he is called upon to make aso-ofi for the queens, he falls in love with Arolake, played by Bimbo Ademoye, the youngest queen.

And so it begins.

Employing Aristotle’s pyramid structure of conflict, the movie follows a chronological sequence of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement. Saro enters Oyo as a foreigner, gets help, betrays his helper when he finds a new lover, elopes with his new lover who gives him the power that gowns him an influence, gets carried away with the power and then… his doom. It is however quite obscure to exactly select a scene and attach it to an angle in the pyramid structure. But the conflict evidently begins when an affair starts to occur between Saro and Arolake, a queen to the king of the town that welcomes him. They get caught and Saro is beaten and left to die by the king’s guards. Arolake finds him in time, fights with the mythical Akala bird and collects its black-coloured gourd, and then rescues Saro. This magical gourd borders the living and the dead, and has the power to raise the dead. Arolake, seeing an opportunity to make a name for themselves, hands the gourd over to Saro. 

That is the beginning of her problems.

While the movie is set to be traditional, it explores the character traits of humans that transcend generations. Saro is a character that thrives every time he encounters any difficulty but his greed and selfishness thrash him in the end. It is natural for every human, not gender specific, to become desperate when we are in dire need of something. But when we acquire the thing, we always seem to forget how desperate we were or who helped us. This is why Saro betrays Awarun who sheltered him, Oyo town after welcoming him, and then Arolake who entrusted him with the power of eternity she snatched from Akala.

With Anikulapo, Kunle Afolayan has again proved to be one of the finest filmmakers of our time. Anikulapo has metamorphosed from being just a movie into a hot topic of discussion. It has also encouraged people to read more about the history of Oyo township.

But while the movie’s execution appears to be perfect, there are theatrical performances that reduce its perfection. For instance, some of the characters render their lines slowly as though waiting for the script to be projected before them – like Omowunmi, played by Eyiyemi Afolayan, while discussing her admiration for Saro with her mother, played by Moji Afolayan.

We also have the sex scene between Saro and Arolake in the palace. Perhaps, this scene wouldn’t have raised eyebrows if we got that same energy from the start of the movie. Before then, and even after that scene, the only form of intercourse were hugs. So it is unexpected that an isolated sex scene is shown.

The movie gives us a lot to think about: why are the tribal marks on the faces of Arolake and Saro quite different to others? Why is the king of Ojumo’s town silent? Why did Arolake give the power she would have used to her own advantage to Saro? Would there be a sequel to explain all these?

If you are a lover of old Yoruba Nollywood, then you’ll definitely enjoy watching legends like Taiwo Hassan, Yinka Quadri, Adebayo Salami, Fathia Balogun and the rest, on your TV screen.  

Anikulapo’s literal meaning is someone who holds death in his pockets. In this movie, it means one who restores the dead to life. But can Saro, who is already on the verge of death, save himself? Go watch it!

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