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(92): Kannywood Movie Review: Rariya

Production:    Sadau Pictures
Producer:       Rahama Sadau
Director:         Yaseen Auwal
Year:              2017
Cast:               Ali Nuhu, Rahama Sadau, Hafsat Idris, Fati Washa, Zainab Booth,
Rabi’u Rikadaw, Sadiq Sani Sadiq and others


The mobile phone has, since its introduction and ensuing popularity, been playing double-edged functions in many cases and instances. The ‘conservative’ Hausa community of northern Nigeria is one of such a case. For years, some people, parents, in particular, have refused to let their female children use it, while some husbands have equally denied their wives any access to any Internet-enabled cell phone. It is, however, ironical as most if not all of those ‘deniers’ use the smartphones, yet they frown at, or forbid others from, using it. Their reason is simple: to curb some of the vices committed, often, with the assistance of the phone. To others, it is to prevent their loved ones from taking the course they are on; or over-protection, ignorance, or whatever else.

The smartphone is, no doubt, able to expose the private sphere of its users. In other words, it can, so smoothly and seamlessly, trespass the soro and the tsakar gida (atrium) barriers put in place in the traditional Hausa house structure and go anywhere. In a nutshell, it threatens the tradition of purdah! Thus, taking this as a thematic preoccupation in a film by the debutante producer and one of the leading actors in Kannywood film industry, Rahama Sadau is so relevant, topical and timely. The director, Yaseen Auwal, too, is quite well-known for dealing with contemporary topics.

(Warning: this section contains spoilers)

The racy Rariya opens with a scene of Zee (Rahama Sadau) chatting on a phone while reclining on a bed in a student room. Her chatting partner is Alhaji Dan Baffa, (Rabiu Rikadaw), “a CEO of a very big company” whom she calls a newbie for he’s extremely agog. Besides, Zee’s roommate, Asma’u (Hafsat Idris) decries her behaviour and admonishes her to read for they have a test the following day. Another friend comes in, but she extols Zee and encourages her. Zee later reveals to the duo that the lecturer, Dr. Dalha (Ali Nuhu), whose test they are going to do is but a paper tiger. She tells them not to worry; she would command him to award them their choice marks. To prove her claim, she calls him to take her to her new catch, Alhaji, and so it happens.

The story revolves around four ladies: Zee, her roommate, Asma’u and two others. While almost nothing is mentioned of Zee’s parents, Asma’u comes from a very poor family who, however, send her to school with a very little financial support. Although she initially resists the temptation to do what the likes of Zee do, circumstance, as she claims, compels her into it head-on. With that, she not only fends for herself but she also assists her poverty-stricken parents.

Halima (Maryam Booth), the third girl, is the daughter of Zee’s sugar daddy. He doggedly opposes the idea of letting his daughter – or any girl other than the ones he flirts with – to have a Smartphone. However, her boyfriend who’s willing to marry her secretly buys one for her. As a ‘token’, she names him Jaki (Donkey) in her phonebook. She, from the onset, tells all that she’s only at the university to get the degree certificate, by hook or crook, and nothing else. Thus, she begins having an affair with the same lecturer, Dr. Dalha.

Fa’iza (Fati Washa), a pampered, father’s favourite daughter hails from Katsina. Although her mother fears about her safety and chastity, her father is cocksure about his daughter’s supposed proper manner. On her first day at the school, Fa’iza falls into the hands of bad friends and they soon initiate her into their clique. Mu’azzam (Sadiq Sani Sadiq) dumps Zee for Fa’iza and organises a grand birthday party for her. Zee tips her rival’s father who, on hearing this, leaves Katsina for Kano in the night but only to come and find ‘nothing’.

Finally, all the cookies crumble, to use Chase’s words. Asma’u's boyfriend, Zahraddeen Sani, an armed robber, gives her a stolen phone. She’s eventually tracked, arrested and remanded. As Halima expands her business with some pimps, she, unwittingly, ends in her promiscuous father’s hotel room, who requests for fresh blood. Fa’iza and Mu’azzam are involved in a ghastly motor accident en route from Abuja where they spend some days “chilling” together. Zee leaks a video clip of Dr. Dalha and Halima dancing together. He subsequently loses his job. The police arrest him for misconduct and for spreading HIV aids, knowingly, to his sex partners. Zee almost gets it scot-free, but she too ends up with a disfigured face after a revenge acid attack on her face. She’s also HIV positive as also is Alhaji Dan Baffa and his two innocent wives.

Critique and Verdict
As I and a friend and film enthusiast, Dr. Malam Daha Tijjani discussed on Facebook, the film does not disappoint in many respects. It is, therefore, by and large, worthy of the hype that trailed its production, cinema show and subsequent release on the DVD – and, of course, YouTube! I commend the director, the editor, the cinematographer and other crew members. It is not easy to film such a story that demands the use of profane language, spicy costumes and classy mise en scène. However, like any work of art, there are gaps here and there. The following are our observations:

The much popularised Rariya song is neither well interspersed nor contextualised, though this is common to several Kannywood films. There is no sentimental attachment between Dr. Dalha and Zee, or none is established, that warrants any song and dance sequence by the duo. Theirs is only lust while the song expresses affection. In sum, the song, at best, interrupts the storyline of the film.

Again, the director fails to take note of playacting thumb rule of believability in at least two instances. One is the way Zee gets the phone number of Fa’iza’s father so effortlessly. Yes, the henchman could have access to all such ‘private’ stuff, but nothing is established about his, say, numerous connections or tricks. Two, the purported Abuja scenes while viewers can clearly see tricycles (Adaidaita Sahu) passing by, a clear indication that the place is most likely Kano.

Another blooper is the overall conduct of the girls’ cohort. It is hyperbolic to suggest that only one of the lots is guiltless and serious-minded to complete her studies. Lucky, nothing identifies the university the film is set at; else, this (mis)representation could have triggered protest and condemnation by the viewers. Still, the exaggeration may not sit well with many people, especially parents and husbands, who advocate for girl-child and women right to education. A similar film was once heavily criticised for portraying a (note the number!) university student as bad. I am referring to Matar Jami’a (Dir. Yaseen Auwal 2013).

Last but not the least, as a cliché says, is the ending. The conclusion is, often, the most challenging part for story writers; they fear to leave any loose end. To do that, the Rariya filmmakers do things too quickly and roughly. Every keen viewer could guess that all the campus prostitutes would end tragically as none of them has shown any remorse, not to mention repenting or anything towards this direction. However, this frenzied effort does not help much. 

Written by: 
Muhsin Ibrahim
Institute of African Studies and Egyptology, 
University of Cologne 

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