(113): Kwana Casa’in: A Short Review
Kwana Casa’in: A Short Review
If posh locations, number of cast and crew members, sophisticated camera, etc. are enough indicators for the budget size of a production, then Kwana Casa’in [90 Days], produced by Arewa 24 channel, is doubtlessly an expensive soap opera. Directed by Salisu T. Balarabe, the drama is arguably the best of its kind in the Hausa language. Being funded by foreign, non-profit, non-political bodies, including the MacArthur Foundation, Kwana Casa’in stands out as a socio-political critique of our people and governments. It unmistakably aims to provoke reflection and introspection and to spark conversation and action within and outside the corridors of power. Is it able to achieve that?
Set in a fictional town called Alfawa, the drama begins at the peak of governorship electioneering. The current governor, Bawa Maikada (acted by Sani Mu’azu), is highly corrupt and desperate to win re-election in spite of doing very little for the people. The health sector, which is exposed the most, is brazenly neglected. Thus, poor people die in public hospitals. The media is muzzled, opposition intimidated, attacked, and others bribed. Malam Adamu (Ado Ahmad Gidan-Dabino), a lame, neither rich nor poor man, is the leading contender in the poll. He doggedly campaigns with the help of his trusted friends and acquaintances, including one backstabber. Against all the odds, he ultimately trumps the powerful, ruthless, affluent governor.
There are significant subplots, which include the story of an incorruptible, determined journalist, Sahabi (Aliyu Hussaini Musa). He plays a vital role in exposing the many corrupt and shady practices of the government. While his employers and own father turn their back on him, ironically enough, the governor’s daughter supports and eventually loves him. However, he ostensibly prefers another lady, the daughter of the governor’s henchman, Lahab (Shehu H. Kano), who is another important character in the series. Through a chain of command, Lahab gets contracts from Yakubu alias Ka fi Gwamna (Umar Malumfashi) to brutally silence all the governor’s critics. He then contracts his ferocious foot soldier, Sambo (Falalu A. Dorayi) to do the dirty job. The three scoundrels bury a donkey, pluck the eyes of six kids as demanded by a fortune teller to win the election. The search for the seventh pair of eyes brings about their downfall and total ruin.
Aesthetically, Kwana Casa’in has risen the bar of TV drama and filmmaking in northern Nigeria. The Arewa 24 channel has, since the release of its highly popular, eponymous Dadin Kowa and its sequel, Dadin Kowa: Sabon Salo, revolutionised the struggling, regional entertainment industry. More than that, the new soap is several steps ahead in many respects. Thematically, its preoccupation is more audacious as Nigeria has just had general elections in February and March 2019. If it were released before the elections, some politicians would certainly feel exposed and indicted. Contextually, Alfawa State is already a melting pot. Unlike Dadin Kowa where it takes some effort to portray the peaceful coexistence of its Muslim and Christian inhabitants, everything is just perfect, ethnic-wise, right from the onset in Alfawa. And much more.
However, no piece of art is impeccable, not even the so-called canon. To begin, let me borrow from the veteran film scholar, Hyginus Ekwuazi, though in a slightly different context. He points out that it is often difficult for many filmmakers to establish and maintain both a thematic and visual continuity from beginning to end. The makers of Kwana Casa’in have tried quite well to hold together its thematic concerns all though. Nonetheless, I think the audience should be shown the wisdom behind its title, for it is essential. About the visual continuity, there are several gaps. I will cite only a few examples.
First, in episode 7, between 16-18 minutes and within the same montage, the colour and thickness of Ka fi Gwamna’s moustache changes from a thin, greyish to a thick and black one. Second, two or more different houses are shown to be Sahabi’s family house. But for the fact that there is a big issue surrounding the house, this slip-up could be forgiven. Were they eventually evicted? How, when and why? The third visual error is how quickly his (Sahabi’s) deep cuts heal. Although spectators are convinced that the journalist is profoundly brave, he is also human, and very much so. Therefore, it is against nature for his severe wounds to heal within a couple of days while, for instance, the burns on Sambo’s unnamed abettor remain fresh forever.
There are equally instances where day’s sequences appear in between night’s ones. This reveals the inconsistencies of the story across time and space. For example, the scene of a woman buying voter’s cards comes in between night shots – as some village people chase the First Lady away and when she meets the Governor, apparently after returning home. Also, and perhaps more significantly, is when Sahabi comes out of Alfawa Radio Station, as indicated by a banner behind him, in the same episode. What is he doing there after his dismissal and being employed by ‘Yanci Radio Station? And much more. No doubt, continuity is exceptionally challenging in all narratives.
Still, on the drama’s few faults, I think that there is no or little need for a second season. All the loose ends could be tied up in the same season finale or one more episode. For instance, although the pregnancy Fa’iza claims to have is fake, she could report her lecturer-boyfriend to the university authority, and they fire him. No marriage and both are punished for their transgression. Though Dr Sheriff, the new, no-nonsense electoral commissioner, is abducted, the election goes on smoothly. So, the kidnapping is avoidable as it does not change the people’s mandate. Also, it is all clear who Sahabi prefers among the two ladies. Finally, while Sambo and Yakubu are in police custody, things have fallen apart at the governor’s house. What is more?
Notwithstanding the few identified imperfections, the drama is highly topical and well executed. It will surely spark self-reflection in the minds of several politicians who care to watch it. It will also enlighten the majority of its audience on corrupt politicians’ machinations to hold on to power. There have always been allegations and panic that children, people with special needs, animals, among others, are sacrificed in rituals during election season in Nigeria. The series lends more credence on that. It is left for parents to be more protective of their children and wards in times like that. It is also up to the electorate to learn to vote for the right candidates or continue surviving with malfunctioning infrastructure, among other ills. Buttressing this stance, a film scholar says that film not only reflects but also influences society.
Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim
University of Cologne