(123): Kannywood Movie Review: Mati a Zazzau

Director:         Yaseen Auwal
Producer:       Rahama Sadau & Sadiq Sani Sadiq
Language:      Hausa
Year:               2020
Company:      Sadau Pictures and Asmasan Pictures
Cast:            Sadiq Sani Sadiq, Tahir I. Tahir, Rabi’u Rikadawa, Adam A. Zango, Rahama Sadau, Hadiza Blell, Umar Gombe, etc.

So far, only very few successful titles in Kannywood have become a franchise. Beside Adam A. Zango’s Basaja, I can only mention Yaseen Auwal’s Mati character. While the former deals with financial rickety in an urban, techno-scientific set, the latter is a social drama in a rural setting in the past. The chronicle of Mati began with Wani Gari and then Mati da Lado and now Mati a Zazzau. Had the filmmaker foreseen where the film could go, I guess the first of the series would have “Mati” in its title. Now, the character has become a commodity as he acts in short films and others imitate him elsewhere. At the risk of jumping the gun, I can confirm that Mati a Zazzau has a sequel. So, fans of this exciting franchise will still have more to watch.

As a continuation, the film starts from where Mati (acted by Sadiq Sani Sadiq) wanders in an unknown village following his escape from Rimau. He and his brother-accomplice, Lado (Tahir I. Tahir) duped the people of Rimau village for years by pretending to be learned in Islam. As soon as the townspeople discovered their identity, they chased them away. By sheer coincidence, Mati finds himself in Zazzau, where his late, rich father had lived and left a substantial treasure in the hands of a confidant in a village named Sauda. The rest of the story revolves around Mati’s effort if not intrigue to get the wealth. Others, too, including Lado; their father’s old friend, Barau (Rabi’u Rikadaw) and their brother-in-law and his wife join the struggle to get the fortune. 

On the other side, the village head of Sauda is avaricious. Thus, he wants to get a share of the wealth. In his frantic effort to do that, he marries his daughter, Madina (Hadiza Blell) to Mati, among other undignified things. Madina’s brother, Yarima (Adam A. Zango), to whose friend Madina was betrothed to, is not happy with her forced marriage. Thus, he leads the discovery of Mati’s machination and, eventually, disrupts everything. Iliya (Aminu Sheriff Momoh) is another interesting character that plays a significant role. He is a son to the sick, confidant who knows the locations of the treasure.

The film is doubtlessly successful as per Kannywood’s box-office record. It, reportedly, pulled out audience more than any other movie before it, thanks to a well-calibrated publicity and promotion by Rahama Sadau and her team. Her fame and, of course, that of the versatile Sadiq Sani Sadiq must have played a role. If one looks at the film’s poster, the size of Rahama’s photo alone may convince her fans to see the movie, not knowing that she plays a minor role in the film. The film’s director is yet another possible factor that must have invited the audience to the cinema, for he has a history of directing topical movies.

However, the film, like others, has problems here and there. I will begin with its clichéd background (tensed) music. As I pointed out to the director as well as other Kannywood filmmakers, I found the same tune in more than 50 films. It’s indeed better than stealing background tracks from Game of Thrones, Lord of the Ring, Life of Pie, among other globally known films, which, however, some directors shamelessly did. However, it’s high time they abandoned this one, too.

The character of Madina does not fit. She is not an actor. Moreover, her Hausa, as a princess of an archetypal Hausa kingdom, leaves so much to be desired. Likewise, Momoh is ‘too’ outstanding as an actor whose character deserves to be well-established. No, the audience just sees him beside his sick father’s bed. Also, most of the indoor shots at Momoh’s house is too dark. Therefore, the identity of both his parents is barely known. A little addition of light would have helped the room’s mise-en-scène as some of the film’s main actions take place there. It is the same in a few other scenes, such as Zango’s first appearance. The film is audio-visual for such a reason.

There are equally too many coincidences regarding how Mati, Lado, Barau and others converge in Sauda town. If Mati comes to the village by luck, there is a need to reveal how others arrive there. In films, nothing happens without reason. The narrative structure or plot of Mati a Zazzau is, in fact, its biggest drawback as far as I can tell. The thumb rule of cause-and-effect is not respected very well, hence the many coincidences in the story.

Generally, the film’s location is beautiful. As per Kannywood standards, one can hardly fault its usage of props, including the costumes, except the box containing the much-talked treasure. It sounds pretty empty. Besides a few instances where the visual is dark, perhaps due to the cinema’s screen, the overall picture quality is remarkable. The sound is also fantastic. It makes the song a timely ‘comic relief’ – even though the whole film is comedic.

Finally, I rate the film 3/5. I also recommend it, especially to anyone who has followed the franchise of Mati from the beginning. You may not enjoy the movie if you haven’t watched the previous sequels. You may also prefer the previous Mati da Lado to Mati a Zazzau as I do.

Reviewed by
Muhsin Ibrahim
University of Cologne

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