Even with Nollywood’s invasion by mercenaries, Olayiwola Adeniji acknowledges a few flashes of brilliance within the industry as he review’s Tade Ogidan’s Madam Dearest
Tade Ogidan has always fascinated many with the way he handles his art and this has little to do with whether he works in English or Yoruba. He remains one of the most conscious craftsmen in the industry. He may make very little or no noise at all but his works are always engaging. When he came out with Owo Blow in the mid 1990s, many thought that there had been nothing like it before and whether it is acknowledged or not, that was one movie that helped to raise the bar in an industry begging for direction. Even though in three parts, there was no boring moment and for once many were seeing a movie that did not begin to diminish in quality with every sequel. This is simply because Owo Blow benefited from the expertise of different professionals within the industry. That kind of partnership is a rarity today. People want to take every credit but at the end of the day, what you have churned out are mediocre jobs. Same level of commitment can be seen in such other movies as Dangerous Twins, Playing Games, Raging Storm, Diamond Ring and the multiple award-winning Hostages which many also acknowledge as another defining movie.
Only recently my attention was drawn to Madam Dearest (Aya Mi Owon) a new flick by Tade Ogidan and naturally one got drawn to it. The movie is centered on the vexatious issue of love; vexatious because it is one theme that artistes continue to explore yet perspectives are defined only by experience. In Madam Dearest, it raises very fundamental questions that border on morality, passion, destiny and social pressure. Biodun (Akintola Akin Lewis) and Bukola (Opeyemi Ayeola) have been married for eight years without any issue but the couple still remains true to each in spite of worries by relations.
Biodun's inability to control his tongue gets him into trouble and the plot takes a new dimension. Sule, his mechanic spoils his car by using fake parts and so he misses a big contract. Out of anger he threatens the mechanic swearing that he would kill him. Unfortunately, a few days later, Biodun who is coming from a night of frolicking with friends meets an accident victim and decides to help by taking him to the hospital. He becomes a victim of his own kindness as no hospital would take the accident victim without a police report and a very outrageous amount. In the process of searching for a hospital that would help, the accident victim dies and Biodun is arrested for murder.
In a clear case of perversion of justice, Biodun is sentenced to 85 years imprisonment for various offences ranging from murder to drunk driving and contempt of court. His world is practically torn apart. He could not understand why his act of kindness would be so punished. It is a cruel twist of fate that the victim turns out to be Sule, Biodun's mechanic. And the prosecuting lawyer argues that Biodun only made good his threat to kill Sule.
For a childless couple, this is hard to take but they seem to come to terms with their new reality until relations begin to put pressure on Bukola to do something about her childlessness since it is uncertain that Biodun will come out of prison alive. She resists the pressure but only for a while. Seyi (Sola Sobowale) her wily friend, takes it upon herself to convince her that life is also about alternatives. One thing leads to another and the unusual happens. A pastor predicts that she will bear a child but without being allowed to finish, he is walked out. It is like the Biblical story of Mary; "how could this be?" But soon this "prophecy" is confirmed by a lunatic who however warns that the man she calls her husband is not going to be the father of the child. "In fact, the father of this child of yours is already under your roof is your employee." Again, how could this be? But for Seyi, this leads only in one direction; Daniel (Yemi Solade), Bukola's househelp!
Though she regularly visits her husband in the prison through the assistance of the degenerate "Warder Owolabi" who seizes the opportunity to make money for himself, Bukola soon gives in and begins a relationship with Daniel. What she initially thinks is an insult eventually yields the desire of her heart. She becomes the proud mother of a bouncing baby boy. She is full of joy and not for once does she think about her husband. Daniel takes charge. And even the reluctant Baba Oni Cocoa (Lere Paimo) who is Bukola's uncle has to join in the celebration.
As they look forward to a future without Biodun, again the usual happens; the man surfaces! The real culprit confesses his crime after becoming a born again Christian and Biodun is freed. But a lot has changed even in his home. Daniel becomes unusually recalcitrant; his wife is with a baby that she claims is his. If he doubts her, he does not show it. He renames the child; Opemipo (my joy knows no bounds) to reflect the circumstances of his birth. But Daniel will have none of this. He becomes more stubborn; Biodun could not understand why. The truth is known only between Bukola and Daniel. But there is tension in the house. Daniel sees an attempt to deny him of his child while Bukola still thinks she can work out a way.
Unable to bear the growing threat to his paternity, Daniel absconds with Opemipo (that he had christened; Kofi or Junior) and with the connivance of his friend, Kwesi, Rebecca (Kwesi's wife) heads towards the border enroute Accra. At the Nigeria-Republic of Benin border, Rebecca runs into a face-off between the customs officials and smugglers and she is shot. What will then happen to Junior, his parents and Biodun? Will the marriage collapse? This is hopefully answered in part two of the movie.
What then is it about Madam Dearest? The quality of the movie is definitely shoulder above the pack; a good story that is equally well handled. From the carriage of the actors and actresses it is obvious that they are also excited about being a part of this production. This must be one of the very best outings for Opeyemi Ayoola. Yemi Solade is as usual in his theatrical element. The acting in general is difficult to fault and again, this comes down to giving the script and production processes the necessary professional touch; nothing is taken for granted. The sound track is good too.
There is so much humour in Madam Dearest but a critical viewer will not miss the strong messages that it subtly presents especially the judicial process that led to the imprisonment of Biodun and the serious issues of the state abdicating its statutory responsibilities to its citizens. But unlike other movies, Madam Dearest shies away from being prescriptive. Instead, the director leaves the final judgement to the viewer. Who is to blame for what Bukola did? Is it the relations and friends who applied pressure on her or fate? Was this not bound to happen even if no one pressured her? Was she too much in a hurry? There may never be two viewers who will share the same opinions as regards these questions. The men may be quick in saying that this is a clear case of infidelity and they will be supported by the religious but the women are bound to protest this. Has this not been destined? Must a woman always play the loser? Unlike the well orchestrated Jezebel stereotype, there are sub-texts that cannot be ignored. This is good art for the argument continues and in a way, Ogidan is making the point that the world is not just about black and white. There are other colours that are just as dull and as bright. It will be interesting to see how this will end in the part two of the movie. Meanwhile, this is another good flick from Tade Ogidan's stable that though rated PG, is good for family viewing. It is what most movies in Nollywood are trying to be.