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Beast of Two Worlds: Big budget, much controversy

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Beast of Two Worlds: Big budget, much controversy

– A- list cast with less impressive role interpretation

The ” Beast of Two World,” to many insightful critics, is all sound and fury signifying nothing . The irony of the movie is that the publicity that presaged it as epic play that reenacts the usual theme of power and its drawback in a traditional Nigerian kingdom, is overtly let down by poor role interpretation, character portrayal that morphs into melodrama.

It’s the dream of every film maker to break box office record, generate as much hype and buzz for their film project and make a success of their investments.

With this desire, some even collapse ethical lines between decency and acceptability in a bid to create as much publicity for their work.

Celebrities and filmmakers often rely on hype and PR stunts to grow their brands and project their films, but most times if not well handled it can boomerang. The boomerang effect is what befell Eniola Ajao’s Beast of Two Worlds.

The desire to capture the attention of movie goers and film buffs led Ajao on treacherous path; in her case, the allure of buzz defeats the film’s questionable integrity, making her N200 million movie ‘Beast of Two Worlds’ aka ‘Ajakaju’ struggle for a place in people’s mind after the self inflicted infamy at its premiere, where a cross dresser Brobrisky was given the ” Best Dressed Female” creating a firestorm and backlash that still haunts the play up to date.

‘Ajakaju’ is just one example of a troubling trend sweeping through Nollywood, where the line between genuine promotion and gratuitous publicity stunts grows increasingly blurred.

Publicity stunts are strategic events or actions crafted to seize public attention and garner media coverage for individuals, brands, products, or organisations.

‘Ajakaju: Beast of Two Worlds,’ is a recast of the motif of the beauty and beast popular in traditional society across the world, but in Eniola’s story, the interpretation suffers from immaturity and problem of believability.

Title: Ajakaju: Beast of Two Worlds

Run time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Date released: 29 March 2024
Directors: Odunlade Adekola and Adebayo Tijan

Casts:Odunlade Adekola, Eniola Ajao, Sola Sobowale, Femi Adebayo, Lateef Adedimeji, Mercy Aigbe, Bimbo Akintola, Fathia Balogun, and Ibrahim Chatta.

Despite parading an A-list actors and a big budget that could make even millionaire green with envy, the movie fell flat, clinging to nothing but wide controversy.

Little wonder, the producer, sensing the looming disaster, attempted a publicity stunt that came crashing even before it even took flight.

The movie’s narrative seems plucked straight from the pages of fairy tales, or better still Yoruba folklore, where the classic story of “Beauty and the Beast” takes a confusing twist.

Here, however, the beauty is the male (in this case, the king), while a woman of mysterious origins is the beast.

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‘Ajakaju: Beast of Two Worlds’ is about King Towobola (Odunlade Adekola), surrounded by diabolic women, from his wives to his mother (Sola Sobowale).

Faced with the threat of abdicating the throne for not having a male heir, he brought home a strange woman, who spelt more trouble for him. The movie narrates the story of a king, Towobola, whose reign was threatened, because he had no heir to his throne despite being married to three wives.
Although the king’s three wives are all pregnant, everyone is intrigued and anticipates a son among the king’s three wives. Even the king’s mother, Iya Oba, has warned the three pregnant wives to ensure they give the king an heir.

To bring joy to the king, Oyenihun (one of the king’s wives) meets her mother, who gives her a concussion with severe instructions that the mixture must not be touched. However, Oyenihun fails to keep this instruction.

The king’s wife tried all sorts of magic to make him happy and bear him a son, but this was almost impossible, and the sons were far from coming, as they all bore daughters.
One night, the king surprised the kingdom with a strange woman, Adaralewa, without a trace of her family. He married this new woman he became fond of, and there was so much joy in the kingdom. But this joy was short-lived. Strife soon began among the wives, and it didn’t end there!

Something seemed pretty off about this woman; she spoke to the king with no reverence.

Adaralewa was able to conceive and bear the King a son, but immediately after giving birth, she threw the child into the fire. This upset the king, but he forgave her and gave her a second chance. She conceived and bore the king another son, but again, when she delivered her child, she threw him into the water.

Outraged, the king unveiled Adaralewa’s secret: she was an Antelope beast! And as secrets unfurled, the palace held darker truths than the king ever imagined. The movie parades familiar faces, bringing with them their star power, intensity, and linguistic prowess in a noble quest to immerse viewers in the unfolding narratives.
The performances span a spectrum from commendable to excessive, with some actors delivering captivating portrayals while others fell short.

Odunlade and Eniola shine as the leads, infusing their roles with strength and conviction. Despite a reduced presence in the latter part of the film, the trio of Fathia, Mercy, and Bimbo left their mark.

The major letdown is that none of the big names cast did a brilliant interpretation of their role, as some of the A- list cast verged into melodrama in role interpretation of were not able to do proper interpretation.
Odunlade’s depiction of the conflicted king balances authority and vulnerability, echoing his previous roles in “King of Thieves” and “Orisa.” However, there are instances, where Odunlade’s performance leans towards melodrama, diluting the complexity of his character.

Sola brings emotional depth to her portrayal of the king’s mother and a witch, yet at times, her delivery teeters on the edge of overacting.
On the other hand, Eniola’s portrayal of Adaralewa and the vengeful beast, Ajakaju, fails to impress. As both an actor and the film’s producer, she lacked the fierceness required to embody a creature seeking retribution.

Recently, Yoruba filmmakers have embraced a formula that draws heavily from the culture’s abundant folklore and ancient literary traditions. This approach attempts to immerse viewers in familiar Yoruba settings.
While this formula has yielded a few standout productions that successfully merge tradition with a modern perspective, there have also been adaptations that grapple with finding the perfect equilibrium; one such is Ajakaju: Beast of Two Worlds.

Narratively, as “Ajakaju” unfolds, it strays from its initial storyline of a king’s quest for an heir, veering into an abrupt and disjointed flashback.

This sudden shift reveals the new wife’s past as an antelope and later as the vengeful beast, Ajakaju, who terrorised the village after her parents’ demise at the hands of a greedy hunter.

The revelation of her true identity as a beast seeking vengeance for past atrocities slightly intensifies the plot, culminating in a clash between the supernatural and mortal worlds.
While the revelation adds a layer of intensity to the plot, it lacks foreshadowing or context, disrupting the narrative’s flow and coherence.

The sudden introduction of the flashback without prior groundwork raises significant issues with the storytelling approach.
The sudden flashback in “Ajakaju” lacks the necessary buildup or hints throughout the film, making it feel out of place and disrupting our connection to the main plot. This narrative shift creates a sense of disjointedness, pulling viewers out of the story.

Furthermore, the story within the flashback, detailing the new wife’s transformation into a vengeful beast, feels overly sensationalised.
The movie, which premiered in Lagos State three Sundays ago, garnered several Nigerian celebrities, each flaunting mysterious and attention-grabbing attire. Toyin Abraham, Iyabo Ojo, Denrele Edun, and Femi Adebayo were among them.

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Here is where the bait for the public stunt was set; amongst the several guests at the movie review, an award was set for the best-dressed guest, the best male and the best female.

However, Bobrisky, known for identifying as female, snagged the title and N1 million prize, while, former BBNaija housemate Groovy won the ‘Best Dressed Male’ award, but it went largely unnoticed for obvious reasons.

The selection of winners, particularly, Bobrisky, known for his provocative persona, appeared to be a deliberate move to draw attention to the movie.

However, the intended publicity backfired. Rather than generating positive buzz, Bobrisky’s unexpected win as ‘Best Dressed Female’ at the premiere sparked more controversy than celebration.

From heated exchanges between Femi Adebayo, Dayo Amusa, and Jigan Babaoja to a flurry of social media activity, tensions escalated with no resolution.

However, the ongoing feud between singer Portable and Bobrisky escalated to new heights, with Portable releasing a disc track titled ‘Brotherhood’ that mercilessly mocks the controversial crossdresser.

None of these events were part of the original plan when the filmmaker decided to award Bobrisky the title of ‘Best Dressed Female’. Despite the controversial cross-dresser’s attempts to clarify the situation, his explanations seem to have fallen on deaf ears and worsened the situation.

The controversy had led to a public spotlight on Brobrisky, which led the EFCC to dust up his file on naira defamation with series of video ( visual evidence) showing the maverick crossdresser spraying money and stepping on same at different parties.
Quickly, the anti graft agency seized and hurled him before Federal High Court in Lagos, which eventually slammed him with six months jail term. Meanwhile Eniola has since been smiling to the bank. At the first show, the movie garnered N16 million.

The controversy around the movie is yet to abate.

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