BAYO ADEBOWALE’S GREAT AFRICAN NOVEL “THE VIRGIN” HAS BEEN MADE INTO A FILM (FOR THE SECOND TIME) BY TUNDE KELANI
Who stole the ‘purity’ of this innocent girl?
By Akeem Lasisi
Published: Friday, 4 Jan 2008
Tunde Kelani’s latest film, The Narrow Path, which he adapted from Bayo Adebowale’s novel, The Virgin, takes Nollywood closer to the ideal. One query that many Nigerian films have not been able to answer borders on how appropriately they have been able to represent or portray the realities of our society. But somehow, Tunde Kelani once again cleverly answers that in The Narrow Path, one of the films that kicked off the 2007 movie season in the country. Only that – well, if observing this matters at all – the 1: 38 minutes movie takes the viewer to some 100 years back in time.
The Narrow Path is the story of Awero, a village belle, who, by the virtue of her unadulterated beauty, becomes the toast of several men who want her hand in marriage. At least, three men – hunter Odejinmi, moneybags Lapade and Dauda the sex monger – persistently express their desires accordingly.
Set in Orita Village, where the mud-house home of Awero’s father, Jibosa, (played by a veteran actor, Olu Okekanye) and his wife become a sort of Mecca where men pay homage to secure the heart of their daughter, actions move to Agbede and Aku, which are Odejinmi’s and Lapade’s villages respectively.
As each of Odejinmi and Lapade push their desires to have Awero, (Sola Asedeko) they clash openly occasionally. The two rivals adopt different approaches to achieve their desires: Odejinmi exercises restraint, preaching love to Awero, while Lapade is eager to flaunt his wealth. Yet, unknown to the two, there is Dauda, the Lagos boy, who is also surreptitiously enticing the lady with ‘city gifts’ such as Saturday Night Powder, Nku Cream and a big mirror. Along the line, Dauda – played by the leader of Crown Troupe of Africa, Dauda Adefila – forces Awero to an unholy and abominable bed where he rapes her and forcefully ‘disflowers’ her. Although he runs back to Lagos immediately afterwards, it is the abominable act that fast-tracks the conflict that pushes Orita and Agbede villages to the very narrow path of war.
The forced exit of Awero’s innocence is the beginning of a suspense and dramatic irony on which the success of the film largely rests. After the Awero family has given Odejinmi a nod, the process leading to the marriage becomes swift. Odejinmi endlessly dreams about the first night – which every villager is also eager to celebrate, as is the custom – when he will go into Awero and turn her into a woman. In the months that precede the traditional wedding, however, misery, depression and nightmares have become the lot of Awero, who cannot imagine the shame that will befall her and her parents when everyone gets to know that she is ‘a broken pot’.
Although The Narrow Path centrally celebrates marital processes in the traditional Yoruba setting, Kelani configures the plot in such a manner that every aspect of it drips with a message. It is a film in which costuming and language tell a story, for instance. Awero and her friends – among whom is Kabirat Kafidipe, popularly called Arapa-re-Gagan, based on the role she played in Kelani’s Saworo Ide – tie only wrappers round their virgin bodies. They don’t wear bras, for example. Yet, the wrappers are tied so tight that the girls feel safe, thus reminding the viewer of the days of guarded innocence.
Kelani further scores a point in his casting. He parades the likes of Okekanye, Seyi Fasuyi, Eniola Olaniyan, Joke Muyiwa, Lere Paimo, Olofa Ina, Mama Rainbow and Ayo Badmus who are able to blend into the rural environment of the film. Where he needs a clownish sanitary inspector, he goes for Papa Ajasco. And where a city girl/education officials required, he goes for Bukky Wright.
It is a good thing that The Narrow Path is subtitled. But there seems to be a puzzle here. The film is rendered in English. Yet, it is sub-titled in English. It is true that Bayo Adebowale’s novel, The Virgin, which is the parent script, is in English. But even if The Narrow Path has to be in the same language, why not subtitle it in Yoruba or French?
Also, in the film, Dauda wears a dreadlock. Some may want to argue that dreadlocks were not a popular sight at the time the story is depicting.
Although The Narrow Path also scores a point in bringing out the versatility of the several ‘Yoruba’ actors and actresses who now act in the ‘English’ movie, an actor such as Badmus fails to totally escapes the cross of mannerism even in his deformed state in the movie. At some points, his gesticulations are too close to what one had seen from him in other films he had acted in.
Beyond such observations, however, The Narrow Path, despite its moderate budget and the simplicity in its setting, fulfils the ambition of any standard film in terms of the significance of its message and entertainment value.
Who stole the purity of this innocent girl?
posted by Uyiuyi, on April l,2008