Jenifa Sit-Com: Funke Seeks Constant Visitors Status In Living Rooms
THERE is something about popular actress, Funke Akindele, that sets her poles apart from her peers. Whenever you think you have had enough of her acting and production chops, she does something or takes up a new project that will throw her back into reckoning.
The amiable, indubitable, unpretentiously friendly and award winning actress and producer sure knows how to reinvent herself. She seem to have also armed herself with the secrets of remaining relevant in a turf where reality means that every female star has her time and so must make the best use of that time which is usually very brief.
But most observers agree that Funke has remained relevant and has continued to reign uproariously. They also agree that her artistic contributions have continued to retain an irreplaceable place for in the artistic scheme of things.
Popular as Jenifa, an alias she earned for her delightful interpretation of the screen character Jenifa, Funke who has won all the major awards that are there to win in the movie industry including the award for best actress at the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and who has also continued to sign multi million naira endorsement deals, hit the right notes when in 2009 she took the decision to produce and to feature in the ground breaking comic movie Jenifa.
Outside the wryly hilarious Aki nu Ukwa starring Chinedu Ikedieze and Osita Iheme, Kingsley Ogoro’s Osoufia in London starring Nkem Owoh and lately Ayo Makun’s 30 Days in Atlanta, no movie got almost unprecedented acceptance in Nigeria like the two part perfectly adequate comic movie Jenifa. Released in 2009, a year moviegoers were inundated with heinous sequels of crime and love plot movies, most moviegoers agreed that they found refreshing, the fact that a movie that served a handful of over flogged clichés and situations, would end up being absolutely edu-taining. .
With a title that was the corruption of the name Jenifer, the comic movie made waves when it was first released and it reportedly ‘sold very fast’, no thanks to the rave reviews it garnered and of course word of mouth about how Jenifa, told in an easy-to-comprehend Yoruba language and fairly accurately subtitled, was remarkably different.
Indeed, it was impossible not to go anywhere at that time without being hit by the movies buzz words like ‘ooouushhh’ ‘Bigz Girlz’ or the more popular quips ’Suliat Kan, Ayetoro Kan’. It was generally the movie of that moment and in weeks it has walked into the state of actually being described as a phenomenon—the Jenifa Phenomenon.
However, what made Jenifa a satisfying fare as some observers recounted was the crew’s deft handling of the material of the tale that was rife with clichés and that was pretty predictable. They told it differently, laced it with smartass humour, rose above the material, made the movie look stylish and they engaged actors – mostly-girl actors who gave a most relaxed and fully rounded performance. Besides, the movie accomplished much of what it sets out to do including shedding light on a trend that parents and their children and or wards on campus needed to be told.
But much of the accolades for the success of the movie must go to the actors, specifically Funke Akindele and supporting actors like Ronke Odusanya (Becky), Mosunmola Filani (Tracy), Iyabo Ojo (Franca), Sola Asadeko (Tutu) and Eniola Badmus who was believable as ‘Gbo Gbo bigz girlz’. All five ladies who matched Funke in their portrayal of girls in a desperate quest for enhanced social status and financial security had their moments to shine and they took those scenes and ran away with them.
But it was the super-abundantly talented Funke Akindele who also wrote the script and produced the movie that gave the movie much of its acting credit. Although the law graduate of the University of Lagos has been a successful actress for over a decade plus and is widely believed to have earned her first big break on the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) sponsored television series, ‘I Need To Know’.
Funke’s acquittal of the role of Jenifa will count as her most sterling performance yet. Like the supporting actors, Funke who has acted in a couple of movies in English and has produced, written and starred in countless Yoruba movie productions also got her moments to shine in Jenifa and she didn’t disappoint. She let out antics good for a few chuckle and had a grand time doing impressions and mincing about. True, Funke nailed her role first as Suliat and later as Jenifa.
A pleasant enough movie, which caught on because of her successful portrayal of the character Jenifa, Funke’s character in the movie has continued to resonate several years after. Her fans and moviegoers have been mounting pressure on her to turn the movie into a series because they ‘love to see and hear the part of Jenifa’.
Well, the ‘ayes’ have it, as Funke recently launched the Jenifa TV series, a situation comedy, which continues the story arc of the popular Jenifa movie.
The series currently runs on the African Independent Television (AIT) and its syndicated on most stations across the country “I actually wanted the character to take a deserving rest but I am amazed that many years after, the Jenifa’s character still resonates. Anywhere I go, people talk about the movie and the role I played.
So I decided on this television series to satisfy them because they are the reason I am still here. So I want to believe that my portrayal of Jenifa this time will be loved more by the viewers of the drama series’’ she said of the series that is fast catching on.
And how long does she plan to keep the series running? “As long as Jenifa lives” she quipped, adding: “I am happy at the rate the series is catching on.
So it will last as long as God keeps me alive and strong. It will last as long as we get sponsorship to keep it running. We have heard of foreign television series that have run for decades and that were also growing with the characters.
This is our plan for the Jenifa sitcom and by the grace of God and with the support of corporate Nigeria we shall keep it running and we shall keep doing other things including running our training school for budding talents’’ she said.