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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Star of Destiny (1)

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As the voice on the line spoke, Muna's heart fell.
"The role has been taken. Sorry. Next time, perhaps," and the line went dead. Muna dropped the phone on the table, sighing deeply. 

Not again she thought. This was the fourth rejection in two weeks and it was one too many as far as she was concerned.
The most painful thing about this last setback was that she was so sure she had got the role from hints she had got from the director of the movie after the audition.
"Beautiful. Brilliant performance," he had enthused on the day. 

So what went wrong?
"Why the sad face? Did someone die?" asked Debi, her best friend, schoolmate and flat mate, who had just entered the living room of their small apartment.
Muna shook her head then told her about the phone call. 
"Is that all? Cheer up, girl! Win some, lose some. Something better will come along. Trust me!" she stated, going over to hug her friend.

"Thanks, Debi. I don't know what I would have done without you. You've been so encouraging," said Muna.
"I have no choice. I want you to succeed so that you can become the next Genevieve Nnaji!" she said, smiling.
"Genevieve, ke! You really have big dreams," Muna said, shaking her head.

"If you believe strongly in something, it will surely come true. That's what Dr Uko used to say, remember?" Debi stated.
Muna did. He was their lecturer in school who always encouraged his students to follow their dreams and goals for as he put it, 'great achievers are big dreamers.'
In fact, he was the inspiration behind her desire to become an actress after graduation. Growing up, she had always loved the Arts, movies and anything to do with the Theatre. In secondary school, she had been very active in the Drama Club and most of her mates had thought she would go on to study Theatre Arts in the University. While she had toyed with the idea, her father had, however encouraged her to go for Mass Communication so she would 'have wider career options' as he had put it. 

 Despite that, Muna had not given up on her dream of taking up acting as a profession. So, one day, she had plucked up the courage and gone to his office to discuss her ambition with him and she could still remember what he had told her.
 "Get prepared. Train for it. Learn the ropes." 
 She had taken his advice and began to take some classes in Drama during her spare time. She also attended theatrical performances and with time even participated in some of the productions put together by the department though she was not a member. In fact, her friends including Debi, who was her course-mate used to tease her that she spent more time hanging around the Theatre department than her own.
 After graduation, Muna had attended a private drama school, all in a bid to hone her skills and prepare herself for the future. But nearly three years after taking up acting fully, she did not seem to be making any headway. Good roles were simply not coming. In all that time, all she had been able to get were a few 'waka-pass' roles, some minor parts with little or no lines- nothing really substantial. 

 This last role she had missed getting- that of the troubled daughter of a wealthy family with a dark past- would have been her biggest so far.
 She suspected what the problem was, something that an older actress, who had been in the industry for some years had pointed out to her as well.

  "It takes more than great acting skills and a pretty face to make it in this industry especially for a new face. Sometimes, you have to 'play ball' to get roles," she had told her one day on the set of a movie they had done together.
Muna understood what she meant. It was the 'casting couch syndrome', a situation she had found herself in several times in her short career. In all the cases, she had not been interested and had made it clear. She believed in her talent and was certain it was more than good enough to take her places, become a star like the big names out there.
 "The best roles go to the known faces, the 'stars' while the rest of us have to scramble for the 'leftovers'. Its a tough world, this movie business," the plump and fair skinned actress had added.

  "Perhaps, I should just give it up and get a regular job as my parents have always wanted me to do," Muna said to Debi, who was busily searching for something in her handbag.
 "No way! You are hanging in there even if I have to drag you myself to the next audition! Girl, where's that famous fighting spirit of yours?" she asked, looking up at Muna.
 "It looks dead. Killed by the tough system," Una said.

  "Well, wake it up! Because failure is not an option!" she said, emptying the contents of her bag on the small coffee table. 
 "Easy for you to say. Afterall, you are not the one going through all this stress," Una grumbled,  picking up the TV remote to change to a movie channel.
 "Found it!" Debi stated triumphantly.
 "Here," she said, handing Muna a complimentary card.
 "What's this?" she enquired, looking curiously at the card.
 "You remember that boutique I took you to the other day at Ikeja? Well, I was there today and guess what? I met an old school mate there- we attended the same secondary school. She now has a fashion outfit and boutique. Not only that, she does costuming for the movie industry as well," she stated. 

  Muna stared at her with raised brows.
 "So?" she queried, not sure where this was leading to.
 "Well, I told her about you and she gave me her card for you to call her. She mentioned that she would be doing the costuming for a production soon and she would talk to the producer, about a role for you," she explained.
 "Why did you bother? It will end up like the others- in rejection. I'm sick of it all. And I'm quitting. In fact, I will start job-hunting for a 'proper job' from tomorrow. At least, that will make my parents happy," she stated with some bitterness, flinging the card on the table.
"Hmm. What a pity. I was looking forward to coming to watch you on the set of a Tara Obbi production," Debi stated. She picked up the card and put it in her bag.

  "What?" Muna almost screamed, jumping up from her seat. "Did you say Tara?" she asked eagerly. She was one of the big producers in the industry and Muna had always dreamed of working with her.
 "Yes. She's going to produce the movie. My friend, Martha said it was a big-budget film with some big stars and..."
 "Never mind that. Where's the card?" she demanded.
 "But you said you were quitting acting. So, what do you need the card for?" she asked.
 "I changed my mind. Give me the card, quick! Tara Obbi! Waoh!" And she began to dance round the room, wriggling her waist in excitement...

 Two months later
It was nearly midnight when Muna got home that day. She slumped full length on the sofa in the sitting room, too tired to even take off her shoes. It had been a very long day shooting on the set and her body felt numb from exhaustion. She must have fallen asleep for the next thing she knew, someone was shaking her by the shoulders.

  "Wake up, Muna! Don't tell me you slept in the parlor last night!" Debi stated. She had just taken her bath and had a towel tied round her body.
 Muna sat up yawning widely.
 From the window, she could see it was already dawn. 
 "How's the shooting going?" she asked as she went into the bedroom to dress and get ready for work.
 "Fine," Muna replied. That was not the whole truth and she knew it. It was her biggest role so far in her career and things were not going well. Most of the excitement she had felt at securing the role through the help of Debi's friend, Martha was waning fast. And it was all thanks to James Abbey, the lead male actor in the movie, a big star and notorious playboy. He was a real pain in her neck and he was creating problems between her and the director. Like what had happened on the set the previous day.
 They had been shooting a romantic scene between her character and that of the male actor and he had gone overboard. From a light kiss on the lips, it had turned to a full scale smooching session, his tongue in her mouth in a french kiss. Her protests had led to the director shouting: 

"Cut!"
 When she had explained what had happened, to her shock, the director had exploded.
 "He was acting out of the script by squeezing your breast? So bloody what? What are breasts meant for? Squeezing and fondling! Besides, who are you to tell him what he can and can't do? He's one of the biggest stars in the industry. And you? A nobody. No name, no face! And you dare question him? Do you know your behaviour is affecting my shooting schedule? We have three more scenes to shoot today and the day is almost gone!
 My God! How did such a silly girl get on my set?" and he had marched off angrily to check on the cameras and lights...

Muna got up from the couch, stretched and headed for the bathroom to prepare for another day of drama on the set...

Join us tomorrow to read more about Muna and her life as a young actress in the turbulent world of movie making in the Nigerian movie industry, Nollywood. A very Merry Christmas and a fun-filled and prosperous 2016 to my dear readers!

To be continued...

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.


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