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Friday, December 25, 2015

Star of destiny (2)

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Finally, the last scene was shot and shooting ended. Though, she had enjoyed working on the movie, titled 'City Game', and had had a great time with some of the cast and crew, Muna was glad it was all over. 

It had been a difficult few weeks dogged by problems on set. The male lead, James Abbey's behaviour had grown more atrocious as shooting progressed. Apart from touching her inappropriately in the romantic scenes they did together, he would sometimes mix-up his lines, thus making her confused and they would have to do many retakes of the scene just to get it right. 

 All this did not endear her to the director. He blamed her for the delays though most of those on set knew it was not her fault. She did not understand why the actor was acting that way towards her until another actress on set wised her up.
 "Because of his status and looks, James thinks he's God's gift to women. Most swoon over him and would do anything to get close to him. I think his oversized ego has been bruised by your indifference to his charms. To him, you are a lowly actress who should be grateful that the great James Abbey is even looking in her direction. Just ignore him and get on with the job," she advised.

  Then, there were some of the outfits she had to wear for some scenes. They were so skimpy, they looked more like hankerchiefs than clothes for an adult. There was a day she had been reluctant to wear a dress she deemed too short. Besides overexposing her thighs, the cut-outs at the waist left part of her belly and breasts on display.
 The director was not amused by her attitude.
 "You have a very sexy figure that many ladies would die for. So, what's your problem? You don't want to expose your body too much? Well, in this business, you do what you are told, not what you want! Remember that if you want to get far in this game. You are an actress so act like one!" he had admonished her.

  "Uptight little bitch! She should be in a convent, not on a movie set," Muna heard James say to a group that hung around him on set as she went to change for the next scene. As she wore the outfit, she silently prayed that when the movie came out that her parents would not see it. Her parents were staunch Christians, with her father being a deacon in their church. She and her siblings had been brought up strictly on sound religious values. With his conservative ways, he would likely have a heart attack seeing his daughter dressed that way in a film. 

 He had never been in support of her choice of career. He saw actors especially actresses as people with questionable morals who lived a fast life. "Can't you see that most of them are not married or are divorced? It's their lifestyle that's responsible. I don't want that kind of life for you."
 He had often told her to get a regular job and forget about what he termed 'this acting nonsense.'
 Indeed, she had wanted to give up, do as he wanted, when this last role came up. Now she was in two minds. Should she continue with her acting career with all the hassles involved in getting roles or quit?

  "You love acting. It's what makes you happy. So, why do you want to quit?" asked her close friend, Alex about a week later. They had known each for over a year and had first met when Muna had visited the advertising agency where he worked in connection with a job. It was during one of the low points in her acting career when she had decided to quit and get a job. He had wanted to date her then and though she had turned him down, stating she was not interested in a relationship then, they had remained friends. 

 "I will wait. Because of the love I have for you. Maybe one day, you will change your mind and we can be a couple," he had said.
They were having a late lunch at a popular eatery on the mainland. He had visited her earlier at home and suggested the outing.

 "You've been working too hard in the past few weeks. You need to relax," he stated.
 They had first gone to watch a movie- the latest James Bond film-at the cinema before ending up at the restaurant.
 Muna drank some juice before speaking.

  "You know the reasons," she said. "It's a tough industry. Getting roles is not easy," she added.
 "No sector is easy. It's the same everywhere whether it's banking, media, advertising, oil and gas or manufacturing. You just need to toughen up to get ahead. With time, success will come," he assured her.
 "You think so? You think I can ever make it in this industry?" she asked with some sceptism.
 "Why not?" he replied. "You've got what it takes. The talent is there. Maybe you are too much in a hurry to make it big. Rome was not built in a day you know. There are some who have been acting for many years and are yet to hit the big times. Be patient."
 For how long, she thought and picking up her fork began eating.

  "See who is here," a voice she would recognize anywhere, said. Muna slowly turned her head and met the dark eyes of James Abbey. He had just entered the eatery and his presence was creating some excitement among its patrons and staff alike. He was as usual, surrounded by an entourage which included his P.A, some ladies in loud make-up and clothes and other hangers-on. 

  "Hi," she greeted him coolly. She had not forgotten his treatment of her on location in her last production. 
 Then to her shock and annoyance, Alex exclaimed, "It's James Abbey!" and jumping up, extended his hand for a handshake. The actor shook it briefly before turning to Muna.
 "I see you guys are having fun. Can we join you?" he asked.
 "Of course, you can. We..." Alex began to say when Muna quickly cut in. 
 "This is a table for two. So, no space. Sorry," she said rather curtly.
 "I see you are still upset because of what happened at our last production. You should let bygones be bygones. Anyway, it's a good thing I met you here. There's a project coming up soon. The producer is a good friend of mine," he stated. He then turned and gave a sign to his P.A. who removed a card from his jacket pocket which he placed on the table. Bending low, James said close to her ear:

 "It will pay you to call me if you want a role in the movie." He walked away then, like a Prince at court before his adoring subjects. At a nearby table, Muna overheard a group of teenage girls raving about him.
 "Oh my God! He's so handsome!" one exclaimed.
 "So cute! He's even better looking in the flesh!" the other added.
 "He's my idol! Oh, I wish he could be my boyfriend!" another gushed, looking as if she would faint any minute from the sheer pleasure of seeing her 'idol' in the flesh.

  "Silly girls," Muna muttered darkly to herself.
 She got even more annoyed when she saw that Alex was still staring in obvious admiration at the actor as he made his way upstairs to a more secluded part of the restaurant. His progress was slowed down by admiring fans who swarmed round him, some shaking his hand, others taking pictures with him on their mobile phones, all gushing over him. He lapped up all the attention, playing the role of famous movie star and heartthrob of millions of the nation's female folk to the hilt.
 "Idiot," Muna said silently.
 "What are you staring at? Haven't you seen a movie star before? You all make me sick, gushing over him like that as if he's a special being or something," she stated angrily, frowning deeply.
 "He seems a nice fellow," Alex said, still staring.
 Muna sneered.
 "Nice fellow, my foot!" she said vehemently. "Don't be fooled by his sweet, smiling face. Behind the cute looks is the mind of the devil," she added with a hiss, remembering how he had tormented her when they worked together.
 "He can't be that bad," Alex said. She had earlier told him a bit of her experience on set with him.

  "What did he want anyway?" he asked, turning to her.
 She shrugged.
 "Something to do with a production," she said, glancing at the card on the table. She picked it up, scanned it briefly before putting it in her bag. She would rather die than call 'that bastard' in respect of a role.

 In Mandela's country
  About three months later, Muna boarded a plane to South Africa for another production. It was the same one James had mentioned at the restaurant, and no one was more surprised at the turn of events, on her being part of the movie, than her. A week after their encounter, she had got a call from the producer's secretary, inviting her for a meeting in his office. Out of curiousity, she had gone to see him. He had talked about her working on his new movie, and had offered her the second lead role. 

  Things had moved fast after that. Shortly after, a script was sent to her and rehearsals began. Muna was happy at the way things had turned out. The only downside was that she was working with James Abbey again as he was the lead actor in the movie.
 They had shot some scenes in Nigeria and so far, he was behaving himself. The remaining scenes were taking place on location in South Africa and that was why she was on the plane with some cast and crew members, flying to Jo'burg.
 Being June, it was winter in the country. Muna was unprepared for the cold which hit her as soon as they left the airport.
 She had packed a sweater and some scarves but they could not keep the cold away.
 "Here. Wear this," James Abbey said, giving her a thick winter jacket and some gloves. They were shooting an outdoor scene one night in Sandton and she had stood, shivering with cold in front of the house which they were using as a location.

 "Thanks," she said, quickly putting on the garment and the gloves. She felt warmer and she smiled gratefully at him. Since they arrived, Muna had been surprised at the change in the actor. From being an egoistic, selfish prig, he was considerate, thoughtful and kind. It was a side of him she never knew existed and it made her begin to reassess her opinion of him.
 'He's not that bad afterall,' she thought as she watched him in a scene. 'And he's a fine actor, one of the best.'
 It wasn't only her views of James that was changing. Muna's life was about to change as well. She got a hint of it when she called Debi on the phone from the hotel they were staying.
 Debi told her 'City Game' was out and it was a big hit.
  "Everyone is talking about the movie. And your role in it. They are saying you acted so well in the film that it could get you an award at AMMA*. Some directors and producers have been calling, to get you to work on their projects. Many reporters too have been calling. They want interviews with you. Girl, you've made it! You are now a star!"
 It took time for Debi's words to sink in. How could that be? She, a star sought after by producers and the media? She shook her head.
 "Better not get carried away. You know how Debi loves to exaggerate, blow things out of proportion," she told herself after the call ended.
 On getting back to Nigeria though, Muna discovered Debi was right afterall.
  The first sign she got of her new status was that she began to be recognized wherever she went. People would stare at her, some would smile and wave, others point and whisper among themselves. Scripts were pouring in as well, even from some in the industry who had refused to give her roles in the past because of her refusal to sleep with them. 
 Then there was the media interest. In the press, especially the soft-sell magazines, she was being hailed as the 'hot new thing in Nollywood.' Her pictures were splashed all over the papers with many stories written about her. At first, she found it disconcerting, even weird seeing her pictures in the papers. 
 "It will only get worse. So, better get used to it," James told her one day, a few months after their return from South Africa. To Debi and her other friends surprise, she and James had become friends and grown quite close. "I thought you hated the guy. Now you are so close, like Aki and Pawpaw," Debi had stated a few days earlier.

  "What do you mean?" she now asked James.
 "That's the price you pay for fame. Loss of privacy. You are now public property, adored by millions everywhere who think they know you. As for the media, a time will come when no week will pass without a report on you, some true, some outright falsehood, others scandalous," James, who had been the object of intense media scrutiny for years, stated.
 Muna gazed at him thoughtfully.
  "Scandals? What if I don't get involved in any?" she asked.
  "Then they will create one. They have to sell their magazines afterall," he pointed out.
  "Now, you are beginning to scare me," she noted.
  "Don't be. That's what it means to be a celebrity. Most people only see the bright side of it. But there's a downside which you will come to see with time. Enjoy your celebrity status while it lasts because the public can be very fickle. And remember this: don't let the fame go to your head. And never forget your old friends who knew you when you were a nobody. Many will want to be your friend now because of your fame but it's only the old ones you can really trust," he advised her. Muna was grateful for his advice as she adapted to her new found fame.
 But Alex was not too happy about her closeness with James. 
  "You couldn't bear the sight of the guy before. Now you are all over the place with him," he grumbled one day. 
 "We are working together on another production. So, it's the job," she explained patiently.
 "Then what do you have to say about this then," he said showing her a story about her and James in a magazine. It had a screaming headline: "Nollywood's hottest new actress in sizzling romance with lover boy James Abbey!"

  She read the story then burst out laughing.
 "What's so funny? Is it true?" he asked.
 "If you believe this, then you are not as smart as I thought you were," she stated, glancing at the picture of her and James in a tight embrace that was obviously taken on set.
 But he was not satisfied with her response and a quarrel broke out between them...
Muna's new fame puts a strain on her relationship with Alex. And he gives an ultimatum- to choose between him and James. What will be her choice? Details tomorrow!


To be continued...

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


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