Ibrahim Chatta: The ressurrection of Stanislavski

July 19, 2020

NOT since the display of energy and passion by Duro Ladipo as Sango at Koso; Kola Ogunmola as Lanke Omu in Palmwine Drinkard; Sonni Otti as Danda in Danda; Jimi Solanke as Overamwhen Nogbaisi in Overamwhen Nogbaisi or Columbus Irosanga (not in his role as powerful chief priest Igbudu in the 2003 Nollywood blockbuster movie, Issakkaaba, but the young Irosanga who almost set both the stage and audience ablaze with his act in Port Harcourt in 1975) have I been literally thrown off my seat by Ibrahim Chatta last week.

COVID-19 had locked me down and locked me up with the Nollywood series on GOtv and for several hours each passing day, it was a switch between movies and the news channels. My eyes have been entertained with the best and the worst in Nigerian movies and also pissed off with several nauseating shades of bleached skins that made me to wonder once in a while whether I was seeing double in Coca-Cola bodies carrying Fanta faces!

Chatta sent me down memory lane of my younger days as Macbeth in Macbeth; Mr. Sipo of Sipo Amalgamated in Dinner for Promotion; Smirnov ‘the Bear’ in Chekov’s The Bear and the sweet Prince of Aragon in Merchant of Venice, among several others. What a huge loss the movie industry has inflicted on stage drama!

The star-studded movie which provoked this review is titled Ofin Ilu Wa which celebrates some of the leading giants in Nollywood such as Odunlade Adekola as chief diviner (babalawo) of Ilu Ayero; Saidi Balogun as Oba Adeoti; Bukky Wright as his Olori la’afin; Segun Ogungbe as Akanji Anikinnikun; Sola Kosoko, daughter of Grandmaster Jide Kosoko as Atoke Orodoyin;  Muphy Afolabi as deputy to chief diviner; Faosat Balogun as Mama Agba; Ajidara as Oba Adeoti’s father; Afeez Abiodun as Oloye and Amusan, Mr. Latin, a palace courtier and many more.

A grade A movie, Ofin Ilu Wa, with script written by Dare Ogungbe, has all the essential qualities of the best in film production. The script, theme, message, moral, location, casting, costume, scenic sequence and flawless flow, make-up, special effects and spectacular grandeur are simply beyond words. It certainly is not a low budget enterprise. The movie will dignify the screen of any cinema house anywhere in the world.

The story is set in a rustic village where the passing oba called up his heir to the throne and admonished him never to get drunk with power and to always remember that laws (Ofin Ilu Wa) are made for man and not the other way round. The supposed heir to the throne was not actually entitled to the throne but was rigged in by manipulation. Hence everything went wrong on his assumption to the throne.

The chief diviner told the king that human sacrifice must be made to appease the gods. In such situations there is always a curfew and whoever broke the curfew would be the cursed sacrificial lamb. Unfortunately, the daughter of the chief priest, the Abore whose duty it was to carry out the execution dreamt that her father was in an imminent danger and therefore travelled out to warn her father but unfortunately arrived in the village late in the night and got caught in the web of the curfew enforcers.

Atoke Orodoyin was sacrificed by her father as divined by the gods. Her brother Anikinniku was enraged and was bent on vengeance. He and his militia men gang-raped a village beauty and he alone was sentenced to death. The Abore who had earlier sacrificed his own daughter for the village was enraged and confronted Adeoti the king. Adeoti responded by banishing him or with the option of suicide. The enraged Abore challenged the king to let go his (Abore’s) son and daughter in the palace, whereas unknown to the oba, the two children born by olori were actually fathered by the Abore.

The dénouement was the suicide of both the olori and the king and scrapping of the village as Abore in powerful invocations led the whole village out (obviously to found a new town!)

The whole drama starts on high pitch note. Saidi Balogun as the Oba, dramatizes his love for power drunkenness ignoring his Olori Bukky Wright’s intermittent warning that his excesses would have dire consequences.

As expected of star studded movies, all the actors in the movie proved their mettle. But Ibrahim Chatta was simply mesmerizing. He gave his body, soul, spirit and voice to Atanda Aworo’sa the revered Abore (chief priest) of Ilu Ayero. He became Aworo’sa-personified. When it dawned on him that his daughter was the victim caught that night, he displayed unusual equanimity and stoicism which left the entire village dumbfounded. And as he moved to the scene and spot of the sacrifice, the spectators in the movie as well as the viewers in my living room were drowned in tears…first class character acting. Konstantin Stanislvski rose from his grave and became whole!

At the point Aworo challenged the king to release his two children, Chatta’s voice and looks were no longer his. And when Aworo was summoning all the villagers to move en masse in procession out of the vanquished Ayero, Chatta has assumed the aura, not just of the chief priest, but of the oracle himself! Chatta transformed from humanity to the gods and effortlessly elevated himself to pantheon of gods!

Full of electrifying invocations and evocations of magical proportions, Chatta gave his face and eyes to Sango, the dreaded Yoruba god of thunder and replaced them with Sango’s. His voice rang out to the skies and not ball the ground shook, but heavens echoed.

In fitful feat of frightening fury, the energy burst of Ogunmola, Duro Ladipo, Isoronga and Sonni Otti grabbed Ibrahim Chatta’s face, voice and limbs while he repeatedly lashes the ground with a bewitching chain. And the villagers trooped out in unquestioning obeisance.

Chatta, the Chaka of Drama and theatricalities henceforth resided in the body and soul of Konstantini Stanislavsky.

In years to come, Ibrahim Chatta’s tremendous energy, dexterity, versatility and inimitable character interpretation will be high in the curriculum of Acting Classes.

  • Chief Adeniyi is chairman, Tola Adeniyi Foundation For Theatre and The Arts (TAFTA).


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