Tunde Kelani makes beautiful movies that stay indelible in the minds of those who watch them. Language isn’t a barrier for this auteur who’s in a class of his own, even though most of his films (arguably the better ones) are predominantly in the Yoruba language.
TK, as he’s fondly referred to, has consistently translated to the big screen memorable stories that pass quality messages that transcend race, culture, or ethnicity, and Ayinla is no exception.
One of TK’s secret sauces to his filmmaking success over the years is how great he is with casting. He sees things in an actor that the average man wouldn’t notice else, how would he have known that a pairing between Mr. Macaroni and Lateef Adedimeji would effortlessly bring to life one of the oldest rivalries in Nigerian musical history?
I’d only known about Ayinla in passing prior to this movie. I’d stumbled on an eponymous book by Festus Adedayo chronicling the life of this larger-than-life figure on a mission to take Apala music global but never really had the urge to flip through its pages, until now.
What TK has done with this movie is indeed commendable. He’s repurposed Ayinla’s story for a new audience who, let’s face it, are mostly ignorant of the many facets of Nigerian history while staying true to the crux of the real-life person behind the character some older folks might recognize. It is with a targeted intention Tunde Kelani approaches Ayinla’s story; peeling off layer after layer to reveal who Ayinla was within and outside the sphere of his music and some of the instances that shaped his hit songs.
For someone who didn’t know much about the character before going into the movie, I left armed with the knowledge that Ayinla was a fiercely talented man who drew inspiration for his music from the most ordinary of things. He was also very human; imperfect in almost every sense of the word and had his own demons to contend with. A battle he, no doubt, sadly lost.
It’s a story with a tragic end and Tunde Kelani doesn’t sugar-coat it. He takes you, the audience, on a journey that is worthwhile and hopes you draw parallels with your own life and start making amends where necessary. That is one of the beauties of cinema and TK fully understands that.