VETERAN playwright and actor Ben Mahaka has helped aspiring actors from the Ndau community to realise their dreams in film industry through the popular television play Gaza.
The play is aired on ZTV on Friday evenings.
Mahaka, who hails from Chipinge, is happy with the way his inexperienced cast has managed to cope, making the ultimate product a must-watch. Popularly known as Tom Mbambo, thanks to the role he played in the soapie Studio 263, Mahaka said some of the actors in Gaza have potential to compete on international platforms.
One of them is Angeline Majecha who plays the role of Sigauke’s wife or simply Mai Remy.
“I remember the hairs on the back of my neck rising the first time I saw Arnold Chirisa acting on Studio 263 around 2004. He is one of those rare actors who so easily embody a character, breathing more life into it than the writer ever intended and pushing other actors to raise their game because their performances suddenly feel wooden next to his.
“I felt the same way in 2018, the first time that I saw Majecha performing on Gaza. She is another director’s dream. The fact that she had never acted before made her performance even more remarkable.
“Angeline is one of those intelligent actors who learn their lines super fast, understand who their character is, hit all their marks and get their continuity spot on. They are the character,” Mahaka said.
Mahaka said actors need to be punctual for them to make it big in the industry.
“On an experimental, learning production like Gaza, Majecha is the rare cast member who shows up on time and gets on with rehearsals without the supervisors chasing her.
“Initially I had cast Majecha as the Muyambo’s landlady — a small role that didn’t require too much commitment because she runs a busy hairdressing business. Her scenes as landlady were among the first that we shot, but she was so good, we recast her as Mrs Sigauke (Mai Remy) and reshot the landlady scenes and the scenes we had shot with the original Mrs Sigauke.
“Now, when I meet people who follow Gaza, Angie is always one of the characters they ask about,” he said.
Mahaka said determination is a vital aspect in film industry.
“There is also Faith Museta who shares camera duties on Gaza with my cousin Tashinga Mahaka). Faith’s ethos in life is ‘Never Say Die’. You can’t put her down and you can’t tell her that she can’t do something without proof. Without any prior experience, she decided to try camera. We let her. She surprised us. She got the technical elements of the job immediately,” Mahaka said.
Apart from being a videographer, Museta also plays the gossipy vendor who sells tomatoes at the same market as Mrs Muyambo. Mahaka also give the young actors an opportunity to write plays.
“Iris Hlatywayo plays the very naughty Peggy Muyambo in the series, but more importantly, she is also the co-writer. She has a crazy sense of humour and she is my guide in all things to do with Ndau cultural norms. Whenever we had a debate about what is authentic Ndau custom when a girl gets pregnant or when a woman leaves her matrimonial home, Iris had the answers.
“It was tough to get Iris into her writing role. I tried to get her to use Scrivener until I realised that she wasn’t comfortable with my MacBook Pro, so we bought counter books and pens. Her aha moment was when she watched the first scene she had written being brought to life by the actors. We had an avid writer,” he said.