Review by Anas Abdullahi (@a9united1)
You know the old phrase about not having too many cooks in the kitchen! DA KAI ZAN GANA ignores it. It is more than four hours of material crammed into measly two hours. “Too much” is what DA KAI ZAN GANA is in nearly everyway- too much characters, too much exposition, too much busy plot. The only thing that’s not too much is characters worth caring about, in fact, there’s none of these at all. There’s little time for larger messages or subtlety on this train hurtling through and destroying Africa. But again, that’s not necessary a bad thing.
A movie needs to know its goals. It needs to decide such things ahead of time and let the mission dictate what it includes and what it leaves on the cutting room floor. It should have a very good idea of itself. DA KAI ZAN GANA chooses dancing over walking, movie cliches over realism, style over substance. Yet, somehow it feels entirely in keeping its idea of fun.
We meet our protagonist Rahama (Rahma Sadau) in an effort to break into the city one late evening. She has little idea where she is going. She is trying to free herself out of the corner her mother in the village is trying to back her into: marrying her out to wealthy Mamuda (Ubale Ibrahim). Driving in his car from outskirt of the city, a lusty womanizer Faruq (Zaharadeen Sani) sees her and decides things could fall into place if he presses the right button. He offers to take her to the town and somehow utilises this avenue to steal her virginity. Used and dumbed, Rahama is then picked by a wanton Maimuna who promises to take care of her. So when another womanizer Mudassir (Yakubu Muhammad) desires a company of a woman to be supplied by his friend Auwal Isah West, the wanton offers Rahama to Auwal. She is told she is only to deliver a message back to her boss Maimuna and of course she is the delivery package. She is subsequently drugged and raped by Mudassir. Unknown to Mudassir, his friend Auwal has taken a footage of scene.
Now that life is done conspiring against her, Rahama meets a decent woman who happens to be from a very influential family. Rahama is injected with a life and is educated. After few years she appears smarter than most high-society folks. A wild coincidence winds her up Abdallah (Sani Danja). Pressurised by his parents to get married, Abdallah is on a desperate hunt for a wife. His previous four girlfriends, as the movie chronicles their issues in flashbacks, hadn’t yielded a fiancee. The favorite of the four Fati KK was dead, and the other three (I will spare you the details) were discarded for various reasons.
When Rahama answers Sani’s invitation to his house, she is confronted by his two brothers Mudassir and Faruq- who had previously raped her. She runs out of the house. Abdullah later learns of her past and decides to cut the relationship prematurely. The script then softens her story’s sharpest edges and remolds her as a woman on a desperate and confounding path of revenge. Auwal sells the video clip he had taken of Mudassir’s dirty deed to Rahama for five million naira. She destroys Mudassi’s proposed marriage with Hadiza Gabon. He gets another relationship, she destroys it. And althought Faruq’s fiancee remains unmoved by her blackmail, she manages to get at him by causing termination of his ambassadorship with one international organization. The whole production suddenly shrugs its shoulders- kills both Faruq and Mudassir in a car accident- and walks away into credits sequence as if to say “we just couldn’t think of anything else.”
So you see, DA KAI ZAN GANA can’t decide whether it’s a thriller with little romance mixed in or a formulaic romantic-comedy with one or two dramatic pieces. Thanks to its constant wavering and lack of clear-cut direction, it whiffs on both potential premises. It lacks the gusto of romance and flair of a thriller. While its thriller premise fails because it fails at weaving together a compelling story, instead creating a meandering epic without any sense of escalation, its romantic premise fails because it suffocates the joy that should be inherent in a romance.
Despite the larger than life influence, it’s never self-aware enough to realise how juvenile and immature its sense of time and visions of reality are. Even a cursory examination of its story specifics reveals gaping plotholes and confusing character motivation. Why would a decent woman detain a girl who escaped from her in a village instead of sending her back. Why would a reasonable man pay a woman 15 million naira for marriage preparation when she isn’t even formally introduced to his family. Why would someone prepare a drugged juice to knock a woman off when he expects a prostitute. Why, why, why.
As far as I can tell, the characters have no above-average personality. None of the four leads is given enough detail or motivation. If it cared about its lead characters a little more, we might actually get invested in their lifes. Luckily, so many actresses are barely in the movie. Unfortunately barely is too much since they add nothing to it. It’s as if someone wrote the script, and then another one suddenly discovered there weren’t enough of them, so another writer was brought to randomly toss them in the show.
DA KAI ZAN GANA’s production values prevent it from being a total sentimentalist soup. The picture, the sound, the editing, camera angles and costumes are qualitative. and though it never really connects, the humor and the pacing is enough to get you to the end unscathered. DA KAI ZAN GANA could be a pretty sweet movie, but it is slowed down by more than its share of ill-advised congestion
DA KAI ZAN GANA is mostly an unfortunate case of reality against its protagonist. If it were a good movie, it would be an unfortunate case of reality against art.