by Adebayo Adegbite
Geshin Salvador’s “Tanwa Savage” is the story of a celebrity, Jolaoluwa Savage (Uzor Arukwe), who, after years of a childless marriage, becomes desperate in his search of his first child, the titular “Tanwa Savage”. However, he gets more than he bargains for when his wife Zainab (Linda Osifo), and his two mistresses, Tope (Bimbo Ademoye) and Ngozi (Nkechi Blessing Sunday), all announce that they are pregnant for him. The movie also stars Segun Arinze who plays Jola’s father, Timini Egbuson, Joseph Momodu among others.
If the abruptness of the movie synopsis has you scratching your head, don’t fret, that is literally the entire plot of the movie. The threadbare runtime portended something grim as I walked in to see the movie but I shook off doubts, clearing preformed biases that could colour my review wrongly. I made excuses: maybe it’s a lean take on whatever story it’s trying to tell, maybe it’s a contained, explosive take on damaged lives with no time for niceties. Alas, Tanwa Savage was neither and I was right all along. The runtime is just too short to allow growth or any form of arcing for any character in the movie.
The trailers and colourful posters list “Tanwa Savage” as a comedy, but the movie struggles to decide if it wants to be a serious drama or a comedy. It tries to be both and succeeds at neither. Its storytelling is uncoordinated, with flash forwards and flashbacks that leave out huge swathes of the story and ends up confusing the viewer. The jokes are mostly unfunny; the lazy, cliche and stereotypical, all lifted from social media. It also doesn’t help that the actors themselves were pretty much just winging it.
In terms of characterization, the movie again falls flat on its face. Yes, the actors can be accused of winging it but it also didn’t help that the characters they were to portray were unilateral, caricatures and not properly fleshed out. Casting Uzor Arukwe as Jola (A Yoruba guy) and Lina Osifo as Zainab (a Hausa woman) is particularly problematic in this regard. It is not that ethnically ambiguous actors are bad but if you are going to go in heavily into the Nigerian tribal stereotypes, as the director did with Ngozi and Tope, why not allow actual actors from the characters’ ethnic groups play those roles? It would certainly have been far more convincing than what we ended up seeing.
That said, Linda Osifo’s problem in this movie is not only that she is unconvincing as a Hausa woman, it’s that she is unconvincing as anything at all. If she competes against a mannequin with her shocking level of lifelessness and woodenness in this movie, the mannequin would win hands down. The character of Tope is also pretty much the director handing Bimbo Ademoye her script from “The Backup Wife” and telling her to get on with it. And perhaps, just for the fun of it, the director also just opened twitter, typed “Timini Egbuson” in the search box, shoved the results in front of the real Timini’s face and said, “This is your character, now get on set.” Maybe the real problem with the performances in this movie is that the star names are just there to sell the movie, not to help in the telling of some meaningful story. No imprints are made, random folks could have been shunted in to perform and there wouldn’t be any difference.
It is really hard to find anything to like about this movie. One can point out its cinematography and set design, which were quite good but even that is a low bar for Nollywood these days. The generous critic could also point out Bimbo Ademoye being the only one acting like she cares and is really the beacon in the sea of mediocrity that is this movie.
All said and done, my verdict of “Tanwa Savage” is that it is a forgettable movie and that is me being generous towards it.