Movie Title: KING OF BOYS: THE RETURN OF THE KING series.
Running Time: 7hrs 19mins.
Director: Kemi Adetiba.
Lead Cast: Sola Sobowale, Nse-Ikpe Etim, Illbliss, Toni Tones, Dapo Banjo, Akin Lewis, Reminisce and Charly Boy.
Date of Release: August 21,2021
The ‘new Nollywood’ owes its success and growth to technical and cinematic improvements as well as a newer breed of storytellers and filmmakers poised to make an impact.
But what has gained the least attention in the ‘New Nollywood Tales’ is the idea of a different kind of female lead character, or if you like, a heroine, for whom romantic aspiration is not the main goal.
The idea of a female lead who longs for male attention is not entirely a bad idea. But in typical Nollywood films, actresses are often portrayed as either seeking to find love or finding Mr Right.
But Eniola Salami, the lead character in KOB, perfectly portrayed by Sola Sobowale, wants more.
We have often wondered who will better tell women stories? And is gender a relevant criterion?
It seems Genevieve Nnaji answered the question with ‘Lionheart’, Mo Abudu with ‘Fifty’ and now it appears as though Adetiba has broken stereotypes in KOB by telling a story of a female villain who challenges the notion of a heroine.
In the seven-part Netflix original series, Adetiba relieves in continuation, the return of Salami, her lead character in the feature-length film, ‘King of Boys.’
Salami returns to the country bitter about the defeats she had endured. This time around, she is seeking a higher good by contesting for a leadership position in Lagos.
Hooliganism earned Laburu (the evil incarnate) an empire of fame around political heavyweights in the country. To reclaim her position after a long exile, Salami contends with old adversaries (Aare Akinwande and Makanaki) and newer rivals (Odudubariba, Jumoke Randle, Dapo Banjo, Rev. Ifeanyi, and Governor Tunde Randle) and must fight for the power she feels most deserving of.
Popularly known as the King of Boys, Salami will later embrace corruption, violence, and blackmail to actualise her vengeful desires.
Jumoke, the first lady, is one feisty character portrayed by Nse Ikpe-Etim who makes complex decisions for her husband, Tunde Randle, the governor of Lagos State. Bent on ensuring that he returns for a second term, she leads the contest on his behalf against Eniola.
But a young courageous journalist of ‘Conscience Newspaper’, Dapo Banjo, is committed to the ethics of his profession as an investigative reporter. He will dig deep and try to unravel the cult of politics and thuggery which have enabled Madam Salami and other political honchos to unlawfully thrive in Lagos.
Makanaki, Reminisce’s character, surprisingly returns to life after Odogwu Malay, portrayed by rapper, IllBliss assassinated him on Salami’s orders as a punishment for his impunity.
Odudubariba also wants the throne for himself and Odogwu Malay must await the vengeance of a betrayed friendship. Aare Akinwande, the vicious humorous character of Akin Lewis, plots Eniola’s demise for the second time.
In the end, the nefarious culture of Lagos street ruffians and corrupt political elites collapse as Salami’s quest to own both terrains for herself materialise.
In ‘KOB: The Return of the King’ series, Season 1, Lagos is the epicentre of Adetiba’s realistic tale.
The politics might be termed “Lagos themed” as scenes ceaselessly moved from posh to rural locations where narratives build up to what might be dubbed ‘real’ as against films set in unnamed countries or places where specificity might breed provocation.
The soundtracks are great. Adetiba opts for a menacing sound of impending doom with occasional Yoruba and Igbo songs all rendered with emotive descriptions to the scenes of relevance. The songs were composed by Bayo Adepetun and Tolu Obanro with an additional score from the Storyblocks and Epidemic Sound.
Madam Salami and Ms Randle both donned outfits that brought their characters to life. Odudubariba, adorned in pieces of jewelry and makeup, is unique for a king that ridicules a woman who wants what is believed to be a man’s throne.
In retaining originality, African filmmakers are reconsidering the dangers of predominant dialogues in a foreign language. In KOB, the actors spoke a blend of Yoruba, vernacular, and Igbo language which ensured that the series retained its authenticity. What better space to showcase the authenticity and beauty of Nigeria’s culture and language to a global audience than Netflix.
The character of Salami’s younger self, portrayed by Toni Tones, is easily the most demonstrative character of rage in this series. During moments of indecision, she persuades older Eniola to wake up to the ruthless king that she had always been from a younger age. Sometimes Eniola fights the forceful beckoning rage of her younger self; at other times she succumbs to the prompt youthful desires of young Eniola.
Studying the backstory that brought both Ms Randle and Madam Salami to power, it is fair to say that Adetiba created two female characters whose rise to supremacy are synonymous, hence the hatred of beholding the reflections of themselves on each other.
Randle’s character reflects the story of many powerful women married to men in authority. She appears powerful because her husband is in power and not necessarily because she is strong in the real sense of the word.
Her regal character is almost at par with the legendary Chief Ms Randle played by Taiwo Ajai Lycett.
The latter’s cameo scenes are simply unforgettable. Call it a timeless example of casting and you will not be wrong.
The character, Odudubariba, played by Charly Boy, is a brilliant and rare choice. He lived for the screen value and went all out to ensure that Salami does not ascend the throne as The King of Boys.
The film touches on themes around feminism, power tussle, politics, hooliganism and gang wars.
When a female campaign staff suggested that a married Salami would be easier to ‘market’ to the electorate, Salami’s response opens the floor for a heated debate.
“I have built numerous businesses on my own without a man holding my hand. Today you sit here, telling me it’s not good enough. Why? Because I’m a single woman with no children. People will find it difficult to see me as the next governor of Lagos state. What a shame. This is sad,” Salami says.
Although Reverend Ifeanyi was a stereotypical character, to watch him is to easily decipher his political roles of religious objectification, secrecy, and greed. Indeed a political tale without religion used as a tool for greater public validation of candidates is incomplete. But Adetiba’s unassuming triumph was casting RMD as a reverend to make up for the lapses of a scenic overuse.
At various points in the series, Adetiba employs the deus ex machina technique, which I feel is an easy way to get characters out of difficult situations. As such, Ade Tiger and Akorede’s seeming betrayals and shabby resolutions are poor techniques that should be explicated in further seasons.
In an industry obsessed with commercial gains and populating films with A-list stars, Kemi opts for actors who fit the character and embody their roles.
With creative plot twists and dynamic technicalities, Adetiba has given us a reason to embrace Nollywood films with open arms.
‘The Return of the King’ is a rare work of art from an intentional Nigerian filmmaker who has continued to challenge the status quo. Because there is now a heroic villain of choice in Nollywood, Eniola Salami transcends character in more ways than one.