Unlike memoirs, biopics are limited in the amount of information they can give about their central character. As such, the work before the writer/director is how to distill the information they have into a worthy story that will give viewers enough insight into the character being portrayed. Being a master storyteller/filmmaker, Tunde Kelani did a beautiful job with his Ayinla Yusuf biopic titled Ayinla.
Released in 2021, Ayinla tells the story of the legendary Apala musician Ayinla Yusuf aka Ayinla Omowura, aka Anigilaje aka Egun Mogaji. Kelani does not bother showing us Ayinla’s childhood and how his journey into Apala began. Rather, the eponymous film is based on the months before and the events that led to the death of Ayinla Omowura. Kelani dwells on showing us Ayinla, the famous musician, caring father, women connoisseur, short-tempered man, fun-loving entertainer, troublemaker and mischievous performer, all the while infusing the right amount of culture and prevailing custom of the day.
The biopic is set in 1980, the year Ayinla would have hit a huge milestone in his career by travelling to London. The entrance of a femme fatale, however, brought things to a head, leading to a culmination of lust, resentment and jealousy, which ended Ayinla’s dream and life untimely.
Casting – If there is one thing that makes Ayinla shines, it is the fact that Kelani got his cast right. Lateef Adedimeji was a brilliant choice to play Ayinla and he did it well. The actor proved that there was more to him beyond the stereotypical clownish roles he has been playing. Debo “Mr Macaroni” Adedayo was also quite good as Baiyewu, Ayinla’s manager. Kunle Afolayan, Ade Laoye, Omowunmi Dada, Jumoke Odetola, and Bimbo Manuel all pulled off their roles well. Kelani also featured some not-so-prominent Yoruba Nollywood actors.
Directing – This was superb!
Acting – With the right casting comes great acting. In this, Ayinla did not disappoint.
Costume – Ayinla was released in cinemas in 2021 and was shot between December 2020 and early 2021, but you wouldn’t know from watching the movie. From the choice of cars to attires to hairstyles, all showed the 1970-80s.
Music – Being a musical eponymous, Ayinla could have featured only songs by Ayinla Omowura, but this was not the case. Other songs by popular artists in that time period were included in the movie.
Unclear scenes that did not add to the story – There were a couple of scenes whose import to the story is not clear. One was where Bimbo Ademoye and two of her friends were talking about their romantic entanglements.
Individual reactions to Ayinla’s death – Probably due to not wanting to add unnecessarily to the story, Kelani did not show us some individual reactions to Ayinla’s death. What did his wives do after his death? What of Bayewu? It would have been good to know, but it is also a great prompter for the viewer to do some research of their own.
Though Ayinla is not a fast-paced thriller, it possesses enough entertainment value for a true story.