Drama BEHIND THE SCENES AT UZALO
Viewers of Mzansi Magic, e.tv and SABC will be the ultimate winners of a developing TV war
One of President Jacob Zuma’s daughters, Gugulethu ZumaNcube, may have bitten off a little more than she can chew if sources on the set of her epic new production Uzalo are to be believed.
Zuma-Ncube is risking it all with a highbudget show that finds itself a key player in a primetime TV war that is set to grip viewers from next month.
While e.tv’s new telenovela Gold Diggers takes on Generations: The Legacy in the 8pm to 8.30pm slot on a Monday, the same slot will host a battle of the telenovelas.
Telenovelas are epic night-time soapie-like dramas that generally end their story arcs within a year.
Uzalo launches on SABC1 on February 9 in a bid to give pay-channel Mzansi Magic’s popular Isibaya (a telenovela turned daily drama) a run for its money.
Uzalo will screen on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while Isibaya is flighted Mondays to Fridays.
Both family heritage sagas play out mainly in KwaZulu-Natal and both started out billed as telenovelas.
By snagging national treasure Leleti Khumalo-Ncube and poaching the actor who plays Isibaya’s villain, Bheki Mkhwane, Uzalo makes no bones about how competitive the action will be.
In Uzalo, Mkhwane will play the good guy. The KwaMashu-born actor, producer and playwright is not completely lost to Isibaya viewers because he will still appear as the incarcerated taxi boss Samson Ndlovu.
The real question is whether Uzalo will be able to match Isibaya in screen value.
Word in the industry is that the show has experienced serious teething problems.
Partly funded by the KwaZulu-Natal government in a bid to grow skills in the province, the estimated R80 million show is the brainchild of a consortium led by ZumaNcube.
She is best known as an actress and has recently reportedly trained under American film producer Tyler Perry.
Muvhango producer Duma Ndlovu and producer-presenter Pepsi Pokane round out the team behind the country’s biggest new show.
City Press this week spoke to numerous sources currently or previously working on Uzalo, all of whom insisted on remaining anonymous. They told of high drama in the Uzalo script department, with head writers coming and going at an alarming rate.
After working with four or five different teams, Uzalo now credits Ndlovu as head writer. The conflicts, sources told City Press, had mostly to do with Zuma-Ncube’s alleged interference in storylines. On set, word is that the early scripts were flawed and that there have been several reshoots, resulting in the production running months behind schedule.
There was praise for the honing of talents and skills in KwaZulu-Natal, though.
Asked for comment on the allegations, the show’s publicist told City Press: “Uzalo explores the lives of two children switched at birth – the child of a priest and that of a gangster – and the impact of that on their lives and families, the criminally minded Xulus and the God-fearing Mdletshes.”
This is just the start of telenovela fever for lucky viewers. The SABC’s newest requests for proposals include more of the format that has gripped global markets.