Drama BE­HIND THE SCENES AT UZALO

View­ers of Mzansi Magic, e.tv and SABC will be the ul­ti­mate win­ners of a de­vel­op­ing TV war

CityPress - - Front Page - CHARL BLIG­NAUT and SIYABONGA SIT­HOLE charl.blig­naut@city­press.co.za, siyabongta.sit­hole@city­press.co.za

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.

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