JOHANNESBRURG — There will always be a need for strong female characters on television, especially on South African screens. But are we mad for liking them even when they are callous bitches?
Top actress Nambitha Mpumlwana last night stole the show, when eTV premiered its new telenovela, Ashes to Ashes – the direct competitor to SABC 1’s Generations: The Legacy.
Mpumlwana looked invigorated in her new role too. She plays matriarch Mandlakazi Namane, who runs township funeral parlour Namane Funerals, alongside her husband Selogilwe (played by Patrick Shai), and their sons Monwabisi (Chumani Pan) and Tsietsi (Nyaniso Dze Dze).
Mandlakazi quickly reminded us of Claire Underwood on the popular House of Cards – authoratitive, wears the hell out of a business suit, but is a bitch, is just as ruthless as her husband, and is definitely no role model.
We meet her within the opening five minutes of the debut episode, as she giddily interrupts a meeting, to announce, “Sorry for keeping you waiting, but I have the most exciting news . . . Sam Kekana is dead. Kekana and I go to the same gym and well she called me this morning asking us to bury her husband.”
Kekana is supposedly a big time businessman in the community. She subsequently fistbumps her son, who calls her “the best marketing secret there is out there”‚ and begins making plans for the funeral. Here, death is not a sombre occasion – the anticipation of it keeps her adrenaline pumping.
Mandlakazi is no feminist either – when Tsietsi tells her to let co-ordinator Violet (played by Maggie Benedict), who is “good at getting discounts” do the catering for the funeral, Mandlakazi spits back: “So, she’s easy and cheap?”
She later warns him: “Just promise me that you won’t marry this girl. She’s too needy. And if her clothes were any tighter, they’d be painted on. A lot of women out there know how to trick men into marriage.”
When a woman calling herself Kekana’s second (and much younger) wife visits the parlour to arrange the funeral, Mandlakazi can’t hide her judgment.
Mandlakazi tells her: “If you wish to be included, then you need to get my client’s permission. Sam’s wife – you know, the one who bore his children? The one who’s paying for the funeral? She’s not difficult to find. She’s at home grieving the way a wife should.”
But hers and the family’s fortunes take a turn for the worst with the arrival of an estranged family member – Reba (played by Zenande Mfenyana), Mandlakazi’s niece and daughter of her sister, Nozizwe, who has just died. With her, Reba, brings a dark secret.
The episode also features a cameo by Khanyi Mbau, playing sexy nurse Pinky (also sleeps with Tsietsi and tips him off about high-profile deaths at the hospital). Ashes to Ashes airs on Mondays to Thursdays on eTV at 8pm.
Has polygamy ever looked this sexy? The drama series Umlilo premiered on eTV last night as part of the channel’s new line-up. We guarantee it will make some people squirm; such are our divergent views on the practice.
Umlilo tells the story of Mnqobi Simelane (played by Hamilton Dlamini), who has two wives – Cebisile (Gcina Mkhize) and Dumile (Nokuthula Ledwaba), and is about to introduce them to his third wife-to-be, Khwezi (Nomzamo Mbatha), who is set to ruffle feathers.
Umlilo airs Mondays at 9pm. Here are three quotes from last night’’s episode that perfectly sum up the show:
“Carbs are poison” – Dumile turning down soft porridge offered to her by first wife Cebisile at breakfast.
“Why? It’s our culture. Besides, good men are so scarce. I’d rather share a good man with another woman than have a skelm all to myself.” – A sly Khwezi telling Dumile, who is planning Mnqobi’s birthday bash, that she doesn’t find their marriage strange.
“But he was desperate for a son and after the troubles with Phindile’s birth . . . to deprive him would have been selfish. So I gave him permission. And he showed me respect” – Cebisile telling daughter Andile why she allowed Mnqobi’s second marriage.
– Times Live