It is Saturday evening. There is a film premiere today. Elson Kambalu is showing his film, Mlandu wa Njinga at the M-Theatre in Blantyre. The attendance is modest but the premiere will go on, nevertheless.
Don’t mind the poor patronage. It is just an indication of how long it will take for people to start appreciating cinema or film premieres.
Elsewhere, a movie premiere like this would have lured celebrities from the entertainment industry of film making, music, theatre performance and even from the literary fraternity. But this is Malawi and people care less about attending such events as film festivals and premieres, perhaps.
From the back of the theatre, a beam of light is cast on the wall in front. All eyes stare blankly.
Then silhouettes riding a bicycle appear on the wall. In a fraction of time, a long brick fence with barbed wire comes into the picture. Two prison guards emerge from the corridors, leading Ntaja towards the gates of freedom.
“Eight years is a long time. Don’t commit another crime,” a guard admonishes Ntaja.
Ntaja receives a provision from Joy foundation to stay at Malipa hotel for a month as a project to reintegrate him back into the community.
Ntaja starts off. On the road he flags down a tax and boards it. He immediately makes friends with the driver called Alex. They go together to the hotel.
Barely spending a day, Ntaja goes out, in search of Anna, his first love.
He goes to Mchesi, where he was staying with his uncle Mr. Moyo before his incarceration.
To his astonishment, the residence has been turned into a brothel. He knocks at the door and a prostitute, Deborah, comes out.
Deborah thinks that Ntaja is one of the customers seeking pleasure. To her chagrin, he asks about a Mr. Moyo who used to reside there eight years ago. Deborah says he died.
Deborah tells Ntaja that soon after he went to prison, Dolo, a dangerous ‘criminal’ visited Mr. Moyo. His visit resulted in some misfortunes. Mr. Moyo died and so was Anna’s father.
Ntaja was jailed for killing Anna’s father and for theft. Ntaja and Anna had been lovers. This incident turned Anna against Ntaja.
Deborah tries to lure Ntaja to her bed to no avail.
He and Alex drive to Anna’s marital home and find out Anna married Dolo. However, there is revulsion in Anna’s eyes upon seeing Ntaja.
“You killed my father. Why are you here?” She shouts, angrily. Ntaja pleads his innocence to deaf ears.
He leaves for the hotel, without success. His friend, Alex, laughs at him for being obsessed with Anna.
Ntaja writes a poem and gives it to Alex to take to Anna. It is a perilous mission, going to Dolo’s place. Then Ntaja starts to unravel what led to his arrest and the death of his uncle.
He goes to inquire more from Deborah who confirms everything. It appears it was a plot between Dolo and his uncle to get rid of him for Dolo to marry Anna.
Anna is the bone of contention-the source of conflict whose beauty two men are fighting for. For Anna, Dolo committed heinous crimes. And for Anna, Ntaja spent eight years in jail as Dolo framed him in a murder case. To finish off Ntaja, Dolo pitted Mr. Moyo against Ntaja and later eliminated Mr. Moyo.
Thus Dolo is the playmaker and villain (antagonist) while Ntaja is the protagonist.
Elson Kambalu created a character in Dolo whose deep love for Anna forced him to commit villainous acts. Like Commander Trevor Strathmore in Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress who commits evil to win the love of Susan Fletcher, Dolo plunges his life into a sea of evil acts to win Anna.
On the other hand, Ntaja nearly runs insane for Anna’s second chance. He follows her to church on one occasion despite Dolo being there. Thus love can blind a person not to see danger where it lurks.
Through Ntaja’s obstinacy in pursuing Anna, she comes to understand that it was Dolo who killed her father. However, this realisation came late. Dolo’s men are hounding Ntaja and they kill Deborah and Alex. Ntaja is linked to the deaths.
Anna knows it is Dolo who has killed Deborah and Alex-not Ntaja. This knowledge reignites her love for Ntaja.
The police start looking for Ntaja who eludes them. At night, he hides in a house owned by a prostitute called Beauty.
Finally, the police arrest him and he is back in jail with a charge of murder on his neck.
Kambalu’s wit is displayed in the end. Of all people who come to visit him in prison, it is Anna.
As the film ends there are screams, seemingly coming from Beauty.
Ntaja continues laughing and the light on the wall fades, plunging the theatre into darkness. n