Celebration of the 70th birthday of ace film-maker, Tunde Kelani, peaked on Thursday with moving reminiscences, AKEEM LASISI writes
Tears of joy flowed freely at Freedom Park, Lagos, on Thursday when colleagues, mentees and associates celebrated leading cinematographer and film producer, Tunde Kelani, as part of his 70th birthday treat.
At the programme tagged, Art House Forum and organised by iRep Documentary Project and the Committee for Relevant Arts, many members of the arts community, including the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, congratulated the man generally regarded as an icon and one of the pillars behind the success of the industry.
The tears that flowed were not just the figurative; some were indeed literal. While actor and broadcaster, Yemi Shodimu, relived his experience when he worked with Kelani’s Mainframe Productions, a broadcaster and producer, Jide Moronfolu, could not control his emotion as he recalled the roles that TK played in his growth.
At the event compered by Jahman Anikulapo, Shodimu noted that Kelani was down to earth as an entrepreneur and as a human being. He said he enjoyed every second he spent with TK, to the point that at the time he needed to move on, he found it impossible to directly communicate it to TK.
The man who played the lead role in Kelani’s film, O Le Ku, said, “I was too deep in Mainframe; too deep in TK. So, how could I walk up to him and say, “I am leaving’? We could eat bread, we could take garri when occasion called for it. But come what may, even if heaven was going to fall, for TK, the workers’ salaries must first be paid.”
Moronfolu noted that he knew nothing about film and TV production as of 1993 when he completed his National Youth Service Corps programme. Someone had introduced him to Kelani. But because he was a jittery novice the Mainframe boss did not know what to do with him for some time. Along the line, he trained him, first with the aim of sending him to work at Africa Independent Television station, but later changed his mind and eventually retained him.
It was, however, when Moronfolu began to highlight specific near-providential interventions that Kelani made in his life that he began to shed tears.
While a long-term associate of TK, Wale Fani of Cinecraft fame, also dug into an eventful history they shared, saying they benefitted from solid training and love for the work and not for money, award-winning documentary film-maker, Femi Odugbemi, noted that Kelani’s impact was real globally.
According to him, through commitment to professionalism, culture development and mentorship, he had helped to shape the industry. Noting that TK never lacked in humility, Odugbemi said, “He was the face of Nigerian cinema for more than a decade.”
Also at the programme, which dovetailed into performances and more tributes, were legendary footballer, Chief Segun Odegbami, and several film-makers that included Mamood Alli-Balogun and Kunle Afolayan, who also celebrated TK with kind words.
A documentary produced by Afolayan was also screened.
At the late evening segment anchored by actor and culture promoter, Ropo Ewenla, there were more tributes while afro singer, Edaoto, also serenaded TK. The event was rounded off with the screening of his latest film, Sidi Ilujinle, an adaptation of Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel, which stars Adebayo Salami, Ibrahim Chatta and Ayisat Onitiri as Sidi.