Far more modest in ambition than most recent releases, and so less bombastic, ‘YA DAGA ALLAH is the most likable Saira Movie this year, even if it’s a tad less substantial and frankly, a touch more redundant.
Production: Saira Movies.
Star Cast: Nafisat Abdullahi, Fati Washa, Ali Nuhu, Sadiq Sani Sani, Aina’u Ade.
Director: Aminu Saira
What’s Good: The cinematography is very nice; actors are earnest; the director’s approach is good.
What’s Bad: The second half isn’t properly thought and executed; Lukman’s character is checkered with misses; unexplained loops.
‘YA DAGA ALLAH is a story of Mallam (Ali Nuhu) who pushes water truck to sustain his family. An injury to his knee leaves him largely incapacitated to carry out this task. His wife Rabi (Hadiza Muhammad) is pregnant and the only thing capable of preventing him from consigning to the hall of shame is divine intervention.
One fateful evening as he is returning from a hospital (where his wife was previously admitted) to seek for money, he is brought to an abrupt standstill by a baby cry apparently coming from a sealed box by his side. He courageously opens the box to find a baby girl, pool of dollars and a letter that reads: ‘This baby is ours. She has parents like everybody else. Use this money to take care of her.’
He takes the baby home and uses a minute portion of the fortune to settle his wife’s medical bill. When Rabi returns home, she initially regards his account of the baby with suspicion but later finds it sensible. Shamsiyya chiefly called ‘YA DAGA ALLAH by Malam, becomes his silver lining. His miserable life is resurrected by her fortune- a debt Mallam feels would ever be indebted to.
20 years later, Shamsiyya (Nafisat abdullahi) and Mallam’s biological daughter Atika (Fati Washa) are in the middle of adulthood. Shamsiyya develops a more likable personality and subsequently, wins the public as well as Mallam’s affection. Atika’s jealousy and resentment grows to an obsessive when the man she is interested in, Lukman (Sadiq Sani Sadiq) appears to have interest in her sister Shamsiyya. So in an attempt to extinguish Atika’s rage, Ladi reveals the mysterious secret. And although Shamsiyya’s heightened excitement is calmed by realization that she was not an illegitimate child, she begs Mallam to find her true parents and Lukman’s houseserving woman Baba Rabi (Aina’u Ade) is uncovered as her mother.
The script, written by Yakubu M Kumo, moves with lightness and seriousness of purpose. Kumo creates a remarkable drama with a light suspense and bits of tragedy. Yet the story ending feels somewhat hallow and an overt attempt to get as many details as possible. Just when the movie has audience in its grasp, the script falls to pieces and turns into a female-in-peril situation which is not only improperly developed but also poorly realized.
And while the script is written with a dose of drama and light suspense, the romantic quotient never works. The character who sells the romance, Lukman is never really given any solid development or brought into the heart of the movie.
Lastly, the false narration of the couple that firstly claims Shamsiyya shouldn’t have been written as a footage but just a verbal narration since the event never existed.
The script written with an unforced ease is directed in the same graceful manner. The production design, the director’s approach and embrace generate a genuine feel and magnetic quality that allow the audience to get lost in the cinematic experience early on.
However, ‘YA DAGA ALLAH which begins life high-mindnessly with great aspiration and elegant scenes, is ultimately taken down by a mix of both predictable maneuverings and occasional lack of focus. The movie ultimately slows down, but it does so like a talented athlete who strayed from his game plan. As the story picks up stream, the suspense and the climax suddenly fall in place without audience investing much in exercising their brain.
Early clues revealing Baba Rabi’s identity is pointlessly offered which makes the second half ‘predictable’. More often than not, big questions are not answered, like: How that letter ended up being in the box and whereabouts of Baba Rabi’s parents or even relatives. Another choice that is questionable is how Ladi remains the same for opposite sides of 20 years. Finally, the movie’s conclusion is incredibly half-hearted.
The long list of things that work better than you might expect has to start with Fati Washa whose performance as an obsessive and temperamental sister adds a lot of flair and fun to the story. As a testament to how good amicably the cast’s performance is: you have to dig deep in Ali Nuhu’s back catalogue to find a single performance as affecting and well-judged as the one he delivers- which is a big deal!
In the same light, Nafisat Abdullahi expresses pure emotional honesty, that’s to say, entire unconned by false sentiment or sharp, overmanipulative acting. The only person that stands away from the pack is Saddiq Sani Sadiq. While there is nothing to criticize from his performance, he isn’t exactly given a ton of material to work with.
If nothing else, the production is wonderful. Every aspect of it is at worst, nice. The cinematography is very nice. The sound, score, editing, sets and costumes are all good.
The Last Words
Like any piece of art, ‘YA DAGA ALLAH has its shortcomings. However, the director’s style and the strong performance by the cast have given it enough juice to truly pull off its own premise. And while it’s not the greatest Saira movie to date, it manages to stomp through the theater in an altogether entertaining and enjoyable fashion.
Written by: Anas Abdullahi