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SWEET HOME ALABAMA KENYAN REMAKE

Gerald Langiri
January 09 / 2012

It was a cold, rainy night in the middle of November when I lay on the couch, all alone in the sitting room. As the weather was freezing, I was bundled up in my thickest sweater and thickest socks, with a thick wooly hat perched on my head. In front of me was the television illuminating the entire room since I had switched off the overhead lights. Now that I think about it, the whole setting was really cozy. So, you might wonder what I was watching and the answer might disappoint: Full House, courtesy of NTV.

Now, before you laugh at my pathetic viewing choice, may I defend myself by saying that there is very little to choose from on our local stations late at night? If it is not a soap here, it is a series which I have already watched there, or DVD's that I have already exhausted, books that do not interest me, a computer that I have been on the whole day, the internet which has bored me, and sleep that evades me. As such was the case that fateful night, I was stuck watching Full House. For those of you who are not familiar with this particular program, it is a Philippine soap that I came to find out was a remake of a similar Korean drama whose name was, surprise surprise, Full House.

The similarities between the two shows were easy to see, since coincidentally, I had also watched the Korean version on GBS. Although the story line was more or less the same, there were variations here and there with some characters either added or removed from the Philippine version. Which one did I like best? The Korean one of course! Philippine soaps have too many love-crazed female antagonists with a penchant for gun wielding for my taste. I guess that it is true what they say; the original is always the best, except in the case of… Nothing has comes to mind.

Funny thing is, as I watched the soap that night, I wondered how it would be if a Kenyan was to remake it using local actors and culture. Probably like a bad comedy from my point of view. Full House is about a male actor and a naïve female writer getting into a marriage contract that would be beneficial for the both of them. The concept is ludicrous, but the way I imagined it from a Kenyan point of view, it was down right disastrous. The man would be a successful film actor with minimal unheard of publicity, the girl would be a struggling writer, they would live somewhere in Karen, and the female antagonist would be a haughty lady with a love for chunky jewelry working in a fashion boutique in town. That is just me though. I am sure if a serious screen writer actually took up this project, the story would be way better than mine. Regardless, you have to admit that the remake idea is worth a thought.

Remakes: Why are they done? I do not know, but personally, I like comparing the versions. That is one of the reasons I have watched all the Superman movies, no matter how bad one of them turned out to be. That is also the reason I have watched all the Cinderella stories. Another probable excuse to do a remake is to make it into something you would have wanted to see. For example, in a remake of Better Days, I wish that cute guy, (I forget his name), would have driven something better than that little green car he used to drive, and that the main poor girl, (played by Joyce Musoke ), would have gotten a scholarship to go to the rich school. Sadly, that vision will remain in the deep and rather interesting depths of my imagination. Finally, a remake is good for the actors chosen because they have something to relate their character to instead of making up a whole new persona from scratch, a task that takes quite a while to do.

Now now, what on earth could be remade in such a way that it would be able to fit in comfortably with Kenyan viewers? Below is a list of movies and series that I think would be able to mesh well with the Kenyan audience while bringing in something fresh to our screens.

1. My Fair Lady: The version I have watched was the classic version starring Audrey Hepburn. A Kenyan version of it would probably go something like this: A brash, uncultured girl from a ghetto is randomly chosen by an affluent and acclaimed language expert to live in his home for a few months during which he will instruct her in diction and all the proprieties of society. After one hour of comedy in which we see the ups and downs of said girl's training, the man will debut her in an important function attended by all the wealthy socialites of Nairobi. I do not know what such a function would be, maybe the Concours D'Elegance, or a dinner attended by a foreign dignitary. This would be a hit since everyone likes watching a makeover.

2. Grease: An innocent girl just transferred to a high school is immediately drawn to the local bad boy who is from the wrong side of the tracks. I can see this working, think of all the slang and sheng that can be incorporated. I have to admit that the musical bit of the movie makes me uneasy. It would need some really good composers for it to work. Also, the little curl John Travolta worked in the original will not do for us Kenyans, so it will definitely have to go.

3. Sweet Home Alabama: The original stars Reese Witherspoon, a girl who has made it big in New York but forgotten her roots. My alternative, Kenyan storyline entails a woman coming back from the US to divorce her husband so that she can marry her fiance from abroad. She willl probably have to come back to an upcountry place, maybe somewhere in Central Province, where her roots will really show, and at the end reconcile with her alienated husband.

4. Diary of a Mad Black Woman: A lady is unceremoniously booted from her home by her successful husband to make room for his lover. Stranded and broken, she looks for help from her aunt who lives in an urban middle class neighborhood, (Buruburu?), and starts piecing her life back together. In the end, she falls in love with another man and divorces her husband, upon whom bad luck has fallen and is as a result truly sorry for his actions. I think Madea could be removed though, she irritates my nerves. That is just my version.

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5. Dear John: The original is about an army man who falls in love with an innocent and sincere girl over the summer before returning to duty. In my Kenyan version, he will fall in love with the girl and then go to war in Somalia. She will get impatient, marry another man who is older and has a sickly child, and break it to him through a letter or whatever forms of communication normally used. Her husband will get cancer and her original love who she booted will generously pay the hospital bills for his recovery. Of course, where he would get such a large sum of money will have to be explained. In the end, he will come back to Nairobi to hear that the girl's husband has fully recovered, and they will not end up together. Sad but somewhat realistic.

That was a fun list to make, and I hope that my suggestions will be taken into serious consideration by the movers and shakers of the industry. Let us just hope no one suggests a Kenyan version of Twilight. I do not think I will be able to bear it then again what are your suggestions and what is your take on remakes? Remakes anyone?

Written by: Nadia W.Darwesh
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