In a world where young upwardly mobile people are increasingly beginning to consume most of their content online, MTV Shuga Naija does a positioning that will perhaps be described as ‘iconic’ in years to come.
Infusing youth-friendly language, music, style, and fashion, season 4 of course, continues to fly the flag of messaging without ‘doing too much.’
At the beginning of the season, things aren’t looking up for Faa (Bukola Oladipupo) and her family. She is dealing with the aftermath of rape and the vitriol hurled at her by the general public is totally unacceptable. Her brother, Ebisinde (Abayomi Alvin) struggles with the emotional burden that weighs on the shoulder of one who has made a mistake and is paying gravely for it. Frances (Ruby Akubeze) tries to find justice but every time she comes close, it slips through her fingers like beach sand. There’s also Cynthia (Uzoamaka Aniunoh) who has been declared persona non grata by the reigning queen bee in her school, Diana (Heleena Nelson) and now has to deal with the bullying that comes with being banned from a popular squad in a secondary school. Something that can be equated to being blacklisted from an elite group and snubbed by every single member who used to be friends with her.
It is an uncomfortable moment for these characters and sometimes, the audience will wince at the embarrassment they face and, be sympathetic towards their plight.
And yet, while this bunch deals with the insanity that is being a teenage underdog in 21st century Naija, their schoolmates, Wasiu and co seem to be living the dream.
Wasiu (Tomiwa Tegbe) for instance, may as well be called the President of Molade Memorial because he doesn’t only walk around with his own personal entourage, his presence is announced, non-verbally of course, from the moment he shows up in a scene. It is kinda reminiscent of the feeling one gets watching boisterous Nigerian Politicians, who are all noise and little sense. Make no mistake, Wasiu is a walking nostalgia of these political moments because when he doesn’t get his accolades, he moans, whines and throws tantrums.
Diana too is living the teenage schoolgirl dream. Except the audience sees through her act this season from the beginning. She is struggling, a lot and while she does everything she can to hold it together, she fails.
Without giving away much, this season takes away from some, leaves others happy and for some others, throws them in extreme situations. In some situations, the audience can see the end coming.
The story this season tries its best to continue from where last season stopped. Characters struggle with balancing their personal lives with work, school, and career. The women – whose stories lead – sometimes have to fight extra hard to be taken seriously in choices that mainly concern them. Some of them win, some of them almost lose.
Yet, the game remains exciting.
Performances this season are applaudable and even award-worthy. Helena Nelson is perhaps the most talented Actress MTV Shuga Naija has discovered in its quest to give upcoming Actors a chance in this climate. Her role as Diana is believable, convincing and most definitely memorable. In a season where she seriously grapples with being Queen and crumbling like a pack of cards, Heleena is Khalessi. She holds the reins of interpretation and rides at the highest of her performance, setting everywhere ablaze with unforgettable acting.
Bukola Oladipupo rises to the occasion every time Faa is flung around with an array of emotions and Abayomi Alvin continues to own Ebisinde like they’re one and the same. Rahama Sadau and Yakubu Muhammad have insane onscreen chemistry that makes one want to become Hausa and fall in love with a Hausa person while they fight for their love together. Newcomers like Belinda Yanga and Omowunmi Dada also do not fall short.
Perhaps the most noteworthy performance this season is Tomiwa Tegbe who plays Wasiu. His interpretation of Wasiu isn’t only unforgettable but a classic interpretation of what boys like Wasiu in government-owned secondary school actually look like. He’s hilarious but not in a way that takes away from what he is trying to show the audience. And, in a way, anyone who sees him in MTV Shuga will probably use him as a yardstick for roles like this in the future. He’s the James Dean of that.
MTV Shuga Naija does not fall into the pits fast-paced, uber-cool web series like it tend to fall into. Instead, it soars high without compromising its production or storytelling while balancing it with the youthful lifestyle it has become known and respected for.
It’s simply admirable.