‘Escape from Uganda’ shining in cinema

POLLY KAMUKAMA

It premiered in a glitzy ceremony at the Serena Hotel in Kampala last Friday.

And now, Luzira: Escape from Uganda, the $1m (about Shs2.6bn) budget co-production film between Uganda and India, is enjoying an impressive run in local cinemas.

Actor Micheal Wawuyo and his wife at the film's premiere, held last Friday at Serena Hotel in Kampala.

Actor Micheal Wawuyo and his wife at the film’s premiere, held last Friday at Serena Hotel in Kampala.

Directed by Rajesh Nair, a 36-year-old Indian filmmaker who has lived a great deal of his life in Uganda, the action thriller is currently on a two-week long theatrical tour in Kampala.

It is screening concurrently at four cinemas – Century Cinemax, The Hub, Cinema Magic and Cinemax Cinema.

And word has it that the film which casts a mix to top actors from Uganda and India has become an instant hit with the local audience.

Reigning Miss Uganda Leah Kalanguka (2nd R) and her predecessor Phiona Bizzu arriving for the premiere last Friday.

Reigning Miss Uganda Leah Kalanguka (2nd R) and her predecessor Phiona Bizzu arriving for the premiere last Friday.

It has been reported that most of the moviegoers turning up to watch the film are either of Indian decent or are young adults.

“We had a full house on Monday and Tuesday, and ticket sales for the remaining days are doing fairly well,” Lorrainne Oguttu, Century Cinema’s Events Coordinator, told this blog yesterday.

She says the film is being screened on an average of four times a day for the entire two-week arrangement it has with the cinema.

Singer Chameleone, seen here at the premiere with his wife Daniella, was given a cameo role in the film as part of a marketing gimmick to make it more appealing to Ugandans.

Singer Chameleone, seen here at the premiere with his wife Daniella, was given a cameo role in the film as part of a marketing gimmick to make it more appealing to Ugandans.

Each auditorium at the upscale cinema seats a maximum of 195 people, with each ticket costing an average of Shs15, 000.

Details of the entire deal are not clear although the film’s producers would normally have to pay at least Shs1m to a typical Kampala cinema to host a 90-minute screening.

It would thus mean that Luzira is pocketing a cool profit of at least Shs1.9m from each screening at Century. The four screenings per day would lead to an estimated net profit of Shs7.6m.

Part of the film's cast and crew being introduced by the night's emcee, Roger Mugisha, at last week's premiere.

Part of the film’s cast and crew being introduced by the night’s emcee, Roger Mugisha, at last week’s premiere.

No Ugandan film has by far been able to hold such an extensive theatrical tour let alone make that kind of profits.

The general poor quality of Ugandan films coupled with limited marketing and negative audience perceptions has largely rendered local films unsalable in the cinema.

Many industry watchers are however hopeful the unprecedented success of Luzira will open a new chapter in Ugandan cinema.

Polly Kamukama at the premiere

Polly Kamukama at the premiere

The film

Based on a real life incident, the film details the story of a loving husband’s jailbreak plan to flee his wrongfully convicted wife.

It stars award-winning Indian actors, Rima Kallingal and Vijay Babu, in the lead roles as Shika and Jay, respectively – an Indian couple who find themselves embroiled in a double murder plot while residing in Uganda.

With Shika facing a life sentence in the notorious Luzira prison, Jay enlists the help of a wanted criminal CK (played by another Indian actor known simply as Parthieban) to come up with the elaborate escape plan.

The Indian High Commissioner in Uganda,  Dr. Ramesh Chandra (L) and the film's director, Rajesh Nair, at the premiere.

The Indian High Commissioner in Uganda, Dr. Ramesh Chandra (L) and the film’s director, Rajesh Nair, at the premiere.

It also features a host of Ugandan actors including Micheal Wawuyo (detective Morais), Sam Bagenda (Mayor), Wilberforce Mutete (jailor) and Sherrie Kicoonco (rogue prisoner).

The others are Anita ‘Fabiola’ Kyarimpa (murder victim and Mayor’s daughter), Carlos Ombonya (thug) and singer Jose Chameleone as the drug lord Dada.

The film apparently became a hit in Asia and the Middle East soon after its initial release there in November last year, but it has been met with lackluster reviews in Uganda.

The cast for 'Beneath the Lies', an upcoming TV series also attended the glitzy premiere ceremony at Serena Hotel.

The cast for ‘Beneath the Lies’, an upcoming TV series also attended the glitzy premiere ceremony at Serena Hotel.

Critics have been quick to point out its lack of artistic credibility in telling the otherwise compelling story.

Despite its breathtaking cinematography, the film has been paned for flimsy character development, particularly with the main actress who seems to mechanically go in and out of scenes without drawing any audience empathy.

Chameleone’s character, his first acting role, can also be viewed as a failed marketing gimmick since it adds absolutely nothing to the story.

The same goes for the two song-and-dance sequences in the film, which would otherwise have complemented the subject matter and mood of the scene in a typical Indian film.

The criticism aside, however, there is no denying the public interest the big budget film has created for Ugawood, especially in an era where the local film industry is in dire need of international exposure.

kamukamapolly@gmail.com

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2 thoughts on “‘Escape from Uganda’ shining in cinema

  1. Nathan Mukiibi says:

    To witness such success stories in itself is a fulfilling experience to the hungry Ugandan film making community. Thanks to the Critic & as Julius Muchunguzi says,”lets keep Hope Alive…”

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