Zimbabwe’s first high definition soap titled Wenera continues to win hearts of the many film fanatics who are either falling in love with the characters or the well-executed story line that has seen many not wanting to miss an episode.
the style interview By Winstone Antonio
The soap is set against the backdrop of the diamond industry and it is cast and designed within the local context, not just telling the ordinary Zimbabwean story, but that of Africa as a whole.
In Wenera, anticipation, deception and tension are the order of the day as the plots unfold and the love of money and cozy lifestyles influences relationships between rivals and family members.
Focusing on the Musodza family which runs the Wenera diamonds firm, jealousy, disloyalty and blackmail is their way of life, making the soap one of the powerful mouthpieces of people’s day-to-day life within the society.
Among the characters who have become a darling for many is Tsotsi played by Zolile Makeleni, who has been so loyal to the production from being a mere boom swinger to become one of the best stars of our time.
Tsotsi is a character that is moved by humour and portrays the young generation of our time. He resides at the Blue House in the Extension, a low-class suburb where he stays with his aunt and uncle.
His consistency and perseverance has given him the chance to explore himself more by becoming the Season 3 director of Wenera episodes, though under the handy mentorship of the executive producer Eddie Ndhlovu.
The Standard Style reporter Winstone Antonio (WA) caught up with Tsotsi (ZM), who opened up about his profession among other things and below are the excerpts from the interview.
WA: Who is Zolile Makeleni and how can you describe yourself in three words?
ZM: Zolile Makeleni is a young man aged 28. I was born in Zambia on August 12 to a South African father and a Zimbabwean mother. Described in three words, I am kind, humble and patient.
WA: How did you get into acting and when did you first cut your teeth in the film industry?
ZM: It was just after high school when I saw an article calling for auditions. I went and got the part but the project was not the resounding success I had anticipated it to be and so I just kept hoping that one day my big break would come. And sure enough, Wenera came along.
WA: Was this a self-taught (raw talent) thing or you received professional training in acting?
ZM: I studied film making and there was always a thin line between film-making and acting. I majored in film-directing and it helped me understand what acting is all about. My acting talent was raw and I was so comfortable, thinking I had accomplished it all, but when I enrolled into film school, I then realised that my raw talent was just like an unpurified piece of diamond. I needed to go through a very intense refining process.
WA: Where do you find your inspiration and what drives you?
ZM: I draw my inspiration from my day-to-day life. Whatever I go through today inspires me to look forward to tomorrow, for I believe that we are all designed for greatness. So as long as I am not yet there, I have to wake up stronger and better tomorrow than I was today.
WA: What do you enjoy most about your acting career and what is the most challenging part in your profession?
ZM: Acting makes you live your fantasy. It is the only profession that allows you to be president, king, servant, priest and even a lover, in the same lifetime. Every role you are given requires that you grow into that person, so much that it becomes difficult to separate you from that character. I can play doctor, lawyer or teacher without going through the full gestation period of normally acquiring the necessary degree.
The greatest challenge is that the public often mistakes who you really are for the character you have embraced in a particular production. I frequently find myself having to explain that Tsotsi and Zolile Makeleni are two different people. No complaints though, because the challenges are nothing compared to the benefits that come with the profession.
WA: Tell us more about some of the productions you have featured?
ZM: I have played Mike in a short film titled Makomborero, for a student dissertation project, and TK in a 13-episode TV series titled Revelations. Both of the above are nothing compared to each and to my current project, Wenera, in which I am playing Tsotsi. Every production comes with new rules, new opportunities and new challenges. So one should be open to always learning as though they knew nothing at all.
WA: Does your acting reflect your personal lifestyle?
ZM: No, most definitely not. Tsotsi is arrogant, cunning, rude, selfish, disrespectful and vain. He is the kind of person who makes it his business to find out every dirty secret in almost everyone he knows. Tsotsi operates under the belief that everyone has a dirty secret and whoever knows it has leverage to get whatever they want from this person. To the extent that if he fails to find that secret, he would much rather create it. And that alone is definitely not me.
WA: Who is your role model?
ZM: The late boxer Muhammad Ali said: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact.
It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary.
Impossible is nothing.” Ali wasn’t just a role model, but he inspired me that the impossible can be a possibility.
Looking back through my journey, to all those who know me personally or who are familiar with my background, where I come from will understand at the same time appreciate my hardwork and so many things that have changed in my life. Dreams are never enough but as human beings we can never stop dreaming and eventually it will never be enough.
WA: Can you say you have achieved what you intended to accomplish in this film industry? If no, what is your dream then?
ZM: No, I have not, because my dream is to turn film into a business rather than just entertainment. The international fraternity has already tapped into it and I believe it’s now left to us to bring Hollywood here and not vice-versa. My greatest dream therefore is to open a foundation that begins to nurture young and talented TV personalities to know what they want and how to get it at a tender age. To create a hub for them that secures their future in the film industry.
WA: How is your life outside the film industry?
ZM: I have no life outside film.
WA: Any closing thoughts?
ZM: In life what matters most is the end result. Where you come from doesn’t matter. What matters most is where you want to go and how you intend to get there. Always surround yourself with people who inspire you because you are the master of your destiny. You are what you are today because of what you thought yesterday.