The introductory part of this movie hit me differently. The narrator spoke at length that I got confused and was not sure he was not making any point or was he speaking in the language of the oracle (onu afa as the Igbo call it)? And then as the movie progresses, I started enjoying more of the express display of different aspects of the original Yoruba culture.
The theme of jealousy was elaborately explored in the movie as the wives of the King of Oyo battle over who the King spends more time with. The youngest wife finds herself at the brunt of attacks because she is the favourite bedmate of the King.
It is the story of how a young traveling weaver, Saro (played by Kunle Remi) gets the attention of a clay pot maker, Awarun(played by Sola Sobowale), who made him her sugar boy, enjoying special privileges and finally got him set up with his own house and weaving business.
Then Saro gets bitten by jealousy when he realizes that he is not the only one warming the bed of his sugar mummy. He meets the shock of his life when she rubs that reality on his face. “I do what I like with who I like; no one questions me.”
Yet, the sugar mummy teaches some life lessons to Saro; Enjoy me but do not get attached as you cannot marry me. But I will set you up as a man if you are patient and know your place.”
She connects him to make new clothes for the King’s wives and kids. There he meets the youngest queen, Arolake, and it is love at first sight.
The King’s cabinet is shown as a gender sensitive one, by the way with Awarun and another lady depicted as active members of the decision making king’s cabinet.
Queen Arolake waylays Saro and rapes him.
I think Saro was a sex slave in the movie. Kunle Remi loves to play that role of a sex symbol in movies and he plays it so well.
I don’t understand if Kunle Afolayan was trying to make a case for cheating wives and self willed women in Anikulapo. Saro and his secret lover, Queen Arolake compare notes of their lives which despite the ease and comfort in them seem miserable to them and they consider eloping to start a new life.
But there is a catch-22, Princess Omowunmi, who also has the hots for Saro, discovers Queen Arolake’s escapades with Saro and informs her mum. Saro is caught and brought before the King.
He decrees he is treated like the betrayer he is. The palace guards and the people of Oyo parade him and hit him with large sticks till he passed out in the forest.
Somehow Queen Arolake beats the mythical phoenix-like bird, which came to know if Saro deserves to resurrect on not, to it and rescues Saro from death and together they run as far as they can away from Oyo. The other half of the movie was a story of how the love birds survived in the forest and beyond and how Saro not heeding the advice of elders led to his downfall.
Akala’s power to the rescue as the Queen gives Saro the totem that brought him to life which dropped from the phoenix when she attacked it. He uses it to resurrect their benefactor’s son and he gains the attention of the king.
They are given a house in the village and they live together as a couple. Saro is given a new name; Anikulapo (the resurrector). His popularity gains crescendo as he repeats the feat at will, resurrecting even the aged who would rather stay dead.
One thing must kill a man. This theme was done justice to in the movie. Saro’s Achilles heel, the pleasure a woman gives, pride and greed, get the better of him and he lures his lover’s help into his bed and gains carnal knowledge with her.
By the way, the source of Saro’s power is querried by the village chief priest who feels threatened by the eclipse of his hold on the community since Saro came to town.
At the same time, Omowon takes in and Arolake is heartbroken as she has not been able to get pregnant. It gets her really depressed as she remembers that is the same reason she was being taunted in the King’s palace.
Karma makes a complete circle as Saro gets a third wife and reveals Queen Arolake’s true identity to her. When Arolake gets bashed with this truth during an altercation with the other wives, she remembers that she was the king’s favorite in the palace before she eloped with Saro. She confronts him with it and he hits her at the heat of the moment.
Arolake discovers the husband is negotiating getting the Princess as wife if he resurrects the Prince. She packs her things and leaves. Then the king agrees to the bargain even though he is not happy with it. Saro tries his gimmick and this time, it fails him. The Prince does not resurrect. Arolake had poured away the virtue of the totem. Saro’s pride has led to his downfall. The phoenix comes again for his corpse after he lay dead beaten to pulp by the second King’s guards and this time, there was no Arolake to save him.
Anikulapo is a beautiful story and shows a Hollywood level of painstaking attention to details by Kunle Afolayan. I challenge other tribes to give me one movie that promotes their own culture, identity and wisdom as beautifully as this. This 2022 Netflix movie has not gotten the level of international attention it deserves. I give it a 4/5 and would only recommend parental guidance for the sake of the nudity, sex and violence scenes.