Zulu drama to take on Isibaya

With the growing market for indigenous-language dramas, the SABC is bringing viewers a new show that will take on Mzansi Magic’s' Isibaya

After the success of Mzansi Magic’s Isibaya, the SABC is set to tap into the enthusiastic Zulu-language market with Uzalo, a Zulu telenovela that will grace our small screens for a year.

We chat to one of the brains behind the show, Gugu Zuma-Ncube, about what viewers can expect.

It took former Isidingo actress Gugu and her partners three years to finally get the show off the ground.

Like many other production houses before them, they were sent from pillar to post in their search for funding, with their idea initially rejected by the national broadcaster.

The rejections only strengthened their resolve, forcing the team to work harder to refine the small details, so as to ensure they were pitching the best possible product to potential investors.

The show, which stars former Generations’ actress Leleti Khumalo and Isibaya‘s Bheki Mkhwane is based in KwaMashu, Durban and tells the story of two families. One family has a father who is a gangster, while the other father is a priest. The twist is that they are unknowingly raising each other’s sons, as the babies were swapped at birth.

The idea came about when Gugu and her partners looked at the television industry and realised how it was centralised in Gauteng.

They wanted to find a way in which other provinces could contribute in the actual making of show and not just the consumption of it. Seeing that Nguni audiences are the biggest in the country, doing a Zulu show was a no brainer.

“All those factors considered, we decided to do a Zulu soap opera that was going to be aired on the national broadcaster. We sent proposals to the SABC and we got turned away. We went to pitch again and we were told to modify this and that. The process lasted for about three years,” she recalls.

The SABC finally gave the production the nod towards the end of last year. Since shooting started in December the production has been relatively free of major hiccups.

“We have not had that many challenges. We just had to move the actors from Johannesburg to Durban, and we also had to build a new studio from scratch, something we didn’t have a budget for,” Gugu explains.

With Isibaya having already secured a huge following in the 8.30pm time slot, we ask Gugu if she is worried about the competition.

“I don’t think we are worried about taking on any other shows. By virtue of being on television, there is always competition. There will always be something playing in the same time slot,” she says philosophically.

She adds that it is a good thing that there are more shows being created in indigenous languages, and hopes that there will be even more in the future.

We ask Gugu how she copes with people who judge her for being President Jacob Zuma’s daughter instead of focusing on her work.

She says she can’t change people’s perceptions, but that all she knows is that she has worked hard to get the project off the ground.

Uzalo will debut on SABC1 on 9 February at 8.30pm.