If you are curious about what a typical day in a Lagos mechanic workshop is like, all you need is to watch Kunle Afolayan’s “Mokalik.” It is true that most of the audience would have visited a mechanic workshop at some point or the other. But you probably spent a few minutes or hours. More so, the interaction would most likely have been with a specialist, for instance the panel beater.
But Afolayan’s “Mokalik” captures a long day at a mechanic workshop. It shows the idiosyncrasies of mechanics. And the antics at their workplace. In some respect, it is also a moralistic juggernaut. As well as an ode to Nigerian mechanics who though largely semi-literate keep millions of cars on the road.
Afolayan brings Tunde Babalola – screenwriter for his award-winning October 1 – on board. Again, Babalola’s screenplay is apt. He paints a vivid picture of a day in the life of a Nigerian mechanic. From when they arrive at the workshop to what, when and how they eat. To their goofy nicknames and how the apprentices are punished. Babalola lives no stone unturned.
With a B-list cast, the man famed for the phrase ‘I deserve some accolades,’ Charles Okocha, and BBNaija star, Tobi Bakre bring star power. Okocha is characteristically energetic. And it is much to the admiration of the US deportee cum mechanic nicknamed Obama. Damilola Ogunsi plays Obama and he shines in his role. The cast also includes Faithia Williams – who portrays Iya Mulika the local beverage seller, and Ayo Adesanya as Ireti. They bring on more drama.
The story begins when Mr. Ogidan (Femi Adeboye) takes his son Ponmile (Tooni Afoloyan) to a mechanic workshop. The 11-year old Ponmile “Ponle” is struggling with his academics. So, his father decides that a day at a mechanic workshop might help him figure out his career path. Initially the boy is displeased. But after he is attached to Kamoru (Hamzat Sheriffdeen) who takes him on a tour of the workshop, Ponle cheers up.
Ponle gets a dumbed-down schooling on repairing cars. He also learns why a mechanic apprenticeship could last up to seven years whereas it takes five years to earn a university degree in electrical or mechanical engineering. He is inquisitive and uses analogies to show understanding. His is proof of how much better the mechanics could be if they were more educated or exposed. But as Obama often emphasized, they are plagued by ignorance.
Songstress Simi (Simisola Ogunleye) makes her acting debut in “Mokalik”. She plays Simi the daughter of the canteen owner. In the course of the day, Ponle befriends Simi. They inspire each other to chase their dreams. Both starring in their first feature film, Tooni and Simi are a dream team. They light up the screen when they smile at each other.
Afolayan mastery of securing sponsorship for his films dates back to the release of “The Figurine” in 2009. As a result, “Mokalik” is no exception. The project was supported by Canon and Air France. Yet, the several mentions of Air France is of no real benefit to the story. As it does not impact the choices the lead character Ponle has to make either. Air France could certainly have got more bang for their buck.
With several feathers in his cap for “The Figurine”, “Phone Swap” and “October 1,” Afolayan is a known game changer. However, this film is nothing like he has done before. Afolayan is also one of the first Nollywood filmmakers ambitious to make a film with over $1 million. And screen a Nollywood movie in movie theatres. But “Mokalik” is the kind of movie to go to see without knowing what to expect.
The dialogue is largely in Yoruba. And true to the nature of Nigerian artisans, the mechanics are talkative. They argue about football. From France winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup to the Premier League. They fight over work tools. They battle for supremacy and so forth. For most of it, you will laugh. But the plot is a bit pedestrian for the cinemagoer such that by the time movie ends, you leave with a wince. “Mokalik could very well have been a home movie.
Directed by: Kunle Afolayan
Cast includes: Simi Ogunleye, Tooni Afolayan, Tobi Bakre