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I remember the 8pm rush to catch Tormenta en el Paraiso, and the torture this telenovela put us through from one episode to the next. Well, you know how these stories go, but forget the overly dramatic plotlines and campy acting in Mexican telenovelas, and immerse yourself in the world of Selina.
Selina is a Swahili telenovela about a girl from the village – Selina – whose dreams are cut short when she is sold off by her jealous step-mother to work as a housemaid for the wealthy Mackenzies.
1. It’s in Swahili
Imagine all the captivating telenovela themes – betrayal, jealousy, love – now imagine all that delivered in Swahili and tell me if that doesn’t even pique your curiosity a little bit. No offence to other languages but Swahili is a beautiful language, and the rest of the world is starting to catch on. Helmed by the master of Swahili telenovelas himself, Reuben Odanga, Selina stays true to its authenticity of being Kenyan by sticking to Swahili, something that lead actors Pascal Tokodi (Nelson) and Celestine Gachuhi (Selina) admit was hard to embrace at first.
2. Homegrown drama and plotline
Let’s be honest, in the world of Mexican telenovelas, art rarely imitates life – some have such crazy plotlines that you can’t help but wonder how they ever saw the light of day. And they feature some characters that are so out of this world’s league that you’d never believe that they could be real. Even when dealing with serious societal issues, Mexican telenovelas still find some ridiculous way to milk the drama for what it’s worth. Wouldn’t you rather be watching a show with relatable characters and a plotline that is so close to home, you almost fancy yourself an extra on the show? Selina will give you just that. For instance, here, you will meet “Nyanya”, the mganga who has all the solutions for our resident crafty villain Kristina who would rather burn her step-daughter’s scholarship letter than see her go further with her education.
3. The great romance
Aah, love, the prerequisite for all telenovelas. Esteemed gentlemen of the telenovela world have gone to war, brother has turned against brother, great friendships and families have been broken, and unforgivable evils committed, all in the name of love. For Selina, the two star-crossed lovebirds Nelson and Selina have quite the unrivalled chemistry and their love story is intense, sweet and tortuous – and we expect nothing less even with the love triangles that we now have to deal with. Some fans have even started shipping these two together in real-life, but time will tell.
4. The rounded characters
From the lead actor and crooner Pascal Tokodi, whose singing voice is just as good as his acting skills, to the newcomer Celestine Gachuhi, who embraces the role of Selina with the innocence and compassion it deserves, to the villain Katrina who is as comical as she is evil, Selina is full of great characters that make the show the success it is. New Beginnings and Mali’s alum Kone Nouhoum plays the role of Tokodi’s big bad brother to perfection; you wonder why Nelson just doesn’t punch him in the nose and save us all. Of course, Nelson’s mum Patricia Mackenzie is the matriarch we all don’t want to cross and then there is the great Abel Amunga in the role of Luke Mackenzie, not forgetting BET’s Top Actor finalist Alex Khayo who plays Nelson’s beard-combing sidekick Xavier.
5. Reuben Odanga – director extraordinaire
Director Reuben Odanga has had a stream of successful Swahili telenovelas – Saida, Nira, Nuru – and Selina is the latest addition on that list, and arguably his best work yet. With Selina, he’s not only telling an authentic Kenyan story, but something that also appeals to everyone, including the male audience. Remember that chauvinistic phrase that only women watch telenovelas? Selina is the exception to that rule; Odanga has raised the bar so high that at some point you cease to look at Selina as a telenovela but as one of the best quality productions ever made in Kenya, and who in their right mind would not want to be part of this history?
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