By Meron Tekleberhan
Addis Ababa, May 21, 2012 (Ezega.com) - Ethiopian Television, not usually well-known for reflecting the prevalent issues within the society, seems to have struck a chord with ‘Sew Le Sew’ a soap opera style TV drama. The popularity of the show has increased with every episode aired after the 9:00pm evening news on Wednesdays for more than a year.
Various people have different reasons for watching the show, but most agree that they watch every week captivated by the portrayal of issues of corruption and social injustice that have for so long festered under the surface.
“It may seem exaggerated to some but others see a lot of truth in the twists in the plot. Ato Asenake, played by Abebe Balcha, is a character who symbolizes the power of money and stratagems in a relatively unsophisticated society like ours,” said Robel who is a committed fan of the show.
“The character is one of great contrasts and, although most of what he does is evil and he is the obvious villain of the show, it is very hard not to be attracted by his charismatic personality, his intense pride and his creative flair,” according to Robel.
The unique talent shown by the actor playing the character makes ‘Asenake’ standout and attract admiration even over and against those characters intended to be heroic and admirable, he concluded.
Film student Dawit agrees with Robel’s assessment. The other characters in the show simply don’t measure up to the supreme acting ability shown by Abebe and his unique talent is really the secret behind the success enjoyed by the character and to a certain extent the show itself, theorizes Dawit.
“It is not a question of whether the character is realistic or if there are actually people like him in Ethiopia. The character is popular because he embodies the perception of crime and corruption and allows people to voice their anger and resentment at such practices,” according to Dawit.
“There is a definite social awareness of the distressing levels of corruption, nepotism and criminal activity that sadly characterizes some elements of business in the country and while most reject such practices, others see it as only pragmatic. Ato Asenake thus appeals to both those who are happy that his type of corruption is being exposed and to others who are impressed by the level of shrewdness they see in him,” concludes Dawit.
“The show is over dramatic and completely unrealistic,” disagrees Rahel who doesn’t see any merit the plot involving Asenake.
“The real attraction to the show is Sosina (played by Hanna Yohannes). Sosina is a fascinating character who is completely different to the other female characters. The other women are stereotypical characterizations of what many consider an Ethiopian woman should be: beautiful, tearful and slightly stupid. Sosina on the other hand is very intelligent, quirky and an independent, liberated, modern woman,” said Rahel.
The plot as far as it pertains to Sosina is the only unique and interesting element of the show concludes Rahel. The secret to the success of Sew le Sew is that it has something for everyone according to another fan, Ato Alem.
“Sew le Sew has something for every taste. It has action and intrigue in Asenake, it has romance and star struck lovers in Mede and Biruck, and it has comedy in Sosina. The totality of the show however can sometimes be confusing because it is unclear how the different plot lines relate to each other, but I hope that the writers will be able to bring it all together successfully,” he said.
The show’s weakness lies in that it creates unrealistic characters that are completely one-sided. The ‘good guys’ are completely good with no faults in their character and are thus are very hard to relate to. The ‘bad’ characters too are drawn solely as evil to the point of being satirical,” explained Temesgen a freelance journalist.
“Ato Mesfin (Zenahebizu Tsegaye) for example is not even tempted by the clearly lucrative deals that Asenake is engaged in nor does his inhuman integrity allow him to even consider making compromises to save his family. Such a characterization is not only unrealistic but makes the character very hard to relate to,” according to Temesgen. The same sort of super human integrity and character can also be seen in Frezer (played by Solomon Bogale) he noted.
It may have been better to allow Asenake a redeeming quality at least in his personal relationship if he is to be a complete villain in his business life, said Temesgen.
The first year of Sew Le Sew has managed to earn it a large group of fans that has allowed it characters to become popular icons. The latest twists in the plot are topics of discussions over the course of the week at different venues ranging from public transport to the office. It is to be hoped that the show is able to retain and even improve on the quality of its script to keep the following that it has managed to attract.
Meron Tekleberhan is Addis Ababa based reporter for Ezega.com. She can be reached by sending email through this form.