By Margaretta wa Gacheru (19 August 2019)
Nobody feels good about being conned. Yet some Kenyans have mastered the art of the con to such an extent that even ‘smart people’ get into situations where they come up short.
So it pays to ‘wizen up’ or to ‘Janjaruka’ which coincidentally is the title of the newest Web series on YouTube by a Kenyan featuring fellow Kenyans.
Aggie Nyagari has directed and co-produced ‘Janjaruka’ with her partner George Salt who also scripted the 36-episode series.
It was launched last Wednesday at PAWA254, preceded by several videos featuring local ‘celebrities’ telling their own ‘Con Story’, most of which are unbelievable but true.
For instance, Nice Githinji is one of those public faces, best known for her acting roles on film, TV and stage. But Nice is not acting in her ‘Con story’ since she was asked by Aggie to explain what and how she actually got conned.
Fortunately, Nice and all the others who agreed with Aggie to share their stories on YouTube, were shameless about confessing their naivete!
Among those shameless ones are Pascal Tokodi, Jua Cali, Eric Wainaina and Leonard ‘Mambo’ Mbotela among others.
“We decided to create ‘The Con Story’ as a way of both promoting ‘Janjaruka’ and also starting a conversation about what it means to be conned,” says Aggie.
That conversation is important, says her partner George, “because we don’t want to reach a point where conning is normalized and accepted as a matter of course.”
He went further to note that today, we don’t necessarily see the linkage between ‘the hustle’, the con and corruption. But it’s there, he adds. He hopes their web series will make those connections clearer as conning is explored more deeply in their series.
“Janjaruka is actually a fictionalized account of something that happened to me that I wanted to make a film about,” says Aggie.
But the series isn’t simply about what happened to her. It also follows up on what might transpire if the person conned actually followed up and pursued the conman or con-woman to the bitter end.
The story is broken up into 36 episodes, each of which is six to nine minutes. The first five were released last week on YouTube simultaneously with the launch at PAWA254.
The series stars Rahma Nawiri as Sasha the one (playing the Aggie character) who is originally conned by a woman named Mrs Mwanyiki (Mary Gacheri). She’s assisted in her ploy by her ‘driver’ (Kamau wa Ndungu) who participates in Mwanyiki’s intricate and well-calculated plot.
Sasha isn’t a fool. But she seriously wanted an apartment in Hurlingham. But once her dreams are shattered, she retells her story to several friends, including Kelly (Lulu Wilson), Johnny (Charlie Karumi) and Patrick (Blessing Lung’aho). Together they decide to report the crime to police.
In the process, they are conned again. So the rest of the series involves a load of sleuthing. It turns into amateur detective work that takes them over their heads. But in the meantime, the series features some outstanding local actors including Bilal Wanjau playing the Chief of Police, Officer Ruto.
And because Aggie has been directing and editing local TV series for the past few years, including several that she and George produced for Mnet and Africa Magic (like ‘Flowers and Bricks’, ‘All in a day’ and ‘Love or die’), she also managed to get the award-winning filmmaker Likarion Wainaina to do cinematography for the series.
The sixth through 36th episodes will start airing again August 27th on YouTube, with two new episodes coming online every Tuesday after that.