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They say the best things in life are free but Axolile “Axe” Gumede knows there’s no such thing. Played by season 6 Strictly Come Dancing contestant and everybody’s favourite china’s china, Thapelo Mokoena, Axe is the lead character in a movie called Nothing For Mahala which opens at cinemas on October 4.
Directed by Rolie Nikiwe (Intersexions, A Place Called Home) and produced by Quizzical Pictures, Nothing For Mahala centres on Axe, a young property agent who lives above his means.
Deep in debt, Axe has his eye on making partner at a prestigious firm run by ruthless boss Mike (Jamie Bartlett) thus taking the meddling Pule (Shoki Mokgapa) out of the running.
But first he has to run from a mashonisa’s goons while he puts in 200 hours of community service at an old age home as punishment for an unfortunate run-in with the law.
It is while there that Axe must decide if he will continue to seek the root of all evil above all else or if he will become a changed man.
The film also stars veterans Lilian Dube, Marius Weyers, Kenneth Nkosi and Desmond Dube.
“Those actors have been in the industry for so long and delivered quality consistently,” Mokoena says about them. “I got to observe how professionals carry themselves and to ask as many questions as I could.
“Marius and I actually got very close and that was a part of my learning curve. Mam’Lilian – I got to understand how she’s just kept on and stayed relevant. In that environment, it was important to be humble and for me to be a kid again.”
Lilian Dube and Mokoena had a great chemistry on screen and the subtitles for African language scenes don’t interfere.
Whenever Mokoena and Dube shared a scene, Mokoena says “it was all in the script but I had to make it as real as possible. It had to be a sincere, true African conversation between a grandmother and her grandson and because of that, there was no room to scrape the surface”.
“My Zulu had to be like I was taking it back home. I spoke to the director about translating it myself and as Thapelo who is from KZN, I took it back to isiZulu saseNatal.”
The script is actually what drew Mokoena to Nothing For Mahala: “I’m always finicky about the work I do,” he says. “I want a solid career in movie-making so I pay careful attention to the work I do.”
Mokoena, whose first feature length film was Skyf: The Movie, is determined to spend time with his family and continue with the work he loves.
“I’m producing a lot of work for a channel but I can’t mention what it is yet,” he explains, “and I’m in the middle of writing the screenplay for my next movie that I’ll hopefully make next year.
“There will be touring and appearances for Nothing For Mahala and I’m also going to be travelling quite a bit with my lovely wife.”
• Nothing For Mahala is in cinemas on October 4.