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Saturday, November 1, 2008


In March this year, Uganda lost one of her gifted performers. Winkle Karitundu who was delightedly known to his fans as Rutamikira because of his unforgettable star role in the 90s drama titled Omwana W’abandi, was murdered by criminals outside his home in Nsambya.

At the time of his death, a film, Eshaha Yamwenda (The Ninth Hour), in which he was starring was being made. It was very difficult for the Abafrika Entertainment with whom he was acting, to continue with the movie when its star was killed before the shooting ended but they decided to carry on the mission; tweaked the plot, and finished the film which was screened last Friday and will show again this weekend at the National Theatre as a special tribute to the fallen thespian.

Although Rutamirika is not physically in the movie, it rotates around his life. In fact, the original title was changed to Oku Mwankunziire Tindibebwa (The way you loved me I’ll never forget you), which are said to have been his last words.

Written and directed by Desha Munyangoga (who also plays the major role), the movie, subtitled Bye Bye Rutamirika, is about the life of Dan Kanyankole (Desha Munyangoga), a jobless graduate who is ostracised from home by his father after impregnating his girlfriend Molly (Anita Seruwagi). A friend, Mark (Frable Kwesiga), gives him a lift to the city where he struggles against the odds until lady luck smiles his way when another friend, Hubert (Aggrey Nshekanabo), helps him scoop a job as an advertising agent. He rises through the ranks and soon becomes the object of envy among friends who later scheme and have him liquidated at the point he’s beginning to taste the sunny side of life.

The entire plot is reflective of the real life of Rutamirika, an orphan who turned his life around from being a secondary school teacher when he formed the Kigezi Kinimba Actors –a group he soon outgrew in popularity because of his riveting performances.

Rutamirika always played the lead roles that included acting as a penniless but very clever orphan who wins the hand of rich man’s daughter in marriage after solving a complex puzzle.

If he was not a born actor, then he learned and perfected the techniques of acting in that he captured human happiness or suffering as naturally as in real life and thereby had a great effect on the audience who empathised with him and always looked forward to his next performance.

Aggrey Nshekanabo, who acted with him in Abafrika Group says Rutamirika’s mannerisms, vocal inflection and sense of humour were the same on and off the stage.

It’s this on-stage natural streak that single handedly helped put drama from western Uganda in the limelight and as well distinguished him from the amateurs who still think real stage action takes the form of ranting and posturing.

As Oku Mwankunziire Tindibebwa screened, it was clear that the film was missing that indispensable touch of its original central character (Rutamirika). The plot lacked the twists and tension characteristic of Rutamirika’s performances, but also, Dan Kanyankole didn’t come closer in distinction as Rutamirika would have.

The tempo of the production is mostly grim and left me looking on nonchalantly even when Dan and Molly are murdered at the end, yet Rutamirika always shouldered his stage roles, however tragic, as humorously and as fascinatingly, throwing in unforgettable witticisms and proverbs to the effect that misery or unfairness are inevitably linked with life.

It’s the few clips showing Rutamirika’s nostalgic performances and the soundtrack of the movie that moved the audience the most. The sorrow of his memory was etched on their faces and as the soundtrack kept playing, many were moved to tears.

It is commendable that the proceeds from the sale of the CD containing the soundtrack will go to support the five children Rutamirika left behind. Like the track says, the pain is too much to have lost such a remarkably talented actor, director, producer, politician and businessman who in a career spanning over 20 years featured in over 37 local films and plays and was still to realise his highest potentiality.

--Monitor, Saturday, November 1, 2008