Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mr. 265 Opens Up on Big Brother Africa Hotshots Experience

Mr. 265 was not ready to say a farewell. Malawians were not ready to hear a farewell. But, as if history has a script pre-written on Malawi’s Big Brother Africa (BBA) house representative’s fate, presenter I.K. made the dreaded announcement, once again ending the journey of one of the country reprentatives, Mr. 265, in BBA Hotshots, pinning hopes on the remaining female housemate Sipe. RICHARD CHIROMBO had a chat with him on what he makes of Malawi’s chances of hitting the jackpot and other issues. Excerpts:
Welcome back home, Mr. 265. Gauging by the reception accorded to you when you jetted in from South Africa, do you feel welcomed back home?
I feel that People have welcomed me. The media, too, have been good. Of course, just like a football team, it would be naïve to expect and believe that everyone likes soccer. It is a similar case with me. I understand that not everyone in the country would be a fan of Big Brother Africa. Again, it must be borne in mind that BBA housemates go into the house as individuals. It just happens that, despite going there as individuals, they fly the flag of their country. Of course, I know that people wanted me to win the US$300, 000, but I am satisfied that I have achieved some of the goals I set when going into the BBA House.

You mean, there are other ‘big prizes’ for BBA housemates apart from the US$300, 000? I am made to believe that there is only one jackpot.
Listen. I know Malawians wanted me to come back home with the big prize (US$300, 000). So did I. But I had other ideas also in mind, one of which being to sell Malawi to the rest of Africa. You may wish to remember that I had a brand, Mr. 265, when going out to the House.  I deliberately settled for the brand name ‘Mr. 265’ because it is not just a meaningless brand-name. 265 is Malawi’s Country Code and I knew nobody (from another country) would adopt it and start using it because, as a Country Code, it is unique to Malawi. That was my first way of promoting Malawi. Secondly, I set out to promote Malawi by the use of language and, so, introduced some of the terminologies that are common in our language. For example, I introduced the terms ‘Osasiya’ (Continue) and ‘Palibe Kugona’ (busy night) and these terms are trending on Twitter. You see, there are some housemates who feel that for them to prop up their chances of winning big, they have to sing Nigerian music, instead of music from their Motherland. Some housemates are also fake, and not original, because they want to win Nigerian votes. That is wrong and painful. I was real and sold my country to the rest of Africa. This means I managed to achieve some of the things I set out to achieve.

You spent 35 days ‘holed’ up in a hotel before making it into the House. What thoughts crossed your mind during this ‘trying’ period?
It felt bad. At first, I thought I would spend four days and, then, get into the House. You see, when you are getting into the BBA House, initially you are mentally strong because you look forward to it. Our case was different and I kept on thinking: Who am I, as a person? I also had moral questions such as: How was I raised up? What do I want to do in the House? You start thinking a lot when put in a situation like that. When we finally got into the House, almost each and every housemate was emotional. It was an emotional moment and not one of overexcitement as would have been the case had we not been in the hotel for 35 days. The fact that the number of days to the finale had been trimmed to 63 also added to this sense of emotional outburst, I guess. In a way, it was as if the hour we had been waiting for had finally come. And, then, there was the process of coming to terms with the fact that one had to learn to live with the 26 people, including myself, who had become housemates who would now have to learn to relate to the 50-million-plus viewership in Africa. The housemates themselves were asking a lot of questions when we finally made it into the House, which came as no surprise since we had different personalities in the House: Radio personalities, singers, actors, saxophone experts, among others. It was as if it was a Talent Show and not BBA anymore. Inevitably, there was a lot of noise in the House. Coincidentally, I was the only television presenter in this set up.

Others have observed that you were quiet in the House. Does it mean Malawi’s 265 Country Code is not very ‘busy’ with traffic and is, therefore, ‘quiet’?
I was not very quiet. I was simply learning how to mingle with different people. As compared to Mark 11 of Zambia, I was actually talking more (than him). I also decided that since people like Tayo (of Nigeria) are very loud, I did not want to be as loud (as him) because viewers would translate that as taking after him. I did not want to be his (Tayo’s) Cheer Leader. In short, I would say I was not ‘Quiet’ in the House; I was ‘Myself’.

What lessons have you cultivated from your stint in the House; lessons you will cherish the rest of your life?
The six weeks I spent in the House were like a six-week workshop. The first lesson is that I went there as a television presenter, and came out an actor. I had the chance to meet a number of people while in the House. Nigerian actor, Desmond Elliot, encouraged me to venture into acting and offered me insightful tips. This is because I did a lot of directing in a number of plays, and contributed much content in the story-line. The first play I directed was Waka Mu. I also directed Bindia, a Bollywood movie. R.J. Benjamin, the trainer on (South Africa’s) Idols shared a number of skills with me, too, as well as a number of experts who visited us in the House. Apart from playing these roles, being in the House has also taught me to discover how strong I am as a person. I have learned also to trust myself.

Will Malawi ever win the jackpot in BBA?
It depends on a number of factors. But, first, Malawians have to show that they love their representatives in the House by sending messages, voting for them, following them on Twitter. Just look at how many followers Zambia’s Mark 11 has on Twitter, as compared to Malawian housemates, and you will realise how serious our friends take BBA. I have now come to realise that the Malawi National Anthem does not contain the terms “Hunger, disease, envy” for nothing. We don’t support each other. Just imagine, there were more votes for me from Zimbabwe than from Malawi. Malawians are not very patriotic. Secondly, being evicted from the House hinges on who you are up against. West Africans support their representatives and there is need for SADC (Southern African Development Community) bloc to support its representatives. Let’s hope Sipe does it, but she needs to be strong. I am not disappointed to be out of the House, though. Being there has opened a number of opportunities for me. There is some networking going on. I will shortly be casting for different auditions.

Does this mean you have pulled the curtain on your career as television presenter?
No! Actually, I just met the Times Group Managing Director, who has told me that I still have my job at Times Television. But, first, I will have to do two or three things (in other countries) because of the programmes we have lined up. Very shortly, some of my ex-housemates, including Samantha (South Africa) and Tayo (Nigeria) will visit Malawi.    

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