A Recap On Aníkúlápó: Rise of the Spectre


Eniola Awolesi

When speaking of Nigerian cinema or Nollywood, where stories retrace culture, tradition, and resilience, there are few stories as iconic and beloved as Aníkúlápó. In the months following its release, the movie was seen as a monument of commendable storytelling prowess, which is rare in the Nigerian space. Originally brought to life on Netflix, the film streaming platform, as a full movie, the creative team most probably felt the tale was iconic enough to etch itself into the collective consciousness of Nigerian society, yet they would like to re-etch it. 

The plot seemed to have left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of viewers, so they have restaged it to return to recaptivate their audiences once more. This time, it is in the form of a drama series. Set to launch globally on Netflix on Friday, March 1, 2024, fans eagerly await the arrival of the highly anticipated sequel, and there are expectations surrounding its imminent return, having premiered at the Balmoral Convention Center in Ikeja, Lagos, on Sunday the 25th of February. 

Aníkúlápó was a 2022 Nigerian epic fantasy film produced under the creative direction of Kunle Afolayan in partnership with Netflix. With its grand debut on September 30, 2022, it revealed a star-studded cast. The director described it as a “Game of Thrones recreated in Nigeria but with a better representation of our culture (Yoruba culture).”

Aníkúlápó tells the interesting story of Saro, a stranger in the land of Oyo, whose arrival begins a journey of love, betrayal, and redemption. Acted by Kunle Remi, Saro is a traditional weaver of aso òfí, and his artistry mesmerizes all who behold it. Amidst the threads of his craftsmanship and life in Oyo, Saro finds himself entwined in an illicit romance with Queen Arolake, the youngest wife of the king, played by Bimbo Ademoye.

Queen Arolake’s existence and story is one of sorrow and longing. She is trapped in an unhappy marriage and despised by the king’s other wives, so when Saro arrives, her heart seeks solace in his arms. Their love, although forbidden, blossoms in the shadows of secrecy and they dream of a future free from guilt and tradition.

However, fate, ever the ruthless arbiter, overturns their blissful union when word of their affair reaches the ears of the king, who, consumed by jealousy and rage, condemns Saro to death. But, in a twist of destiny and of a mythical folklore, Saro rises from the dead by the powers of a bird. Arolake, who had witnessed the scene, snatched the mysterious healing powder from the mythical bird and handed it to Saro. Thus, he becomes bestowed with the power to defy death itself, and he earns the name Anikulapo— the one that holds death in his purse.

As Saro’s legend spreads like wildfire through the village of Ojúmó, his newfound powers become both a blessing and a curse. Saro becomes drunk on pride and intoxicated by his abilities. His gaze wanders, and his heart strays from Arolake. His insatiable desires for women and riches lead him down a treacherous path. He betrays the trust of the only woman who once stood by his side because she remained childless. 

This hubris of Saro becomes his downfall. He demands more from the villagers in exchange for his miraculous abilities, and Arolake forsakes him, especially because he now allows his other wives to regard her with mockery. With the source of his power undermined and his heart heavy with regret, Saro faces his ultimate test— resurrecting the king’s heir. Once again, he is doomed. To death?

Now, fans rejoice at the prospect of experiencing the magic of Aníkúlápó once more. Anticipation reaches a fever pitch as audiences eagerly await the introduction of fresh twists and turns. Yet, questions arise about whether the series will stay true to the spirit of the original film or will it stray?

Beyond the storytelling, however, the series holds the potential to spark important conversations and shed light on pressing social issues. From themes of courage and resilience to the long lasting power of community and tradition, Aníkúlápó promises to mirror society and reflect both its triumphs and its tribulations. Or not. 

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