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South Africa’s first WhatsApp drama launches with all-star cast

2017-06-03 11:37

Cape Town - Written by veteran scriptwriter Bongi Ndaba and boasting an all-star cast including some of the country’s favourite soapie actors, Sanlam’s WhatsApp drama, Uk’shona Kwelanga, is a South African first. Available to smartphone users from 5 June 2017, the story takes place entirely within WhatsApp – subscribers can ‘be a fly on the wall’ as a fictional family’s funeral arrangements unfold via text, voice notes and video. 

The plot follows the sudden and unexpected death of Bab’ Langa, which leaves the family shocked and saddened. When they set up a WhatsApp group to plan the funeral of the much-loved elder, tensions soon start to rise as they face financial pressure, family secrets and unanswered questions. Will they have enough money to give Bab Langa the funeral he deserves?

Scriptwriter, Ndaba, has extensive experience writing for famed shows such as Generations. She found the challenge of writing for WhatsApp a very different experience, and initially wrote the script in TV format before adapting it for WhatsApp. “Despite WhatsApp having 1.2 billion monthly users globally, very few brands have successfully tapped into the platform due to its technical challenges. This was an opportunity to engage Sanlam’s audience in a new way via a channel they actively use. A first for advertising, and a first for me.”

“By using relatable characters and a relevant storyline I hope to grip the attention and imagination of subscriber’s immediately. They’ll be part of a family WhatsApp conversation as it unfolds in real-time – no other drama is as real, instant or engaging.” 

The all-star cast ensures this unique production is right on par with mainstream entertainment and offers powerful viewing material. The cast appear in its initial teaser videos, and provide voiceovers, videos, and images to accompany the WhastApp messages. The cast includes Bongani Madondo from Shabangu and Mtunzini; John Nhlanhla from Isidingo, Stokvel, and Generations; Linda Sokhulu from Isidingo; Makgotso M from Isidingo and Muvhango; Thembi Mtshali from Stokvel and League of Glory; and Ivy Mkuthu from Generations. 

All members of the cast were excited about the campaign’s game-changing potential. Mtshali says, “Most people use WhatsApp these days as it’s the easiest and most popular means of communication.  Even my 85 year-old father uses the app. I think it’s going to be an exciting new form of entertainment; something that has never been done before. You can watch this drama from anywhere you are - even people travelling on taxis can be part of it.”

Many of the actors related to the script on a personal level, having gone through the trauma of losing a loved one. Sokhulu remembers her grandma’s funeral. “I was very young when I lost my grandmother. Times were tough, and watching my mother and family pulling together to make the funeral a dignified one, is something I will always remember.”

Mtshali lost her husband last year, “Last year I lost my husband from cardiac arrest.  It was very sudden. WhatsApp was my means of communicating with family and friends around South Africa and overseas. My husband was from the UK, most of his friends and family are overseas. I had to plan the funeral and everything within a week. My husband had wanted to be cremated - something my side of the family were not familiar with.”
For Nhlanhla, this personal relevancy is key to the script’s important message, “Death walks with us; we can't avoid it so we must just embrace it and be financially ready when it occurs so we can mourn well for our loved ones.”

Funerals are a matter of contention countrywide, with a lack of funeral cover placing a severe financial burden on families. The WhatsApp drama draws people in with a sensitively written script that’s relatable to all South Africans. The professionally-produced drama will be unveiled on 5 June, and will run for six weeks, up until mid July.  

To find out more SMS your name and surname to 45603 to watch the drama unfold over 7 days or visit www.sanlam.co.za/campaigns/mychoicewhatsappdrama

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November 19 2017