THAUBA (ABSOLUTION) which I wrote and directed for INTER-OFFICE TELEDRAMA COMPETITION in 1999 for then Atolls ministry was aired on MNBC-ONE’s REWIND yesterday morning. Sadly, it was cut so heavily that the flow of the story was hurt real badly. Made me wonder why those cuts were shown when it was first aired back in 1999 and not now? I have no idea what the censor guidelines of that station are in this century. One thing obvious is that it has become very strict.
One cut I really didn’t understand was a complete scene of 30 seconds where two people pay respect at a tomb of a recently deceased. I mean how many times has the same channel shown tombs? Isn’t it traditional for people to visit their concerned tombs and pay respect? What’s going on?
Despite all this, it was completely a different experience watching this drama yesterday. This time it hit my heartstrings real deep. But I didn’t even write this drama with the intention of attacking there. Yet, I was in tears. I was in tears to see our late MOHAMED SALEEM UMBE or SALEEMBE as we used to address him. It was both a delight and a grief to see him again.
SALEEMBE was really the heart and soul of all five dramas we produced under Atolls ministry for the above said competition from 1999 to 2003 respectively. He may have left us, but his memories remain as strong as the array of characters he portrayed.
It was while shooting THAUBA that he really made an impact. And in dramas which followed thereafter, he left me with no choice but write a key role for him. Though these roles were tailor-made for him, it was his sheer natural acting abilities that gave life to his characters and made them so memorable.
THAUBA was set in a remote island and follows AINTHU, a free-thinking girl who is also the darling of her parents especially her father’s. But when she meets a passing traveler, gets involved with him romantically and loses her self-control, everything spirals downhill for her forever changing her life and those around her. The drama is more about her difficult journey to absolution and her coming to terms with her disgraced father.
We shot THAUBA in AA. THODDOO. Since our staff was less enthusiastic at participating in the drama competition at that time, I was forced to write very limited characters in THAUBA. And when it came for casting, I remember I couldn’t even manage to get anyone to portray mother of AINTHU. And I had to use the same actor who played her sister as her mother too, but with a little old make-up.
The second principal role in THAUBA was AINTHU’s father and was much layered. I first cast a staff named SAEEDBE for this role because of his sympathetic look. Meanwhile, SALEEMBE was given a small role with few scenes as the main rival of SAEEDBE.
I first caught the attention of SALEEMBE when I was still in school. Back then TVM, now MNBC-ONE showed a serial based on real police case files, with each episode a case. And real police performed in every episode. At that time SALEEMBE was working in police and he was featured in one of the episodes. He left me in complete awe playing a loud mouthed baddie. He was both real and frightening. He was the first screen character to give me goose bumps. HANNIBAL LECTER comes several years later.
It turned as both a challenge and an honor to direct SALEEMBE for the first time. When production of THAUBA began, I scheduled his roles last since I was confidant of him. At that time HAJJA who played the role AINTHU was already working in commercial video songs. So I had no problem with her scenes as she was in almost every scene.
I first began shooting scenes of SAEEDBE since it was his first exposure in front of the camera. The first two scenes of SAEEDBE were easy. However, the third scene we shot, as I see it was much easier in comparison.
It was an indoor shoot and almost everyone including SALEEMBE was there that night. I remember SALEEMBE sitting quietly on the floor going through the screenplay. Meanwhile, I was having a hard time with the first shot of SAEEDBE. The scene was simple enough. HAJJA sneaks in to her room after bidding farewell to her secret boyfriend. Just as she opens the door of her room, SAEEDBE calls her from his room. It was the shot where SAEEDBE has to open the door of his room, stops and while wiping his face with his towel has to deliver his line to HAJJA. This simple shot was running in to several takes. SAEEDBE was not getting it right. I felt something was missing. Was it the way he wiped his face while delivering his lines or was it the rigidness in his posture? But something was incredibly not right. I think it was when I was dissatisfied with the twenty fourth take, I impulsively asked SALEEMBE if he could show SAEEDBE how to do it right.
SALEEMBE in his cracked tone said that it was not a problem. He immediately got up from the floor, kept his screenplay on the nearest chair and pulled off his shirt as he walked towards the mark where SAEEDBE was standing. SAEEDBE made way for SALEEMBE and passed him the towel. SALEEMBE didn’t even ask what his lines were and delivered it with such finesse that awed me the same way as he did when I watched his police file episode. I was not aware when I immediately suggested SALEEMBE to play the role. It was automatic. And fortunately, SAEEDBE also agreed that SALEEMBE should play the part since the role demanded more acting.
In the days that followed, we completed the shooting which much gusto. SALEEMBE was born to play the role of HAJJA’s father. And in the next three dramas we produced, SALEEMBE and HAJJA became one convincing team of father and daughter.
As I look back at five wonderful years of working with SALEEMBE, he always bring me a smile and a tear of joy. It’s always sad to say goodbye to someone who, like he made a deep impact with his roles he played, made an impact for everyone in real life. He definitely made an impact in my life. He was the reason behind my enthusiasm to direct all those dramas that I directed for Atolls. It was a joy to direct him in his powerful roles. Adieu, SALEEMBE. May he rest in peace.