By Godwin Muzari
When Mbudziyadhura joined comic series “Gringo”, his name should have prepared viewers for a funny character. Whatever inspired writer of the series Enock Chihombori to come up with such a name must have bordered on some elements of mischief — which is common in comedy — and need to attract viewers’ attention to the new face on screen.
The name should have reminded many of another comedian of that era Simon Shumba, who called himself “Mutirowafanza”.
Both names have funny intimations. Mbudziyadhura suggests something about an expensive goat and Mutirowafanza has insinuations about a boiling baboon. Such inferences are only common in comedy. They are meant to prepare audiences for a journey of laughter even before the character says a word.
And that was the case with Blessing Chimhowa when he landed the role of Mbudziyadhura in “Gringo Ndiani” in 1999.
His main mission was to complement Gringo’s witty comic acts with dull concepts that added humour to the production.
Mbudziyadhura did not have to put effort to make people laugh. He was a soft-spoken character who would easily make jokes through his unexpected utterances and actions.
As he went down memory lane this week, Chimhowa laughed at some of the acts that he unleashed on set as Mbudziyadhura.
He recalled how Mbudziyadhura spent the whole day with his hand stuck to his cheek. He had smeared super glue in his hand and accidentally leaned his cheek upon the sticky hand.
“Gringo had assigned Mbudziyadhura to mend their boss’ broken vase using glue. Mbudziyadhura did not know how to do it and ended up spending the day with his hand glued to his cheek. Mbudziyadhura was only rescued when Gringo returned and used steam to loosen the glue. It was a painful day for Mbudziyadhura and people still talk about the hilarious scene,” Chimhowa recalled.
He also revisited a scene when Gringo had wronged his boss Gweshegweshe and, as punishment, did not get his share of supper.
Mbudziyadhura, who shared a room with Gringo, ate his supper and refused to share the food with the latter who was hungry and salivating.
Chimhowa also recalled another episode when he refused to assist Firimoni, who was boyfriend to Gweshegweshe’s housemaid Madhumbe. Firimoni had climbed up the roof to clear tree leaves and Gringo took away the ladder.
When Firimoni sought assistance, Mbudziyadhura mocked him with his usual soft voice saying: “Ko blaz jambaika handiti makati murimusoja.” Firimoni had lied that he was a soldier and Mbudziyadhura’s challenge left many viewers in stitches.
Viewers who followed “Gringo” series should recall the scenes.
Chimhowa laughed as he recalled the episodes. He also remembered how some episodes had been difficult to shoot because the actors would laugh at themselves as they pulled the comic acts.
He saluted Lazurus Boora who plays Gringo for his talent.
“Gringo was unpredictable. He had a way of adding comic lines to the script and at times he would make the whole cast laugh during shooting. He rehearsed the script, but would always come with new lines that added value to the comedy.”
Chimhowa met Boora and Chihombori in 1997 at Screen Talent where many actors were sharpening their skills that time.
He did not immediately join the “Gringo” series, but developed a good relationship with Chihombori. Chihombori promised to create a character for Chimhowa after discovering his talent.
The opportunity came when Collin Dube who played John Banda in the series died. The writer wanted a male character who would regularly feature with Gringo to bring the comic edge in the main character.
Chihombori did not want to directly replace John Banda because the replacement would be exposed to comparison with the original character.
That is how he came up with the character of Mbudziyadhura, a gardener hired by another gardener.
In the storyline, Gringo had found a job without Gweshengweshe’s knowledge and he decided to hire someone who could do garden work for him while he pursued his new work.
That was how Mbudziyadhura came in. Chihombori had a clever way of replacing John Banda. The trick worked because Mbudziyadhura was the opposite of John Banda in almost everything, but he brought his own side of comic acts.
Chimhowa expertly fitted in the character that Chihombori had created because of his experience in acting.
He started acting at Sheni Primary School in Mutare. He continued to pursue the art at Dangamvura High School and his talent was noticed by a community drama club that he joined while still at school.
He became a full member of Dangamvura Theatre Company after completing his Ordinary Level studies.
They toured various parts of Manicaland Province. Chimhowa later joined Kushinga Theatre Club and continued staging various productions in the province. He also worked with Idea One Production House before relocating to Harare in 1996.
He joined Screen Talent where he met various big names in the sector. The move to Harare helped him to expand his career by getting roles in film.
He did a few commercials on radio and television before getting his first film role in popular local production “Yellow Card” in which he played the role of Obert.
His next big role was in “Gringo” and he has been part of “Gringo Ndiani?”, “NdiGringo Chete”, “Gringo Stories”, “Gringo Mari Iripi?” and “Gringo Troublemaker”.
His roles in the series saw him getting more commercial deals and he featured on numerous adverts. He also got roles in other productions like “Sores of Emmanuel”, “Such is Life”, “Unwanted Sexual Advances” and “Salome”.
His love for art also led him to get involved in music when he briefly worked with Diana Samkange as her manager.
Currently Chimhowa works for the Harare International Festival of the Arts and most of his exploits evolve around the arts industry. He gets contracts to work as master of ceremonies and often works with Boora at the events
Chimhowa said outside arts he loves farming and will soon be working on a plot that he acquired recently.
He is looking forward to the next “Gringo” production and is constantly in touch with Chihombori who is now based in Botswana.