Sex, drugs and gospel

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Director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka and actress Brenda Ngxoli go through the script on the set of Hustle in Soweto.
Director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka and actress Brenda Ngxoli go through the script on the set of Hustle in Soweto.

A daring new TV drama about the soaring highs and terrifying lows of life in the South African music industry hits our screens on Thursday on OpenView HD’s eKasi+. And by the time it airs on e.tv in June, we’ll surely see #Hustle trending on Twitter weekly.

When City Press visited the set of Hustle in Dube, Soweto, the show’s director, Jahmil XT Qubeka, says: “It is very racy ... Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. And being able to have that kind of canvas to play on has been absolutely fantastic. And I’m working with fantastic actors.”

The stars of Hustle are the talented, larger-than-life trio of Brenda Ngxoli, Masello Motana and Dineo Ranaka. Qubeka made headlines when his gritty feature film Of Good Report was briefly banned by the Film and Publication Board in 2013. It went on to win awards around the world.

We find the award-winning Ngxoli (Ses’Topla, Rockville) quietly preparing for her scenes in the church that is the setting for the day.

She plays the role of Kitt. In the 1980s, Kitt, Neo and Kedibone were the members of a famous group called The Sparrows. Kitt went solo before she crashed and burned, and now she’s making a comeback.

“She started out in gospel, like all musicians,” laughs Ngxoli, her character modestly dressed with natural hair. “They keep on saying that she is a Brenda [Fassie] type of character. But I would like to say that the song that resonates for me in my head is [Chaka Khan’s] I’m Every Woman ... because the many facets of her represent almost all the women in the entertainment industry.”

As for similarities with the character, Ngxoli laughs again, telling City Press that when she’s not working, she spends all her time in the Eastern Cape, building the family homestead.

Her nose deep in a book as she waits for her next scene, Motana – also a jazz singer, poet and satirist – is enthusiastic about her role as a church-going and conservative Neo.

“It is my first time performing in a Pretoria dialect, Sipitori! I think it is a great story and we are a really strong cast.”

Ranaka arrives on set in her pyjamas with a film crew following her as they shoot Season 5 of her reality show, Dineo’s Diary.

“This is my first big role in a drama,” she says excitedly in the make-up room. “I have done others, but the others were just cameos ... I auditioned for Kedi and I was pretty nervous because I auditioned against very credible actresses, and obviously I am the presenter in the family and Manaka [Ranaka, her sister] is the actress.”

In Hustle, the three leading ladies play opposite Zolisa Xaluva (Jason from Generations) as Bra X, Neo’s husband, and Andile Nebulane as Duma, their agent.

Viewers can expect Hustle to break new ground in local TV.

“The sensibilities and the approach to the show aren’t typical,” says Qubeka. “We’re shooting a long feature on a TV schedule and on a TV budget.”

* Hustle premieres on OpenView HD on February 11 at 9pm on eKasi+
(DStv channel 104)

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