By Nicole-Rachelle Moore
Trinidad & Tobago | Tuesday 7 February 2017: 16:16 GMT
Soca sensation Machel Montano has been a celebrity for many years, and now looks set to gain a slew of new fans with the release of Bazodee. The film, in which he makes his star debut alongside leading lady Natalie Perera, is a love story set in Trinidad and Tobago, with carnival and soca music as the backdrop. Bazodee was screened in the Caribbean, days ahead of Trinidad and Tobago’s annual film festival. A host of countries, including Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Curaçao, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, have now had the opportunity to see Montano on the big screen. In a Bollywood -style plotline, Montano plays soca singer Lee de Leon, who meets Perera’s character Anita Panchouri just as she’s preparing to marry a wealthy Londoner. The marriage could be the end of her family’s financial woes, but the attraction between Anita and Lee threatens all of that. Directed by Todd Kessler, Bazodee is a vibrant Caribbean-style, musical love story, and already seems poised to become a regional favourite. The idea of branching into film is not a new one for Machel. He told us, “Let’s just say, filmmaking has been on my mind for a long time, and I definitely always dreamed of the day that I would transition from music to movies - or I always saw it as some sort of parallel avenue to express who we are and to get our stories out, and to put our culture out there. “The idea for Bazodee, formerly called Scandalous, was actually brought to me 10 years ago by Claire Ince, the writer, and Ancil Mckain, the producer. The husband and wife team - Indepelago Films - really wanted to write the story because they were big fans of my music, and they wanted to write a love story based in Trinidad & Tobago, about our culture.” Although the original script was written by Ince, Machel described the cast devising some of the dialogue on the fly, changing it where seemed appropriate. And that improvisation also manifested in other aspects of the film, such as the inclusion of diverse cultural resources such as a tassa side and a Chinese dragon. Soca music and carnival did more than just set the scene for this film; they were central to the plot. The script was written with Machel’s music very much in mind, and when you watch it you feel it could have been no other way. The artist said, “Trinidad & Tobago and my music, put together, kinda started them with that vision. I think when you put Machel Montano, Trinidad & Tobago and love in one story you must have some soca in there – you definitely will have carnival. That is what it was about, so that had to be a major part of the story, and music was fundamental to the reason why these two people gravitated towards each other; you know they were both lovers of music and both struggling with that love for that music. “I took up the mantle to be the person who would provide the music; I did the entire score and curated the music for the movie alongside Claire and Che and a couple of others.” The end result is a soundtrack featuring music from various global Caribbean artists including Sean Paul, Shaggy and Wizkid. Many may be wondering whether this is the start of things to come, whether the musician and live performer has crossed over to a different art-form. Machel said, “I have been bitten by the actors’ bug, and I really loved it; I really enjoyed the process and seeing it first-hand. We took 10 years to get everything together, which was I think a lot of first timers’ experience and trying to get it right, and once we got the process started it took about two or three months to complete the shooting and we actually took a couple more months to edit and fix the music. So I think now that you see the scope and the depth of something you realise, hey this could be done. And, I mean, there are so many stories of the Caribbean and so many stories of the culture and of our people and who we are. I hope you know not all the stories of Trinidad & Tobago come from the point of soca or carnival. “In terms of the acting I think it’s something that if I keep at it and keep trying, I’ll get better and probably starting to take some acting classes will definitely help and enhance. I’m always open to that, so I look forward to the roles. Since doing Bazodee, I have gotten a couple of emails on playing roles, one I was supposed to be in was the movie Cutlass, which is made locally by one of the cast members of Bazodee. That couldn’t happen because that was going on during carnival time, in 2016. Also, there are a couple of things on the table that I’ve been looking at. But for me generally, you have to try, and once the right roles come I will definitely keep at it - and in the meantime I will keep keeping my eyes open. I am open to playing roles beyond the shores of Trinidad & Tobago. You know, whatever it may be, once I could step up to the challenge and get the job done, I am definitely interested.” Check out the official trailer for the film on YouTube, and download or stream the soundtrack from Apple Music, Google Play, ITunes or Spotify. Bazodee will get its first UK screening on Sunday 12 March followed up by a second screening on Monday 13 March at the Regent Street Cinema, as part of the 19th London Asian Film Festival, which runs from the 9th to 19th March. For more information about the film or the London Asian Film Festival, and updates on the UK screening, please visit socanews.com.