A 6-part series by Lebogang Magoshoa
Written by Dumisani Dube
Empire building is the process that an individual or entity undertakes to broaden the scope of its influence and power.
Don Bhengu (played by Dumisani Mbebe) is such a man who has gone to extremes to ensure that he does all he can to acquire a financial backbone and power within his community. He is brutal and sneaky and so is his heartless wife Grace (played by Nthati Moshesh). Grace is one woman who will kick you out of her way at all costs to make sure she remains on top and the mother hen who campaigns with all she got to keep her husband and elevate her only son up to the most valued position of CEO. Their son Phila (played by Jesse Suntel) is adamant as he has to prove himself to the father in contestation with her step sister Linda (played by Nambitha Ben-Mazwi) who has her own skeletons in the closet, literally in the closet. The two siblings are at the mercy of their father.
Enter Linda who has gained trust of her father after pulling off a straight and brave face after their father shows the two of them the other “dirty” side of Bhengu Beauty. Phila break and storms out of the warehouse and probably walks home, or maybe he Eber-ed. It’s a win for Linda, she won daddy’s heart and is the new CEO.
Celebrations are in order for the Bhengu family. Like any monied family they call their close associates to make the announcement over bubby and good food. ALAS, a video is received by all the invitees and they are all left jaw dropped and tongue tied. Its Linda kissing a girl and she seems to like it. The problem it not just any girl, its her father’s second wife Thando (played by Angela Sithole). All hell breaks loose, they are both sent packing by Don. They move in together and officially become a couple.
We all have a past, a past some will want to forget and some will want to revisit and relive that moment. Its not the case with Zinhle (played by Rosemary Zimu), she revisits the past and wants revenge on her and siblings’ abusers. Apparently Zinhle sent the video in pursuit for revenge and in a bid to bring down the Bhengu empire. It all out there now. Step mom and step daughter are an item, romantically.
Behind every scene is a real person, curious me took some time and sat down with Nambitha Ben-Mazwi a lead actress and the creator of this drama series Lebogang Magoshoa. Like a curious cat I need answers on so many issues.
In creating this world of the Bhengu, Lebogang’s inspiration came from a place of something that was set in the world of beauty. He took his mind back to the times of FEES MUST FALL where young people were going through a difficult time and disillusioned and yet looked up to the older generation, but a corrupt generation. The young people are questioning this corruption.
Even though he did not have a say on the final cast Lebo was involved in developing of the series together with Netflix and Quizzical Pictures. According to him, even though he had his own vision it was amazing for him to see the actors inhibiting the characters in a way that was beyond page.
“As a queer person myself I’ve been in telenovela rooms, a lot of those. It is crazy that in 2022 we still don’t have these series in South Africa that are led by queer characters,” Lebo says. He goes on to say “With this particular show, it is not necessarily linked to queerness but on someone’s personal own personal journey, not about characters’ sexuality, I wanted it to be human.”
Nambitha is no stranger to our screens, but I am particularly interested in her role in this one. Preparing for this role was one of her exciting parts of this project. She had to visit Linda and humanize her, understanding the fears, insecurities and dreams of this prodigal daughter. She describes the Bhengu family as a black version of the Kardashians, a family which everyone wants to be associated to.
She took on the responsibility of telling a queer story to ensure that the community was represented authentically and not in a stereotypical light. “For me it was telling a story of two humans in love, and fighting for their love. To me, that is necessary to be portrayed.” Nambitha says.
Expect uncomfortable topics, important family conversations, toxic love, rejection, beauty, identity crisis, revenge and healing. Everyone is going to see themselves in this story.
Savage beauty is an interesting yet intriguing watch and I hope it spark conversations in your family or within your circles. If you haven’t watched it, what are you waiting for, head on to Netflix. As for me I can’t wait for Season 2.