Grind, as the title suggests, unfolds as a compelling narrative involving the hustle and hard work necessary to achieve set goals. Similar on-screen explorations of the journey to success, such as Living In Bondage (1992) and Ojukokoro (2016), have been witnessed before. This time though, the spotlight is on three young women who emerge as the main characters in this 10-episode drama series. Directed by Orire Nwani, the series skillfully explores themes of friendship, survival, betrayal, hope, and agency. Grind, released on Prime Video in January 2023, is a refreshing perspective as popular media doesn’t often delve into the lives of young women as hustlers and breadwinners.
In the first episode, we are introduced to the trio of Tarela (Roberta Orioma), Edesiri (Roseanne Chikwendu), and Tiwalade (Tamara Sindio Apaun). Beyond friendship, their common ground is their workplace – a night club. Here, we encounter other young individuals, men, and women alike in their 20s and 30s. They’re not merely bodies spraying cash or mere elements in a wild life story; they are people with human backstories and motivations. The writers shine in crafting complex narratives for these characters, avoiding the rushed and wayward portrayal common in past films. Genuine friendships blossom here and when it is time to be there for one another, they show up.
Our lead Tarela, played masterfully by series creator Orioma, grapples with poverty, and is compelled to switch jobs to meet basic needs like food, shelter, and her sister Kome’s education. She shares a cramped one-bedroom apartment with her family and, through sheer grit and hard work, begins to carve out a modest living. This mirrors the widespread poverty affecting millions in the country, depicting the struggle to make ends meet amid rising economic inflation. This economic strain permeates the romantic relationships of the characters. The relentless pursuit of financial freedom strains relationships, leading to painful breakups as with Tarela and her boyfriend KC or, in Edesiri’s case, infidelity, causing her to lose her ultimate love. This desperation triggers envy, betrayal, and the demise of a beautiful friendship.
The series is set in a minimal number of locations, allowing viewers to become intimately acquainted with the daily routines of the characters. Despite the compactness of Tarela’s apartment, clever lighting and arrangement elevate its visual appeal. The club transcends its stereotypical portrayal, serving not only as a venue for revelry but also as an office, a dressing room for pivotal conversations or conflicts, and a bar for resolution. While the church remains largely unseen, its spiritual essence maintains a presence. The deliberate utilization of spaces is truly commendable.
Each woman harbors career and financial aspirations for a better life. Tarela dreams of establishing a wig shop, Edesiri envisions a boutique, and Tiwalade aims for a music career. The 10 episodes unravel the obstacles they face, with family and religion emerging as significant hurdles for two of the leading women. The show effectively explores the sacrifices made in the name of faith, exemplified by Tarela’s mother, portrayed by Harriet Akinola, who gives up rent, feeding money, and school fees. Tiwalade also must defy her Pastor father, and Pastor fiancé, who have already set out a path she must follow. This portrayal delves into the complexities of religious devotion, showcasing the impact it can have on familial relationships and individual well-being.
The narrative in Grind unfolds at a well-paced rhythm, neither rushed nor over-explored. Even when addressing serious issues like sexual assault, the intent is not to shock but rather a genuine exploration. The inclusion of Urhobo representation adds a layer of curiosity through names and speech mannerisms. Kudos must also be given to the director, Orire Nwani, and the talented cast for creating a palpable on-screen chemistry. The actors’ wonderful chemistry and subtle performances add an extra layer of authenticity to the narrative.
Occasionally, fringe scenes and characters are introduced without a clear connection to the story or are left unresolved. This leaves you questioning their inclusion by the end. However, any flaws present are minimal and easily overlooked.
Grind transcends individual struggles, offering a collective exploration of societal dynamics, relationships, and personal growth. It delves into the nuances of friendship, self-improvement, and the complexities of young lives in Nigeria. The nuanced portrayal of characters facing societal expectations, personal dilemmas, and the intricate dynamics of faith, relationships, and financial pressures contributes to its authenticity.
Grind premiered on January 20 2023, on Prime Video.
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- I was taken aback by the audacity of the madam from the bar; holding wads of cash every evening and refusing to pay the salary owed. Tarela grabbing cash from her hand gave me much joy.
- In my other imaginary Nigerian timeline, Tarela and Tiwa find love in each other. “Vivid imagination”, I know!
- What was up with Halima’s annoying laughter? It did its job – annoying Tarela, though.
- The gossiping male neighbour who loosely made advances at Tarela – what in the utter joblessness?
- The audacity of the church Elder to attempt to blackmail Tiwa for working at the club as if he was there for evangelism.
- Edesiri played villain wonderfully.
- Tarela’s relationship with her little sister is very heart-warming.
- Tarela’s mother was an outright weapon fashioned against her.
- Lastly, I am also a very big fan of Tarela’s dancing.