The Anikulapo movie is a mystical folklore drama that is set among the Yoruba people of the erstwhile Oyo Empire.

The Oyo Empire, a powerful and domineering kingdom during its apogee (1650–1750),

was situated in what is today Southwestern Nigeria. ‘Anikulapo’: The one who has death in his pouch

tells the story of an enthusiastic young man “Saro”

who ventures to the Oyo Kingdom with almost nothing but sheer will and determination in search of better opportunities.  

Saro, would eventually rise to prominence despite numerous challenges, including death.

The movie shot entirely in Yoruba language is directed by Kunle Afolayan

who has partnered with Global streaming platform Netflix in a Multi-title Agreement.

The Plot For “Anikulapo”

The movie opens with an apologue on ‘Akala’ a mystical bird

which personifies death with the power to harvest souls or resurrect a person if it deemed fit

especially in cases of untimely deaths.

The movie then introduces “Saro” (played by Kunle Remi)

a weaver who embarks on a quest for better opportunities in the Oyo Kingdom.

In Oyo, Saro meets “Awarun” (Played by Sola Sobowale)

an older lady, previously married and rumored to be a ‘Man eater’ by the village folk.

Awarun offers Saro a home and convinces him to work in her ceramics workshop while he sorts out the modalities of his ideal trade as a weaver.

In the palace, Queen Arolake (played by Bimbo Ademoye)

the king’s youngest and ‘favourite’ wife, famed for her ravishing beauty and splendor, is taunted and bullied by her co-wives.

She is particularly bullied by the King’s first wife, Queen Wojuola, who continuously badgers her because of her ‘vane’ beauty and barrenness.

Meanwhile, Saro soon finds favour in the eyes of his host and benefactor, Awarun

and the relationship soon spirals into an intimate affair, with Awarun openly showering and lavishing Saro with special treatment and gifts.

With massive assistance from Awarun, Saro would eventually have enough to set up his fabric weaving business in Oyo.

At the palace, life continued to be intolerable and full of anguish for Queen Arolake as well as Queen Wojuola

and her co-wife would continue to make life insufferable and unbearable for Queen Arolake.

They even go as far as poisoning her.

The king’s favoritism for Queen Arolake did not make it any easier.

Kunle Afolayan makes a cameo appearance as Akano Erin, a rich and admirable merchant and one of Awarun’s lovers.

A jealous Saro confronts Awarun only to be sternly warned and rebuked about involving himself in her affairs.

She would however give her blessings for when he meets his ideal partner.

As recompense, Awarun lands Saro an astounding and aspirational opportunity to weave clothes for the palace.

On Saro’s visit to the palace, he is instantly smitten and enthralled by Queen Arolake’s beauty.

In a shocking twist, Queen Arolake is also enamored by Saro’s charms

and she ambushes Saro on his return from the palace and they ‘take a roll in the hay’.

Saro’s visits to the palace also arouses passion from Princess Omowunmi (Played by Eyiyemi Afolayan).

The ‘illicit’ tryst between Saro and Queen Arolake quickly intensifies and becomes very intimate

and they soon profess affection for each other and exchange chronicles from their lives.

Both eventually conceive a plan to elope but are discovered by a heartbroken Princess Omowunmi.

While Queen Arolake manages to escape the palace, Saro is not as fortunate and he is soon arrested and condemned to death.

Arolake watches in hiding as her lover is beaten and tortured to his death.

After the guards leave, she weeps over his body through the night. Arolake is awoken by the flight and screeching of the Mystical ‘Akala’ bird and she runs to cover.

Akala adjudges Saro as unworthy but before it reaps his soul, Arolake comes out of hiding and strikes Akala and it takes to flight leaving behind a black gourd.

Arakole picks up the gourd and harnesses its power to revive Saro without even realizing it. she would then hide the gourd and keep its existence a secret.

The two would journey through the forest until they encounter a hunter from a nearby village of Ilu Ojumo who would offer them shelter and guide them back to the village.

The Hunter returns to the news of his son’s death. Arolake then realizes the power of the gourd and revealing it to Saro, she would offer him the gourd to harness its powers and make himself famous and powerful.

Although hesitant at first, Saro would eventually heed and revive the dead boy to the bewilderment of all present.

Word soon spreads about Saro’s ability and he would come to be known as Anikulapo, The one who has death in his pouch.

News of Saro’s power would come to the attention of Oba Aderoju, the king of Ilu Ojumo, who would indorse and formally receive him into his Kingdom.

(Interesting fact: the role of King of Ojumo is played by Hakeem Kae-Kazim, a British-Nigerian. To conceal his accent, Kunle Afolayan casts him in a non-speaking role)

Saro settles in the Village of Ilu Ojumo and is exalted and revered as the possessor and manipulator of death attaining the status of a god. This ‘godlike’ status would however be attended with pride, arrogance, greed and lust. Saro would take advantage of his position to acquire riches and even more wives including Omowon (played by Ariyike Owolagba), his househelp who he impregnated.

The passion between Saro and Arolake would eventually grow cold and he would take a liking to his later wives who would make jest of Arolake calling her barren and the fugitive wife of a king.

The Prince of Ojumo, heir to the throne dies and the king sends for Saro to revive him with an assurance that he would get anything in the kingdom he wished for. Saro brazenly requests for the King’s daughter, Princess Ajoke (played by Adedoja Adeyemi). Saro’s request enrages and infuriates the King but he would eventually concede.

Word soon spreads about the prince’s death and Saro’s request for Princess Ajoke. This news appears to be the last straw for Arolake who then packs her things and leaves.

The King eventually sends for Saro and accepts his request but Saro would try to revive the prince but all to no avail. In that moment, he realizes that Arolake had emptied the gourd ridding the gourd of its powers. In that Eureka moment he realizes his mistakes as his life flashes before his eyes.

The movie ends with Saro encountering the Akala bird a second time. perhaps, this time his faith is sealed.

The “Anikulapo” Movie Review

The Anikulapo movie is a true masterpiece. It’s an embodiment of the perfect cast, a thrilling plot, colorful and exquisite costumes and a superb picture quality.

The Anikulapo movie is ladened with so many practical life and moral lessons.

Saro’s tale is one of a meager weaver who rises to prominence against all odds.

Its however interesting that Saro’s success both times are attributed to his love interests.

His initial success is majorly credited to Awarun who provided ample support and opportunity although he would sacrifice this success on the altars of love. When life eventually gives him a second chance through Arolake’s concession, he is enveloped and blinded by greed, arrogance, pride and lust and he wastes it.

Arolake on the other hand is not unfamiliar with hate, scorn, or unhappiness. As a queen in the Oyo kingdom she experienced her fair share of disdain. When she eventually finds ‘Love’ she easily forfeits her royal status and privileges. She goes on to concede such great power over death to the man she loves. So it’s no wonder that the heartbreak and declivity of affection from one to whom she gave her ‘all’ would spur such acrid feelings of revenge. Her’s is a story of Love, heartbreak, disappointment and scorn. Indeed, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Nzube Nlebedim a Writer and critic had this to say in his review:

“…Saro is not in love with Arolake. He is rather in love with the ideal of her, the idea of sharing a bed with royalty, with power. That explains why he chose to acquire, too, the Princess of Ojumo. It explains Saro’s disregard of Arolake once she loses her royal sheen”.

Kunle Afolayan Sets a Remarkable Record in New Netflix Fantasy Drama, “Aníkúlápó”| The Culture Custodian

Despite the elaborate storytelling, I am left puzzled with some thoughts; the seeming ease with which it took to conquer the ‘almighty’ Akala, death personified; was Awarun really aware of Saro’s tryst with Queen Arolake? How did Princess Omowunmi know where to find Queen Arolake?

The movie has also stirred a lot of reactions on social media. Here are a few reactions and opinions.

What are your opinions? Please leave a comment below.


  1. The thing that stood out the most for me was the casting. All the actors did a great job. Its a great story and a must watch

    1. David Ityonyiman

      Thank you for your comment.
      Yes! A formidable cast indeed.
      A must watch! We couldn’t agree more

  2. Daniel Abah Iduh

    Beautiful review. You did a good job and your narrative style is awesome.

    1. David Ityonyiman

      Thank you for your comment.
      We appreciate your kind words. we remain committed to delivering this and more!

Comments are closed.

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