Behind the lavish, cheerful and social characters of people lie the hidden yet true characters that make them who they truly are. It was for this reason that Meena Ally, media personality and actress made a documentary titled ‘Up Close’ to give fans a glimpse of her life and career.
The documentary - released on September 12, 2021 - is a gratitude gesture to her fans and people who have contributed to where she currently is.
“I have always wanted to document my life because as much as my name is already out there, I wanted people to understand where I come from as well the kind of person I truly am,” she opens, adding that she started recording herself when she was on office assignments. “I would often ask my colleagues to videotape almost everything I did aside from the particular assignments because somehow I knew that it would be advantageous,” she explains.
She further says: “I wanted to reveal this unspoken and untold side of life and career because people barely understand how hard it is for one to attain their dreams, it takes hard work and willingness. With Up Close, I wanted to inspire young people that they can do it. I wanted to make them understand that things do not come easily and that behind every name and brand out there, there is a whole wild story that forms the big part of who they are.”
Meena - who prefers calling herself ‘Island girl with some power’ - felt it was necessary to document her life because of the ten-year experience she has in the media industry and how it has nurtured her influence, especially over youth.
“I have done lots of things, but the fear that I would forget them over time kept creeping over me because of how life generally keeps unfolding on a daily basis, with ‘Up Close’ I knew that I would have captured most of my career and life memories; good and bad at the same time. I did not want to wait to get any older in this industry to capture those memories because I wanted to show young people my journey as I work my way up the success ladder,” Meena details.
Meena’s documentary has been filmed twice. The first complete version was lost and so she had to film the documentary all over capturing different moments that have made ‘Up Close’ even more powerful.
“I named the documentary ‘Up Close’ because it contains some truths that I truly am still having difficulty facing because every footage in this documentary is a reflects of my life in its totality, that’s the closest a person can get to me and my background,” Meena says.
During the 10 years in the media industry, Meena kwas often questioned: ‘Why are you always happy?, ‘Are you ever sad?’, ‘What’s your best memory?’ She believes that ‘Up Close’ answers all these questions.
“This documentary reveals that I’m just a regular person who is sometimes sad, at times happy and that I have lost and won life battles, this documentary is one of the ways to show that I own every part of my life including the scariest parts,” she says.
The documentary’s settings are Zanzibar - Meena’s hometown - and Dar es Salaam, Meena’s residence today.
It starts by showing the historic street of Zanzibar, Stone Town and its parts, Forodhani Garden and the ancient places, a crowd of people alongside pets busy walking and working, in the background, a faint sound of Zanzibari songs and violin are heard playing.
The first part of the 42 minute documentary include testimonies from Meena’s family members as they comment on her character and how it befits her career as a radio presenter and actress.
Murshid Rashid, Meena’s brother, says: “Growing up, Meena had always been known for her habit of speaking up whenever she felt it was necessary. She was a very talkative person who made sure she would prove her point.”
The documentary reveals that Meena’s parents had separated when she was still a child who barely understood the ways of the world.
“My life was a rollercoaster after my parents’ divorce, my brother and I lived in different houses including my relatives and at times we lived with our parents in separate houses. This automatically led us to study in more schools and it somehow made us cope life differently,” she opens up.
Despite her father being a journalist back then at TV Zanzibar, Meena was never interested to venture in the media industry until one day when she was at a hair salon and engaged in an interaction with salon customers and the owner.
“I was shortly marked that I would become a journalist like my father, a notion that grew in me day by day. When I was a Form One student at Dar es Salaam international School located in Sinza, a public TV was brought to school but it malfunctioned. When it was switched on for trials, a job announcement at East Africa Radio displayed shortly before it switched off again. I was 16 years old but I dared myself to apply for that position even though the job descriptions detailed that applicants must be 18 years old and above. When I auditioned, I made it to the frontline alongside other talented applicants,” she recalls.
When the employers learned of her age, they sent her back to school and promised her a position. Years later, Meena is now an award winning media personality with a catchy background and she is amongst people who inspire youth to work towards their goals.
“One thing I always tell people about life is that days are different - and, hence, the uniqueness in their names. Today might not be your day; but tomorrow might be. That is the beauty of life. Never give up despite the hurdles in your way,” she says - somewhat philosophically.