It is a scene actor Jack Devnarain will never forget, and one of his most memorable moments during the 15 years he played Rajesh Kumar on Isidingo.
He is in bed in a steamy make-out session. As the cameras roll and he begins his lengthy monologue to co-star Krijay Govender, he notices out of the corner of his eye that a candle has set fire to a curtain.
Does he jump up and stop filming, or finish off his scene before alerting the crew? The incident was just one of many highlighted by cast members this week as they reminisced about the iconic show, which will air for the last time on Tuesday after 21 years on the small screen. SABC canned the soapie, citing dwindling audience ratings and decline in revenue.
Devnarain said he had battled to maintain his composure during the love scene while watching the curtain catch fire
“It was when Rajesh was in a love scene with Hemali Moodliar [played by Govender]. It was a very romantic scene, with candles and long curtain drapings around the bed, but it was a lengthy dialogue scene,” he said.
“We were in an embrace under the covers and while the scene was going on, I notice that a candle has set the draping on fire — and the fire was spreading.
“I did my best to stay calm. I did not want them to cut the scene because the dialogue was so long and I didn’t want to have to do it again but in the end they saw it, cut the scene and rushed to put it out.”
He also recalled an elderly fan who was convinced that Rajesh was her son and would call the SABC every day to ask him to call her and tell him she had made him dinner.
Robert Whitehead, who played archvillain Barker Haines until 2017, said people often assumed he was as rich as the character he played.
“As far as the money goes, people still think I am loaded. They loved to hate Barker. I still get it today. People will come up to me in the mall. They still call me Barker. They still tell me about the things I did on the show. Even in the most remote areas, they know Barker.”
Michelle Botes, who played the equally evil Cherel de Villiers, remembers a time when a fan grabbed her from behind and wanted to take her to jail for her character’s actions on screen.
“Cherel’s fans tended to be extreme. There were those who were obsessed with her and others who worshipped her. I really got the extremes. People would physically grab me in the mall and insist that I go to jail.”
She said she had so many stalkers that she “could not go home many a night”.
“One of the things on set that still makes me smile is when I was pelted with dirt to make Cherel look like she was down a mine. I arrived on set and we were shooting a mine disaster scene and I had to be dirty. They turned this massive vacuum cleaner on us. It was totally unglamorous. We just laughed through it.”
Khabonina Qubeka, who played Nina Zamdela, said she would often get lectures from older fans who would rebuke her and tell her how her character should behave.
The show often dealt with controversial and topical themes that got Mzansi talking. such as femicide, racism and homophobia.
Motlatsi Mafatshe, who played Sechaba Moloi, said that while he had had many awkward and hilarious moments on the show, he was touched by the support he got from his co-stars while filming a scene in which he was buried alive in a racism story line.
“It was very emotionally charged and it meant so much to me that there was this support and that it resonated with so many people,” he said.
I think that is the legacy of the show for me, in being able to highlight so many issues we face as a country, so that the president or the person sitting at home is educated and entertained.”