Sassy award-winning actress Janet Kirina is not lying on her laurels and is now shuffling and juggling her precarious talent between the screen and music. The actress-cum-producer and now musician talks to STEVENS MUENDO
A convicted criminal, bank robber, an outlaw and a fugitive — were the adjectives used to describe John Kiriamiti since his teens.
The man who Kenyans, almost regarded as a cult hero, went ahead to serialise his life through self-written novels, among them, My Life in Crime — which sold more than 100,000 copies in the first three years, a feat unmatched by any other Kenyan writer, My life with a Criminal and My life in Prison.
And now, a young girl who is one of Kenya’s celebrated thespians is at it again — penning the books into the screenplay. The adaptation film will be showing in a theatre near you next year. Janet Kirina
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And she is also, a new singing star in town going by the stage name, Nariki. Nariki is the sassy girl behind ballad, Love Mission video, released a month ago. Nariki, as she calls herself, is a girl on mission. And she has no apologies for her sudden rise to fame.
Well, Janet Kirina, one of Kenya’s accomplished actresses has scored yet another double to justify why she is one of the versatile artistes in the land. She shuffles as Nariki, the songbird and Kirina the versatile film producer causing ripples in the local film industry.
"Singing is something I always wanted to do. Love Mission is a song that has been playing on my mind for the last two years. I am on studio working on my second single which I expect to release in February, next year," she notes as we settle down for an interview.
Her swift and unprecedented move has been a shock to many especially her fans who have been following her illustrious acting career spanning five years.
She is not only juggling between singing and acting but is also training on music production among other arts.
"It all started at the Kenya National Theatre where I went to audition for Benta. The same day I was auditioning for Benta, the Makutano Junction auditions were going on and I thought of trying. I ended up landing a role in both. From then, there was no looking back," explains the 25-year-old thespian.
Two years later, the rather ambitious girl who describes herself as a go-getter went ahead to win the coveted Best Leading Actress award during the annual Kalasha Awards before shifting gears to film production.
"I had been put up against Karen Lucas (Dance For Wives), Corine Onyango (From a Whisper) and Nice Githinji (All Girls Together) in the Best Leading Actress award category and the media kept on referring me as the underdog. That is why scooping the award meant so much. It also made many realise I was a force to reckon with," she remarks.
"I was only 21 when together with Nice Githinji we went ahead to star in All Girls Together. It was a scary move. It felt like diving in the deep end. The project worked and I finally believed that beyond acting, I could be a good producer," she adds.
So natural was she on stage that her acting career has grown in leaps and bounds that every film producer wants a piece of her. Janet is now a household name in urban Kenya thanks to her major roles in Benta and Makutano Junction as well as Block-D and Higher Learning where she played Jessica, the uptight but focused medical student who wants to graduate by any means necessary.
"I love playing the tough and wild character, which is the direct opposite of who I am in real life. Benta was a bit laid-back. In Makutano Junction, I played Florence, a young sassy girl who thinks she can have a way with everything.
"To me Higher Learning was a revealing experience, pushing myself harder and experimenting with new ideas that left me feeling that acting is such a powerful tool," Janet, a first born in a family of four, remarks.
Two years ago, the acting star launched her own production firm, Kirina Production, and has been working on films.
"I plan to add new elements in the best-seller novels before I conduct auditions for the different roles. I am so sure the film will be a thrill," she notes.
"There is money in the film industry. It is like a field yet to be mined. All we need is business-minded people to invest and jump start the industry," she concludes.