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Homeless and in a wheelchair at 63

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Kalushi star Thabo Rametsi takes a break from acting

By Emmanuel Tjiya | 2017-03-22 11:38:09.0

It's on a scorching hot Human Rights Day when Kalushi star Thabo Rametsi drops a bombshell that he is taking a step back from acting to focus on audience development.

The 28-year-old actor reveals that the new chapter in his career after playing struggle stalwart Solomon "Kalushi" Mahlangu is making the cinema experience accessible and affordable to South Africans.

One of the things that fuelled his audacious decision to abandon his budding acting career is how director Mandla Dube battled to get a theatrical distribution deal for the film.

Rametsi says that even after the biopic hit theatres earlier this month, he has received countless complaints from people not being able to see the film in some parts of SA.

"I think we need to re-look how we get films to our people. Why aren't black South Africans watching our films yet the Indian community is supporting Keeping Up With The Kandasamys and the Afrikaans community is behind Jagveld?" Rametsi says.

Kalushi grossed a total of R763877 in the first seven days it was shown. Last year, local romantic drama Happiness is a Four-Letter Word was a box office smash hit after grossing R5- million in 10 days.

"Is it the subject matter, because we supported Happiness is a Four-Letter Word and Tell Me Sweet Something? Perhaps we want to watch films that keep us from dealing with many other truths about our country," he says.

His acting sabbatical is also spurred on by Ethiopia's thriving film industry. Rametsi points out that Addis Ababa has 10 cinemas compared to many African capitals which only boast one or two venues.

He says that out of this total, four are privately owned and the rest are government-run sites. Furthermore, outside Addis Ababa, movies get played in big halls. As a result, this has proved effective to the country's growing film industry with a larger audience for locally made productions.

Rametsi hopes to follow in the footsteps of Thapelo Mokoena's mobile cinema initiative. The first big step in his new venture is starting his own production company.

Rametsi has acted in international productions such as Homeland opposite Claire Danes, The Giver with Meryl Streep and The Gamechangers starring Daniel Radcliffe. Locally, he has appeared in shows such as High Rollers and Hard Copy. He first gained stardom as one of the contestants in the first season of reality TV show Class Act in 2010.

He explains his decision to take a break from acting: "I wanted to retire last year. I really didn't enjoy how artists were treated. However, that would have been a very emotional decision. I decided to try again. But after seeing the distribution side of film through Kalushi, it made me see some gaping errors in a lot of departments."