Saturday, 10 November 2012
Kareem Adepoju, popularly known as Baba Wande, is one of the most popular faces in the movie industry. He recently featured in a yet-to-be-released movie, The gods are still not to blame. In this interview, he takes LAWRENCE AMAKU down memory lane, his illustrious career while also expressing his frustration with some anomalies in the movie industry, even as he said he remained fulfilled as an actor.
RECENTLY, you featured in The gods are still not to blame. What role did you play in it?
I was one of the chiefs. It was shot in Ikorodu.
Five languages were used in the movie, including English, French, Yoruba and Igbo. Did that not pose any serious challenge to you?
It is not everyone that speaks all languages. It depends on where each character featured.
Which language(s) did you speak in the drama?
I spoke English and Yoruba.
Was that the first time you would feature in an English movie?
No, it isn’t. I remember featuring in a movie Well of Fame, some years back.
What difference do you see in the Yoruba movies and English movies?
You see, there isn’t much difference. What I want to say is that people think that our Igbo movie counterparts are better than us, and I want to correct that impression. In Yoruba movies, there is room for one to express himself, there is flexibility, unlike in the Igbo movies where you are restricted to the script and are not allowed to input your own ingenuity. Even in scripted Yoruba movies, after handing the script to you, you are told not to limit yourself to it, but invent your own expressions or ideas.
Have you raised the issue with their producers before?
We’ve not started discussing that with them. The producers always insist that we stick to the script.
But some of them who have featured in Yoruba movies, haven’t they seen the need to adopt such style?
They don’t know, if they do, they would have taken a cue from us. It is the Yoruba movie viewers that appreciate such. That is the key ingredient in our movies. Besides, it enables you to deal with spontaneous situations.
Who mentored you in the art of theatre?
Baba Oyin Adejobi.
When was that?
It’s been long, I think in 1963.
What lessons did you learn from him and how did they influence the development of your own career?
The lessons were many. You know he was highly talented; he could sing and act very well. but because he was physically challenged, when he saw the talent in me, he made me shoulder most of the responsibilities and operations.
So, that made me to develop quickly and with time, I started directing also. Then we were involved in the travelling theatre.
For how long did you work with him?
You just talked about the travelling theatre, can’t it still be revived?
Well, I don’t know what can be done to revive it. Those who are in the position to do so are not willing to act. It is very expensive and cumbersome. Imagine that you want to stage a play, you go and recruit artistes, you rehearse for two or three months to master the movements on the stage and go and fetch vehicles to transport human and material resources.
So, this is what made people to favour film over the theatre at its advent. But if the educated ones had made government realise the need to sponsor the theatre, it wouldn’t have gone into extinction.
But government had never at any time intervened in the industry by way of grant or budget allocation. Nollywood, for instance, is self-made.
You see, at that time, there were no companies interested in sponsoring theatre groups. Even parents, especially the well-to-do ones, did not encourage their children to take to acting. ...
When and how did you discover your talent for acting?
When I was in primary school, Baba Oyin Adejobi used to teach people church songs. There was an Ansar-ud-Deen society there then. They used to think of how to raise money to pay the alfas teaching the Quran in public schools. So, parents who were members of the society took the responsibility upon themselves to raise money to pay the alfas, since government was not the one paying them.
So, they would go about staging dramas and the money realised from it would be used to pay the alfas. I was in school then and I picked interest in the scheme and I jumped at it.
Whenever they asked “who are those interested in participating in drama?” I would quickly signify intention. However, many people regarded it as a frivolous and unserious vocation then. But the interesting thing there was that we were not even paid. Our only reward then was rice and beans which we ate with delight. When I left school, I joined Oyin Adejobi group. We acted dramas like Adam and Eve and Joseph and his brothers.
Did your parents encourage you?
No, they discouraged me, like many parents would at that time. They treated theatre with contempt. But thank God that nowadays, more and more parents are beginning to appreciate acting as a career.
Which of your movies that you acted in can you say really stands out from the rest?
Well, I can’t really single out any one in particular. But some of the ones that I am really proud of are Aiye, Mosebolatan, Ija ominira. These were classics.
How did you come about the stage name, Baba Wande?
There is this book entitled; Ile ti a fi t’omo, written by a professor in Ilorin, which we dramatised and recorded for WNBS and WNTV. I was known as Baba Wande in the play.
Then the practice was that if you played the role of a thief, prisoner, night soil man or even a policeman, when people saw you in the streets they will start calling you by the role you played. It got to a time that actors started turning down the role of notorious or unpleasant characters in plays so as to avoid bad name tags. So, in order to avoid this, we decided to adopt good stage names for ourselves which we stuck to. I chose the name Baba Wande, someone chose Alabi Yellow, Tafa Oloyede, Iya Osogbo and Iya Wande— these were our group members.
But how about an actress that bears Asewo to re Mecca?
She derived the name from the movie with the same name. Anyway, she probably didn’t bother to change it. Maybe because of the instant fame that came with it or because women love to be called asewo.
How well did the name stick?
Yes, people know me more by the name than my real name. For example, if I’m at a public gathering and the master of ceremony does not want people to recognise me, he will introduce me by my real name, because many people don’t know me by that name.
Who’s your role model?
Well, there is no one in particular I can say is my role model.
You had an Islamic morality TV play, Iwa l’esin, that ran for some years. What motivated the project?
Arisekola was the one who sponsored the play then. It stopped running because of the delay in payment for airtime. Even now, we are proposing reviving it and have already started having talks with the sponsor since there is a popular demand for it.
The motivation came from the observation I made then whenever I went to mosque on Fridays that people were no longer interested in listening to religious exhortations and hardly made out time to read the Quran; they would rather spend time watching movies.
And you know anything you watch leaves a lasting impression on your mind. So, we thought of dramatising some of the moral teachings in the Quran.
Safe for the movie you featured in recently, you’ve been scarcely involved in movies in the last couple of years, is it a sign that you are calling time on acting?
No, the reason is that it is the marketers that sponsor films and it is whoever they like that they will feature.
Besides, I have some unresolved issues with them; there are outstanding amounts that they owe me. Some of them will sell my works and refuse to pay me.
There are growing complaints about exploitation by marketers, what is the Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners (ANTP) and the Nigerian Actors Guild doing to curtail this?
Nothing can really be done about it, nobody feels concerned. It is we the artistes that bear the brunt. The marketers are the ones that bankroll the movies, so they do things they way they like.
Is there no effort by your professional bodies to market your products yourselves so as to stem the influence of the marketers?
I think we are even the cause of our own problems, because we have artistes who are also marketers and marketers who are also producers; the whole thing has intertwined. So, how can we fight for our own interest when some people seek to protect their own interest. That is why those of us who speak out against the system are often marginalised—the reason, as you rightly observed, I don’t feature regularly in movies. My belief is that it will come to an end someday; just as everything that has a beginning has an end.
What has been the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) stance on this?
The matter is not within the purview of the NFC. Theirs is just to censor films.
Why have you shown preference for serious drama over comedy, despite the fact that you are naturally inclined to comedy?
Right from the outset, I have always been of the view that anyone that wants to entertain must use only a minute on the stage to make people laugh.
You should rather do things that will make people cry, reflect and empathise with the characters. If not comedy, what again would you have done?
I would have been a footballer. I was a committed footballer in school then. If I had furthered my education up to the university level, I would have probably been a footballer.
What scuttled your education?
Our father was not educated, we only forced ourselves to acquire the little formal education we had.
What was growing up like—your educational background?
We started with Quranic education. Then our alfas refused us going to the school established in our community. But we insisted we must go. We would sneak out to go and play football and from there attend classes; after all, then formal education provided by Chief Obafemi Awolowo was free. That pitched us against our alfas who berated us and called us renegades.
What experience did you have a then as a child that inspired you?
I remember the country was better then than now. There was a high level of discipline, and societal values were held in esteem.
Do you have any regrets about your career?
They are many. One of them is what I hinted on earlier about the activities of marketers. Imagine that you’ve been in a profession for donkey’s years and you expect that ordinarily by now, you should be calling the shots there, rather you are being treated as a slave and marginalised. Sincerely, I don’t feel proud being addressed as a veteran artiste, because there is really nothing to show for it. And government is doing nothing about it. That notwithstanding I still feel fulfilled with the fame and recognition the career has brought me, despite my little education. I am proud to say that it has taken me all over the world.
Is there any of your children taking after you?
Well, none of them, for now. Some of them have participated in my films, but none of them has really taken up the profession.
When are you retiring?
There is no retirement in this job. Of course, we have time for rest. Theatre is an exercise. Even when you rest for too long, you may take ill.
What project are you working on now?
It is the Omoluabi drama currently airing in some Osun State television stations. The concept is similar to Iwa l’esin. It is sponsored by the Osun State government and seeks to instil in the people of the state the Omoluabi virtues and teach morals.
Saturday, 03 November 2012
Fidelis Duker, founder and Director of the Abuja International Film Festival (AIFF), and one of Nollywood’s biggest directors/ producers, has contributed immensely to the development of the movie industry. In this interview with Adunola Oladapo, he speaks on his journey so far. Excerpts:
SOME Nollywood movies are imitations of Hollywood. What is the industry putting in place to produce culturally-inclined movies?
I used to tell everybody that you cannot tell the American story more than the Americans. One of the problems we are having today is that people want to make movies that will suit the foreign market, but there is no market there. The bulk of Hollywood today is the American population. The strength of Bollywood are Indians. China today is an emerging filmmaking nation that also has a huge population.
What this tells me is that for any industry to grow, you must encourage your local industry and that’s the only way we can begin to see the kind of films we want to see. So, when I see such movies that tend to favour the American market, I begin to wonder why films are made for the foreign market.
Films must be made for the local market. That’s basically the idea of filmmaking. For Nollywood to grow, we must target this population. One hundred and fifty million people are enough to create an enviable film industry.
And our culture is important. The only way the Americans, the English will respect us is if we begin to produce movies that tell them about Nigeria, that tell them about our clothes. We must showcase Zuma Rock in Suleja, we must showcase the cocoa trees in Ilorin, the Tinapa in Calabar and the Calabar Carnival.
These are the kind of things we must show. The fine buildings will not move them. The suit I’m wearing is foreign, it’s Italian; it’s not what they want to see. But when they see something that is culturally relevant, they are more attracted to it.
Is there a structure in place where theatre artistes can search for jobs in their field like the lawyer or the accountant?
You can’t practice medicine without being a medical doctor and you can’t practice law without going to the Law School, even though you studied law at the university. So, for us in this business, we have approached the government to have a Motion Picture Practitioners of Nigeria (MOPPON) like you have the NMA or the NBA, where producers, actors, directors, and camera men can come under one body.
And if you don’t pass through that regulatory body, you cannot practice. You can’t say because you are Duker’s friend, then I must put you in a film and begin to brag tomorrow that you are a star. So, for us as an industry, government must perform that function. We cannot do it ourselves, so, it won’t be as if it was done for personal gain. There must be a government law that would say you must have passed through a basic training, at least.
How would you describe your growing up?
I grew up in Lagos, and my formative years were in Yaba, Lagos. I attended St. Patrick Primary School, Yaba and then went to the Federal Government College, Kano. Kano in the late 70s to early 80s was a perfect place where there was so much love.
I remember vividly my coming to Lagos and going to Kano then by air, when the airfare was only N17.50k. It was fun also travelling by rail from Kano through the Western line then.
It was simply great, I played football like any kid, watched films at Casino Cinema in Yaba and of course, Eldorado Cinema in Kano where I watched films too.
Life was really beautiful and very safe then. We were not rich but we got all the basic needs and attended good schools. I studied at the University of Jos, at the Yaba College of Technology, the Nigerian Television Authority College and the Nigerian Institute of Journalism.
Does your childhood experience in any way influence your career choice?
To a large extent, it did, because I grew up watching films and was attracted to the television of the early 80s with programmes like; The Village Headmaster, Adio Family, Winds Against My Soul and The Masquarade. All these influenced my choice of career
How did you get into the entertainment industry?
I got into the entertainment industry as a young man in the late 80s, fresh from the Television College, Jos. I actually went to NTA and met the late Lai Arasanmi and Mr Peter Igho who was the Director-General of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, that was how it all started.
What was your parent’s reaction when you decided to take up this career?
My mum was very supportive of my career, even though, my dad was a bit apprehensive as he did not understand my interest in the entertainment business as he would have preferred anything in the medical field, but years later, he had a change of mind and became very supportive. Besides, he tells everybody that his son’s name is on the air
What were the challenges you faced while growing on the job?
The challenges were numerous as funding was the major problem at the beginning but that of course, is the problem of any budding filmmaker. But I remember my late mum gave me a seed capital for my first production. It was very difficult at the early stage of my career, as I had to get a paid job to raise funds to do my first movie, I thank God today I fund people's jobs.
I will say it was determination and consistency that have been seeing me through, it goes beyond funding. I think government must create the enabling environment for us to operate. What government has done with the manufacturing and telecommunications industry should also be done for our industry. It’s not about money, the enabling environment and copyright issues should be in place.
What has been your major achievement in the industry?
They are many. I’ve won several awards in television, film, and radio, both locally and internationally. I've produced great and acclaimed films and TV programmes. I served as a two-time president of the Directors Guild of Nigeria, produced Africa’s first award winning TV Reality Show. I was also elected continental vice president of the Afrifest, the continental body for festivals in Africa.
There are several other achievements that I can not pick any. But in all, I give God all the glory and thank my wife and kids for their unflinching support. I have been involved in over 45 home video films in the last 15 years.
Some of these movies films include; Blood Brothers, King of Money, Nemesis, Scandals, Destined to die, Monica Lewinsky, Pure love, Doctor Death, Rejected, Hot Passion, Night Nurses and Images etc.
What led to the creation of Abuja International Film Festival (AIFF)?
In 2004, we saw that there were so many local films and these films were not being seen by everybody and we felt one of the best ways to rectify that was to create a platform where filmmakers would come together annually.
Our own kind of World Cup or the Olympics. And so, we started this festival in 2004. At that time, there was no Silverbird Cinema in Abuja. We had to use hotels, big hotels in Abuja and we did that for about five years until about 2009 when Silverbird came into being.
What were the silly pranks you played while growing up?
Several, like climbing trees to pluck mangos or sneaking out of the house when mum and dad instructed you to stay indoors. There were others I won’t mention, like love fantasies you have for a girl in your neighbourhood, if you know what I mean.
Your first kiss experience, how did you feel, where did you have it?
I was in form four in Kano with one of my classmates. I won’t mention the name for security reasons because she’s married now and I am happily married too, (laughs). We both stole the kiss, it was very brief and we were both shy as responsible, disciplined youths.
Were you very naughty while growing up?
Not really. Just childhood and growing up pranks. I was a bookworm. I really enjoyed reading, even now.
Tell us about your relationship with your parents? Was it cordial or distanced? Were you rebellious?
Very cordial. I lived with my parents till I got married 15 years ago. It’s a close-knit family with only two kids, I and my younger sister , who is now in America.
We would have been three as I lost my twin brother at birth. That’s a part most people don’t know that I’m a set of twins. Taiye as the Yorubas call them. My mum was referred to as Iya Ibeji before her death and you know atimes, I miss that fact that I am a set of twins and that my twin brother is dead.
What is going on in the industry that you would like to correct?
The industry needs regulation. Today, what you have is an all-comers affair, where everybody feels he or she is a filmmaker, actor without any form of training or entry requirements. There is the need for standards and quality because people operate with impunity and no respect for standards.
What are your own personal inputs into your entertainment industry?
Numerous. I have served in several capacity in the industry. I have discovered several Nollywood stars who cut their teeth in my productions, acts like; Uche Jombo, Bukky Wright, Omoni Oboli, Ricardo Agbor, Desmond Elliot, Iyabo Ojo, among others. Some come to me to say you gave me my break and I hardly know .
Do you think you have attained your goals in life?
Not yet and at what age? I am yet to attain all my goals in life but I must say God has been very good to me and my family.
Where do you expect to be in the next five years?
I have several career goals like establishing a major broadcast platforms which should soon hit the airwaves in the next 24 months by God’s grace.
How would you describe yourself?
An introvert, law abiding, caring, considerate and deeply sensitive. A loving husband and father.
Your favourite dish and can you prepare it?
I love pounded yam and egusi soup. Also fried plantain and egg which I can prepare very well.
How did you meet your wife?
We met in school at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Ogba, about 18 years ago . We were actually classmates and both have a background in journalism.
How does she feel when girls try to be too intimate?
My wife is in the business and can differentiate between a fan and an over-zealous individual, who has another motive. My wife is too wise and intelligent to be moved by such triviality.
How homely are you?
I said, I am an introvert, so you will understand that I am very homely. I don’t club, hardly party except occasionally and I don't keep late nights. Most weekends, I am home.
Are you romantic?
My wife will answer that better, but I think I am.
What romantic things can you do or not do with your partner in public?
I can kiss my wife in the public but nothing more.
How do you relax?
I play table tennis. I’m very good at table tennis.
Who are those who inspired you?
Veteran filmmakers and TV personalities
Your role models in life and your role models in the industry?
In life, Jesus Christ and in the industry, I will give it to Raymond Dokpesi for his consistency and foresight.
What material thing do you cherish most that you wouldn’t mind spending a fortune on?
Nothing. I am not materialistic.
What terrible or harrowing experience have you gone through in life before?
When my life was threatened for making the film, King of Money in 1999.
How did you scale through the experience and what lesson did you learn from it?
God was on my side as I was innocent of the accusation and I came out wiser and more careful. That you don't trust everybody who claims to be your friend, it’s something I have put behind me.
Do you see yourself retiring from Nollywood?
I will not retire but will ultimately step aside and contribute from the sidelines as an elder
When will that be and what profession or business will you like to retire into?
My plan is to retire at 50 but continue to contribute as an elder, I can’t do anything but media, film or entertainment.