The movie world is full of fantasy, illusion, and sheer make-believe. Just like the abracadabra realm of magic, in the movie world, the more you look, the less you see. In deed, a common thread of illusion runs through both worlds of magic and movies. It is sheer fantasy that makes a film actor, after a couple of cameo roles, decides to bury his head in the clouds.
Perceiving himself as a ‘star’, he throws humility overboard and then dons the garb of pride. He sees a fantastic picture of himself as a superstar and now wants to live big, far bigger than himself. The movie fans are the guiltiest. Most of them cannot differentiate between the reality and illusion of the movie world.
They forget that its all a make believe world whereby an actor merely interprets one role or the other. They tend to lump both the actor and character together and then relate to him/her accordingly. Ask Shola Shobowale and Patience Ozokwor about their experiences in the hands of movie fans that think they are as nasty and wicked as the characters they play.
Also ask Ramsey Noauah, Emeka Ike, Jim Iyke, Kunle Afolayan and Ali Nuhu. Each of these good-looking “lover boy” actors has loads of tales to tell about sexual harassments from their female admirers. The same thing goes for pretty and delectable actresses like Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Mercy Johnson, Rita Dominic, Genevieve Nnaji, Maryam Booth, and Stephanie Okereke-Linus who at one time of the other have been stalked and harassed by crazy male fans.
A typical example is that of Maryam Booth, who recently had to petition the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, when a Kaduna-based movie buff, Naufal S. Mohammed having “fallen in love” with the screen diva, wanted a relationship with her at all cost. When the fanatical fan was rebuffed, he resorted to blackmails and issuing of death threats. And so it is not surprising to hear Ali Nuhu recount his ordeals at the police station over incessant quarrels and fights between his fans and that of another Kannywood star, Sani Danja over perceived rivalry between the two.
Read all about this and others in this edition of TS Weekend. In the sports section, we bring you an exciting story of Taribo West, former Super Eagles star, who is enthusiastic about finding a replacement for his estranged wife. Also check out an expose on other soccer stars. And then in the lifestyle section, readers will get to read about the world of kaftan and shoes that are in vogue. Have a fantastic weekend! >Tosin 08056008696
By KEMI YESUFU
Ali Nuhu is probably the biggest star in the Hausa movie industry. Most times, all a producer needs to sell thousands of DVDs is to parade this Kano-born actor in his/her film. Nuhu’s fanatical following among lovers of Hausa movies means that he has done well in Kannywood. Even in Nollywood, Nuhu is a force to reckon with as many movie buffs rush to purchase English films that feature him.
Despite the fact that fans often exchange fisticuffs over the good-looking actor, he has remained humble and focused on his main goal of being one of the best actors in the country. In this interview with TS Weekend, the Kannywood heartthrob opened up on his career and family. He also made his views known about the much talked about rivalry between him and Sani Danja. Excerpts:
YOU HAVE BEEN IN KANNYWOOD FOR QUITE SOME TIME, YET, PEOPLE MENTION YOUR NAME WHEN ASKED WHOSE FACE SELLS FILMS MOST. WHAT IS THE SECRET OF YOUR DOMINANCE?
First, I must say its God that got me this far. God helped me get to this height due to the fact that I went into acting because I have a passion for it and no other reason. I didn’t go into acting for fame.
HOW DID YOU DEVELOP A PASSION FOR ACTING?
When I was a kid I used to watch TV dramas like Cockcrow at Dawn and Mirror in the Sun. Each time I watched these programmes, I wished that one day I could be part of them. I must confess that my wish to have a career in acting was the main reason why I applied to study at University of Jos. I was told that the National Television Authority (NTA) had a production center in Jos where some of the soaps were made. My plan was to study Theatre Arts but my parents were against my studying the course.
They were quite adamant in their refusal about my reading Theatre Arts. They felt that it wasn’t the kind of course I should read because I wouldn’t be able to secure a job with it. So, I studied Geography. Funny enough, I have never had reasons to use the knowledge I acquired studying for a degree in Geography all through my acting career. I guess it is because acting and Geography aren’t related in anyway.
YOU ARE A STAR IN KANNYWOOD AND YOU CROSSED OVER TO NOLLYWOOD WITH MUCH SUCCESS. HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO DO THIS?
I have always been someone who invests in his career. I believe so much in working on my craft. When I got established in the Hausa movie industry, I decided to work on my breaking into Nollywood. The second thing is that as Nollywood grew, the producers wanted a face that will sell their films in the north and at the same time appeal to their old fans. I guess they saw those two things in me.
DID YOU HAVE DIFFICULTIES ADAPTING TO THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE IN NOLLYWOOD OR DID YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH CULTURE SHOCK?
I didn’t have any difficulty settling into Nollywood but I did turn down a few roles due to religious expectations back home in the north. You know, in the movie industry, one has to be careful not to offend the fans because here in the north certain things are not acceptable.
YOUR ROLE IN THE WETIN DEY SERIES MADE YOU EVEN MORE POPULAR. HOW DID YOU GET THIS ROLE AND WAS IT EASY COMBINING WORK ON THE TV SERIES WITH OTHER MOVIE PROJECTS?
To be honest, it wasn’t easy combining my role in Wetin Dey with other projects I was involved in at that time. Hadiza Sadiq’s manager called me and said that the guys in the BBC wanted me to audition for a role. I asked him why I should come for the audition since I already was a well-known actor. Then someone told me that maybe it is because the BBC staffs aren’t familiar with the Nigerian movie industry and this is why they could ask a popular name to audition for a role. I later went for the audition, which turned out to be more of a screen test and I got the role. Initially, what I got was a minor role but the producers soon noticed my fan base and they got the writers to broaden the role. And it became one of the major characters in the series until it came to an end.
YOUR ROLE IN WETIN DEY WAS A MINOR ONE UNTIL THE PRODUCERS SAW THE FEEDBACK FROM YOUR FANS AND UPGRADED IT. A FEW KANNYWOOD STARS HAVE SAID THEY HAVEN’T GOTTEN INTO NOLLYWOOD BECAUSE THEY DON’T TAKE MINOR ROLES. DO YOU AGREE WITH THEIR LINE OF ARGUMENT?
Well, I am surprised that someone could say that I got headway in Nollwyood because I played minor characters. I have acted the lead role in lots of movies in Nollwyood, movies like Sitanda, Bitter Generation and Humble Heroes, to mention a few. Having said this, I would like to add that a good actor shouldn’t be particular about taking lead roles. Rather, you should be concerned with portraying characters that are challenging. Even in Kannywood, I have turned down lead roles in order to play more challenging characters. I like roles that are strong in content and I don’t mind taking such roles even when it is not the lead character.
FOR YEARS, YOU HAVE PLAYED THE ‘FINE GUY’ ROLE. WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOU THAT MAKES PRODUCERS STILL EAGER TO GIVE YOU THESE ROLES EVEN WITH THE APPEARANCE OF NEW FACES?
Honestly, I have played these roles so many times. And this is why these days; I am very particular about the roles I accept because I cannot do the ‘fine guy’ roles forever. What I am more interested in recent time are the characters that will show the kind of actor I am. At this stage of my career, I must show the fans that I am a good actor so they see me less as the guy with good looks.
BUT DO YOU FEEL THAT THERE ARE GUYS POSITIONED TO TAKE OVER THESE KINDS OF ROLES THAT YOU ARE STEPPING AWAY FROM?
Of course, there are guys who are well positioned to take over these roles. There are guys like Adam A. Zango and Sadiq Ishaq. Sometimes, when I watch them I am impressed by the way they interpret their roles. I am also happy to work with them because they challenge me to live up to the expectation of the fans. I am happy that these guys are doing well and they have a great following among fans. A lot has changed in Kannywood, things are not like before; now, the fans demand for quality acting and we are striving to meet up.
THERE HAS BEEN IMPROVEMENT IN THE ACTING AND CHARACTERISATION. IS IT THE SAME THING WITH THE STORY LINES AND THE TECHNICAL SIDE OF THE INDUSTRY?
I daresay Kannywood has good stories that have more depth than Nollywood. When you talk about films with good story lines, I will score Yoruba and Hausa films higher than English films. Coming to the issue of the quality of the technology being used, I will say that there has been plenty of improvement. I say this because the Director of Photography and cameramen are more educated than the ones that worked in the industry years back. These days, directors know exactly what they want. They treat stories in a creative way. In those days, we hardly had scripts, but now most Kannywood actors will only take a role when there is a good script. We in Kannywood are trying to make highly technical films like Phone Swap, Last Flight to Abuja and Figurine and I believe we would get there soon. For instance, there is a Kannywood film, Danmaraya Zaaki. It was released recently. I was very impressed when I watched the movie, though I played a minor role. The movie was shot between Kano and Niger Republic just because the producer wanted to get the settings right. In fact, in Kano, they built sets in order to stay true to the script. They also shot the movie with sophisticated cameras that are full HD. So, we are moving with the times.
IN OTHER WORDS, THE FUTURE OF THE HAUSA MOVIE INDUSTRY IS BRIGHT?
Yes, especially now that the Kano State government is willing to support the industry. Government has set up the Kannywood Film Academy here in Kano. People who don’t have formal training in different aspects of filmmaking presently dominate Kannywood. For example, I am an actor but I didn’t study any course related to film making, so, there are many people like me who can go to this school to get a formal education. I expect that things will improve greatly.
JUST LIKE YOU HAVE MENTIONED, THERE ARE KANNYWOOD STAKEHOLDERS WHO ARE WORRIED ABOUT THE EDUCATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS OF THOSE INVOLVED IN FILM MAKING IN THE NORTH. IS THIS WHY FEW KANNYWOOD STARS HAVE CROSSED OVER TO NOLLYWOOD?
Not really. I say this because I know a couple of Nollywood actors who aren’t graduates, yet, they are among the A-List. My advice to any talented actor is that they don’t need to develop a complex because they don’t have a degree. They should work on their skills so that they can achieve set goals. I know some people shy away from scripts once they see that it is in English but that shouldn’t be the case. People should take up the challenge of acting in English films. Like I told you, I took out time to engage in capacity building in order to fit into Nollywood.
DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO BRING NOLLYWOOD ACTORS INTO KANNYWOOD?
Yes I do. I am working on a film that has a traditional Hausa setting. The story is about a non-Hausa man living in a village in the north. He learns how to speak the language and soon is accepted into the community he lives in. I want to use the film to show that all the negative talk about the north is unfounded. Anyone can live in peace with his neighbours here in the north.
YOU HAVE BEEN IN MANY FILMS BUT WHAT ATTRACTS YOU TO A SCRIPT?
I am happy that you asked me this question because I am not all about lead or minor roles. What attracts me to a script is the depth of the role I am offered. Let me give you an example with The Last Flight to Abuja. The producer of the film, Obi Emelonye wanted a particular actor for a role but at a point the actor and Obi couldn’t agree, so he asked that I take over that role. But I thought otherwise. My character was more challenging than the one he wanted me to take over. Though, the other character had more scenes, I told him that I prefer to stick with my own character (the role of Dan). And it paid off because people walked up to me to congratulate me for my performance in the movie right after the screening.
WHAT MOMENTS WOULD YOU CHOOSE AS THE HIGH POINT OF YOUR CAREER?
Well, I cannot single out a particular moment as the high point of my career. I still look forward to doing even greater things.
WAS YOUR BEGINNING LIKE THAT OF MANY TOP ACTORS WHO WENT FOR MANY AUDITIONS BEFORE BEING PICKED?
I didn’t go through that road. Yes, while I was in the University, I did extras in movies shot in Jos. I was an extra in the film, Mama Sunday. But when I graduated, I went straight into Kannywood and three producers saw me on the set of the first movie I acted in. They handed me scripts to work on their movies and the rest is history.
YOU HAVE DENIED IT AND SANI DANJA TOO. BUT THE TALK ABOUT THE RIVALRY BETWEEN BOTH OF YOU HAS REFUSED TO GO AWAY. WHY IS THIS SO?
You know that Kannywood is modeled after Bollywood. In Bollywood, there are Amita Bachan and Dramendra. Each one of these actors has diehard fans. It is the fans that create the so-called rivalry. When both men appear in a movie and the character of one of them defeats the other, the opposing fans fight the other group. It is the same thing for Sani Danja and I. When we appear in movies in which our characters are at loggerheads, our fans fight each other. I have been summoned to the police station because of fans fighting each other over films that Sani Danja and I confronted each other. I now have to educate them that it is just a film and that Sani and I have a good working relationship.
HAVE YOU HAD EMBARRASSING MOMENTS WITH FANS?
I can’t even begin to recount them all. But I remember when a lady was harassing me with phone calls. She even told me that she didn’t think that my parents loved me as much as she did. According to her, I am her property because God has bestowed on her the ability to love me so much. She said all of these things because I told her that I had reached my limit with her and that I just can’t take everything fans like her bring my way. And she insisted that as a diehard fan, I must give her preferential treatment. But in all, I still thank God because there are some people willing to pay huge sums to be loved the way my fans love me.
HOW DOES YOUR WIFE COPE WITH ATTENTION FROM FEMALE FANS?
My wife is used to the attention I get. She met me as an actor. She knows that there are some things she just has to tolerate in order for us not to experience hitches.
WHAT KIND OF PERSON IS ALI NUHU AT HOME?
At home, I am your typical father and husband. Like today, I spent the whole of the day with my wife and children. I take my kids to school myself. There was a time their principal expressed amazement that I drop my children off, and I told him that I just have to because I want them to have good memories of me. I want my children to appreciate the love I have for them.
YOU TALKED ABOUT WANTING YOUR KIDS TO REMEMBER YOU AFFECTIONATELY. WHICH OF YOUR PARENTS WAS CLOSE TO YOU?
It has to be my mum. She showed me so much love. Though, she is late, I still think of her all the time. My father showed me love in his own way though he was strict. But my mother takes the prize when it comes to how much love a parent can show his/her child.
HOW RICH IS ALI NUHU?
I am just like every young man that is working hard to earn an income.
YOU CAN’T BE LIKE AN AVERAGE GUY WITH YOUR HUGE ARTISTE FEES AND NUMEROUS ENDORSEMENTS.
There are endorsements and all, but you just have to give back to society. So, I am not just collecting money and keeping it all to myself, I help the less privileged according to the laws of Islam. According to the tenets of Islam, there is a certain percentage of your income that you must give to the less privileged in society as a prosperous individual and I do this.
YOU SOUND KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT ISLAM. WHY IS IT THAT SOME PEOPLE SEE ENTERTAINERS ESPECIALLY KANNYWOOD ACTORS AS PEOPLE WHO AREN’T SERIOUS WITH THEIR RELIGION?
The notion that entertainers aren’t good Christians or Muslims is wrong. I have interacted with a number of my colleagues and I can tell you that they are good people. Like here in the north, I can say there is no need for me or any other actor to go publicizing what we do for people. So, you can’t judge artistes by a public show of their being religious.
WHAT IS THE SECRET BEHIND YOUR SLIM PHYSIQUE?
I jog; I do hundred sit-ups a day.