By KEMI YESUFU
Many starry-eyed fans love Kannywood starlet, Maryam Booth. But for the actress, who started her career at the tender age of eight, the man who will win her heart is one who is ready to be her friend.
In this interview with The Entertainer, Booth speaks on her love life and why marrying a wealthy man isn’t a priority. She also opens up on her career, family and her love for education. Enjoy it:
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE MOVIE INDUSTRY AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE?
My mum, Hajiya Zainab Booth is an actress, so it was natural for me to get into acting early in life. I was eight years old when I appeared in my first movie. My younger brother is an actor too. Ours is a family of actors.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP AS THE DAUGHTER OF AN ACTRESS?
It was fun. All the artistes I came in contact with treated me like their kid sister. I have never had a problem with anyone in Kannywood. My mum is like a mother to many Hausa movie stars.
BETWEEN YOU, YOUR BROTHER AND YOUR MUM, WHO WOULD YOU PICK AS THE BEST ACTOR IN YOUR FAMILY?
I will pick my mother. She is the best in my family. I say this without a doubt. Aside her acting prowess, my mum is the best thing to happen to me. She is just great. I can sacrifice anything from my mum. I don’t hide anything from her. She even knows when I am dating.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE ON YOUR FIRST TIME ON SET?
Being on set comes naturally to me. I looked forward to acting in a movie, because, right from my childhood I loved watching films. I did my first film with Mondora Enterprises. I really was excited about going on set. All I wanted was to watch myself on the screen to see how I would look. The excitement erased any kind of anxiety I would have experienced.
WERE YOU PAID FOR THE MOVIE?
Yes, I was paid.
FROM THAT TIME TILL NOW WHAT HAS KEPT YOU GOING?
I love everything about the Hausa movie industry. I came in as a child and I have grown into an adult, so I see fellow actors, the directors and the producers as members of my family. Besides, the industry needs people like me to continue with where the older ones stopped.
YOU SAID YOU LIKE EVERYTHING ABOUT KANNYWOOD, WHAT ABOUT THE PERCEPTION OF ARTISTES AS PEOPLE WHO SHOULDN’T BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY? SOME EVEN SAY ACTRESSES ARE WAYWARD, DO YOU AGREE WITH THIS?
People judge artistes without knowing them. But I know that I don’t go around doing bad things and that is why I will continue to be in the movie industry. As an insider, I can tell you that entertainers aren’t irresponsible.
HAVE YOU HAD TO EXPLAIN TO PEOPLE WHO THINK YOU BEHAVE LIKE SOME CHARACTERS YOU PORTRAY IN FILMS?
Yes. But most of the time, the problem comes from those who think all Kannywood actors are illiterates. Some of them post a lot of nonsense on my Facebook wall, others tweet things that aren’t correct about Kannywood. I just ignore such people. It is my fans that turn such silly postings into a debate by trying to defend us that we have educated actors and actresses in the Hausa movie industry.
DOES THE PERCEPTION OF KANNYWOOD AS A PLACE FOR THE UNSCHOOLED UPSET YOU?
To an extent, I don’t blame those who say this because some of the actresses in Kannywood have refused to get an education. They don’t think it is important to get an education because they already have a career. Most of them think they are too old to return to school. But they are still young and they can give education a second trial.
SO, HOW DID SUCH PEOPLE REACT WHEN YOU DECIDED TO GO TO BAYERO UNIVERSITY, KANO TO STUDY?
I struggled to complete secondary school due to my career, because of this, when I got admission to study at BUK I took a break from the industry. I put my education first. I recently completed my diploma in Mass Communications. Now, I am ready to return to movies though, I plan to combine school with movies for my degree. You know, University is not like a college. A serious student can work during the holidays and when it is time for school he/she will put work aside.
HOW DID YOUR COURSE MATES TREAT YOU?
They treated me like one of their course mates. I don’t see myself as an extra-ordinary person because I am an actress. When fellow students realized that I was down-to-earth, they related with me well.
DID YOUR LECTURERS GIVE YOU SPECIAL TREATMENT?
No, they didn’t. I did my course work on time just like every other student.
ARE YOU SURE YOUR LECTURERS AND COURSE MATES WILL AGREE WITH THE PICTURE YOU HAVE PAINTED?
I am one hundred percent sure that they will say the same thing. I was in school to learn and nothing more.
HOW MANY FRIENDS DID YOU MAKE WHILE IN SCHOOL?
I can’t start mentioning names. Do you know why? I was so friendly; I had to choose the group I would be in when we had assignments in my class because many people added my name to their group lists.
One time, my name appeared in six different lists for one assignment. I don’t think that will happen if I wasn’t friendly and humble.
WAS IT TOUGH MEETING THE EXPECTATIONS OF FELLOW STUDENTS WHO THOUGHT THAT AS A CELEBRITY, YOU HAVE IT ALL?
Yes it was. I remember complaining of being broke and people say that I wasn’t speaking the truth. They will say that I ought to be buoyant all the time. I had to explain to them that anyone could be broke. Nobody grows money on trees; so, there are times when people don’t have enough money.
YOU ARE HIGHLY CONNECTED IN KANNYWOOD, COULD THIS BE WHY YOU GET GOOD ROLES?
No, I don’t get roles because of my connections. Most times, directors and producers cast me for teenage and young women roles. It’s directors that choose who they cast for roles. I guess those that choose me do so after reading the script and they look around to pick the right person for the role.
SO, HAVE YOU BECOME A SCREEN DIVA BECAUSE YOU ARE FIRST PICK FOR CERTAIN ROLES?
Not at all, acting is my job. When I leave the location, I am the girl next door. There is absolutely no reason for me to be proud or conceited.
WHICH WOULD YOU PICK AS YOUR BREAK –OUT ROLE?
It is the role of Dijangala, which was in a film of the same title. Most people call me Dijangala. The story of Dijangala is a touching one because it is something people can relate to. Dijangala is a young farm girl who was raped by the son of the wealthy farm owner. The film tells the story of how poor farm girls survive the hardship life brought their ways.
WHO ARE THE ACTORS YOU LOVE WORKING WITH?
I will pick Ali Nuhu and Sani Danja because they are highly professional. When you appear opposite them, you are sure that things will go according to plan and there won’t be a need for too much talk.
THE TWO ACTORS YOU MENTIONED ARE THE BIGGEST NAMES IN KANNYWOOD. ARE YOU SURE THEY ARE EASY TO WORK WITH?
They are easy to work with. Honestly, they are always on point.
HAVE YOU HAD MOMENTS YOU WANTED TO QUIT ACTING?
Well, I have had my fair share of unwanted attention from critics of the Hausa movie industry. They post all kinds of things on my wall. Because of this, sometimes I wish that people pay to get an account on Facebook and Twitter. But I have never played with the idea of leaving Kannywood.
HOW DO YOU COPE WITH THE ATTENTION FROM THE OPPOSITE SEX?
Lots of guys want me to follow them on twitter, but I can’t follow every one of them. I don’t see myself as this big star but like some people do, I cannot just follow everyone who asks me to on twitter. Even some of the ones that I agreed to follow, I had to cut them off because of their rudeness. Most of these people think that you should spend the whole of your time chatting on social network. They forget that you have work to do.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR FASHION SENSE?
I am not really into the heavy use of jewellery. If you have watched my films, you would have noticed that I am light on jewellery. For my clothes, I design what I wear. I sketch the design and hand it over to my tailor and she gives me the finished product. I wear jeans and tops but I don’t wear things that will expose my body.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH YOUR FREE TIME?
Like I told you, I love watching films. I also love watching series like Desperate Housewives and 24.
SO, WHO IS THE LUCKY MAN IN YOUR LIFE?
I am not dating any guy now.
WHY, HAVE YOU BEEN CHOOSY?
I haven’t been choosy. I am not ready for a relationship now. I’ve had relationships in the past but now I would rather be on my own. Things got complicated in the past.
ARE YOU SURE YOU WEREN’T THE PERSON WHO COMPLICATED THINGS?
I wasn’t the one who made things difficult. It is the families of the guys I dated. They weren’t comfortable with my being an actress. The Hausa society isn’t as liberal as the south. What I want to tell people is that actresses are just like the girl next door. People should be judged by their characters not their professions. Actresses can be more obedient than the so-called normal girls.
WHAT DOES YOUR IDEAL MAN LOOK LIKE?
He has to be my friend. I want a guy who will be my friend though we are dating.
SO HE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE RICH?
Yes. I have never dated a guy because he is rich. I don’t even like my boyfriend giving me money. I don’t take money from men. If I were into rich guys you would have seen flashy cars parked in my compound. You are in my house and you must have noticed that it is a simple place. If I love a man, I can live anywhere with him. I can endure any condition as far as we love each other.