By Tomilola Coco Adeyemo
Funky Mallam does not want to be your favorite Mallam, neither does he want to be any other stereotypical character people from the North are portrayed as on TV, sorry.
The popular actor/comedian does not want to be put in a box, heck, he let me know in many ways during the course of this phone interview that he has the right to express his artistic independence through as many medium there is as possible.
And that is probably why he does not get enough sleep – he is currently working his ass off to change the perception of Northerners in Nollywood and even sleep would not get in his way – which is why after not getting enough sleep for days due to his work schedule, the October 1 Actor still made an effort to return my call for an interview and did not take the offer to rest first while we have the conversation later.
That is how this man is; an individual who has chosen to follow a path he is hundred percent certain will yield eventual results. And that is why Funky Mallam is probably the most revised edition of the Bible for utmost dedication and resilience in the business at the moment.
You’re an Hausa actor who could have easily chosen to be a part of Kannywood but chose to be a part of Nollywood instead, is there a reason you chose to be a part of Nollywood as opposed to Kannywood?
Not that I chose to be a part of Nollywood, but it is er the environment I found myself. I have been in Lagos since July 1999 and at the time, Kannywood was still an infant Industry. I started with Paradise Park when I came, that was in the year 2000. I remember (it was) me, Kunle Bamtefa, Julius Agwu and others. So er it was the environment I found myself that gave me the choice of where to be.
So at the time, Nollywood was the bigger industry…
Absolutely and it was the time I was in Lagos. They had started the Kannywood thing and it was not all over the place like it is now. You could not find Kannywood people in Lagos the way you find Hausa people shooting Kannywood movies in Lagos today. (At the time) you just had to be in one place.
But Kannywood was a part of your influence…
“Kannywood” has been there before I was born it was only the movies that came very late but the drama especially comedies and every other soap are as old as every other industry. And, I am proud of Kannywood.
So what’s your relationship with the big names in Kannywood presently like, you know like Sani Danja and Ali Nuhu?
I have a very cordial relationship with them. In fact Ali Nuhu wanted me to be part of his Hausa movie but I never had the opportunity to make it but then er because some of the time he calls me I might be busy and er Sani Danja is shooting a very big movie this time around in Hausa language and when we met at Superstory camp he said he will prefer to even shoot my own bit here in Lagos… the movie is being shot in Kano, Abuja, Lagos… so he wants me to be a part of the Lagos cast so er… I have a very cordial relationship with them. Especially since I am doing an international standard Hausa talk show.
Nollywood has evolved since you made your acting debut in 1999, the Industry has grown tremendously and now we even have our movies in the cinema compared to when you started out. You would agree with me that some of the people who used to be there are not there anymore, not relevant anymore. Has there been anything you have done to remain relevant? Anything you did to adapt as the Industry underwent major changes
First of all when somebody wants to do something, you have to know why you want to go into a particular thing or business. Becoming an Actor is not for the glamour or because you want to become popular. You know a lot of people have accused especially the female Actors to just not want to make a lot of money but have a lot of big shots as their boyfriends and to make money which if you look at the trend in some other parts is true but I know a lot of these ladies who came in for the passion and not for the glamour at the same time and they’re putting everything you know, to be able to sustain this and make it a major career in their lives. Likewise the guys at the same time, sometimes they just think of acting as an alternative… but if you really want to do something and you put everything you can into it and you’re like okay fine, you’re like this is what I actually want to do, this is what I have passion for then I don’t think it would be time that you will say… because movie is one of the jobs that you can have till you die because no matter the age you get to you still have a role to play… movie is all about human life and story goes on irrespective of people’s age. It is something you can do from the beginning to the end of your life, so those that are actually opting out, I don’t know the reason why they find themselves out of the game, maybe they’re behind the scenes… you know some go into politics and come back because the game is still waiting for them!
So talking about Actors going into Politics, are we going to be seeing you going into Politics at some point?
Into politics I think right from the beginning I am apolitical, er the type of dirty games they play in politics I don’t think I will be able to withstand it er to be a leader I think I should be given the opportunity to do the right thing and nobody should tell me what to do… I think that is the reason I come to like this particular regime of Buhari with him er… there is a sign of transparency and stuff…
Okay, so you’re very Pro Buhari
I am not very Pro Buhari, I am one of the people that are watching him to see how he is going to end the game at the same time, you know…and I am backing anybody who is willing to change this country. People are suffering, people are dying, a lot of youths don’t have jobs today so what are the Leaders doing to solve these problems? If somebody is coming from Ghana to be the President of this country, as far as the person is going to be sincere and I think I will support that person…
So you don’t mind having a non-Nigerian President…
I don’t mind having non-Nigerian as far as he is going to bring this country to its feet… I’m sick of seeing people who come with grey hair and tell lies, say all sort of things with impunity. Look at the people we see on TV who we think can never tell any lies and these are the people stealing billions… putting people in hardship, what would they benefit?
With this passion you have about the country, it’s surprising you don’t want to be in Politics I mean you can try the Desmond Elliot route…
When the right time, with the right people then I will try. In the past year we have seen what Politics is about, it is not about you because people come to sponsor you and they tell you what to do. So even if you have the mind to change things you know, you still can’t do it because you’re answerable to some certain cabals.
As a part Hasua/part Fulani Actor in Nollywood would you say you’re part of a minority? Would you say it causes you to be stereotyped when handed roles?
As a matter of fact, I think I serve as a minority in Nollywood… the first role I played was a Mallam role and people don’t cast me except these roles are available but I try so hard no matter how much they are going to pay me to reject these roles because I want to believe that I am the one who is going to break that jinx at the end of the day. So I have to make people to believe in me… I don’t have a limit when it comes to acting… give me any role and I will kill it! In The Department I played the son of a multi billionaire so that was wonderful… during the screening someone said they could not believe I could play the role the way I did. If you look at October 1 I was able to play a role in my own dialect, not comic I was able to play a passionate role which made people shed tears in the cinema. I am exonerating myself and people are beginning to believe in me… people come from America and even here in Lagos people say I want you to be a part of my movie.
How was it like working with Kunle Afolayan?
Kunle never wanted to waste his time on location He had a huge budget and he had to kill it and get out of there in time. He actually works with Professionals, if you can’t deliver, he cannot work with you. He has no time to be telling you what to do and start giving you all sorts of orientation in Location…
So let’s play our favorite TNS game
Funke Akindele or Helen Paul
You’re putting me in a very tight corner! (laughs) I respect Helen Paul, Funke Akindele is my Yoruba good friend… why not let me pick the two of them?
Okay, I’ll pick Helen Paul.
Olu Jacobs or Pete Edochie
Na wa for you o, these your questions get K-leg, no cause wahala for me o… Pete Edochie. He speaks Hausa, I speak Igbo and we kind of relate more… Pete Edochie.
Sani Danja or Ali Nuhu
Both of them!