One of the veterans in the Nigerian movie industry, Alhaji Kareem Adepoju, popularly known as Baba Wande, is respected by both his colleagues and viewers for his oratory prowess, and fluency in Yoruba language. The 75 year-old actor, in this interview by FEMI OGUNTAYO, talks about his experiences and some issues affecting the Nigerian movie industry.
As a veteran in the movie industry, would you say the industry is developing at the right pace?
The industry has developed a lot, because if one is ready to work, there are a lot of opportunities to excel in the acting profession now, compared to our time. If not for the exploiters amongst us, who just want to enjoy all the benefits and profits alone, there are several avenues to make money these days. Even when your movie is being aired on DSTV for example, you get paid for it, but there are some people who have decided to block those avenues, depriving others of benefiting from this.
Who are these people?
Well, they know themselves.
Some people complain about that too much use of the English language in Yoruba movies these days has stopped them from watching Yoruba movies, what is your say on this?
It is civilisation that caused all these. Even at our various homes, it has reflected in the way we communicate. We can’t say a sentence in Yoruba Language without slotting in English language one way or the other and that is why it reflects in our movies too these days. The Yoruba language is not even complete anymore, in most homes now. All you hear is ‘good morning’, ‘how are you?’, ‘Greet Daddy’, ‘Bring that thing’, ‘Sit down’ and so on. It has now become part of us, so it is civilisation that caused all these.
So, what do you think can be done to ensure that our movies, at least, serve as an avenue to learn more about our indigenous languages? Can this self awareness be restored?
It cannot be restored totally, but some of us can only decide that since we are acting in Yoruba, we must consciously make sure that we speak in indigenous Yoruba language throughout. We can only enjoin others also to make sure that they promote our indigenous languages in indigenous movies.
Which of your movies or projects would you regard as the best ever and why?
I don’t think there is a movie I did that I don’t love, but my movie ‘Ti Oluwa N’ile’ which I wrote still receives accolades from viewers. So, I can say that movie is one of my best so far because people speak well of the movie a lot.
Why do you think ‘Ti Oluwa N’ile’ was so outstanding?
The way we shot that movie made it outstanding. Tunde Kilani’s expertise made the production of the movie a success, having mastered what I wrote.
Are there movies you did and regretted working on?
I have never worked on a movie and regret ever working on it because I always make sure I work on my movies in ways that viewers will learn one or two things. Even if I was invited to feature in a movie, I ensure it has a good storyline before agreeing to take part in such a project.
On this job, when was your first time travelling out of the country and how was the experience?
My first experience traveling out of this country was when I travelled to Mecca and I was so happy. No one sponsored my pilgrimage; I got the money to travel to Mecca from my earnings from this acting profession. So, I was really happy.
If you had the opportunity to start your acting career all over again, what would you do differently?
Well, just like the industry has now developed so well and it is now different from the stage plays that we were doing then, they now do cinema movies. I would also love to produce cinema movies.
What are the movies or projects you are working on or have worked on of recent?
I have several projects on the ground that I am working on and most of them are even online. The most recent one is entitled ‘Iwa’ and another one which will soon be out is called ‘Silent Millionaire’. We just finished the production of ‘Silent Millionaire’ and it will be out very soon.
What type of movies would you still like to participate in now at this stage of your career or can you still participate in any kind of movies?
No, I only participate in movies that teaches morals, promotes religion, culture and traditions now. I don’t participate in movies just for the sake of it, because I believe that whatever we do now, God will definitely ask us when we face Him on Judgment Day.
Is there anything you would like to change in the movie industry if you can do that?
We can only enjoin them not to say because they want give the audience what they want; they should now be promoting nudity or sexuality in the movies. They should do things that are appropriate to God and man.
Is there a day you will never forget in your acting career?
That was the day I was invited to Chicago to receive an award. It was a day I will never forget in a hurry because when I got there I was surprised by the reception I got; I was surprised that they were all waiting there because of me, in faraway America.
What would be your advice for people planning to start a career in acting?
I would say honesty and patience are the keys to success. They should also ensure that whatever they do is in line with God’s guidelines and they should not just believe they are only acting. Acting goes beyond just demonstrating to the camera, because whatever you do, people will learn from it, whether good or bad. So they should do things that will please God and at the same time please the people.
Is there anything you think the government can do to assist actors, especially veterans in the industry who are ageing and are literally retiring?
I don’t know how to say this; do they want us to start begging people on the street before they assist us, financially or otherwise? We cannot tell them this is what they should do for us; it is the people that watch us that will assist us in whatever way they can.
What is your advice for present-day stars on how to stay relevant?
I will say, the viewers are the ones who will tell us what they see about us. We cannot see ourselves. When the people see you and they see pride in you, I will say, that thing that has made you arrogant will one day be gone. Whatever position one is today, he or she will leave the place one day, so my advice for them is that, they should not allow any position or fame they have acquired today make them arrogant.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected you and what have you been up to?
It has really affected me. The fact that I could not travel was a big challenge for me because when you are invited to a movie location and because of the lockdown you can’t travel, how will you eat? At the same time, we have to maintain social distancing. Everything became so difficult. So the coronavirus has not allowed me do anything. I have just been at home not really doing much.
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