How I have stayed focused —Monalisa Chinda
Monalisa Chinda is a renowned Nollywood figure with awards and recognitions to show for her years in the film industry. In this interview with ADEOLA OTEMADE, she shares her success story and how Nollywood is coming of age, among other issues.
Would you say times have changed in the movie industry?
Oh yes, a great deal. Times have really changed in the movie industry. Things are gradually falling into place, especially some of the things we grow collectively as an industry. There is increase in collaborative measures; international bodies are buying into the vision of Nollywood as they are gradually seeing it as a potential gold mine. Our movies are being shown at international festivals and exhibitions, and there is increase in the number of hands being employed as a result of these developments. Also, more people are inclining towards entertainment, and if you look at the way Nigeria is going right now, if it is not politics, it is oil, if it is not oil, then, it is entertainment. That is why we need to allow the industry grow because it is getting increasingly lucrative. In the next three to five years, everybody will be talking about entertainment and social media. So, things have really changed but there are a few challenges here and there.
What are the few challenges?
We still need to find our way round the challenge of funding. We are yet to have our own film village the way Hollywood has theirs. We are still coming up short on having our own conglomerate where you come into a space and say this is Nollywood. There are rumours of government giving us land and how we have not been able to do anything with it. What I would just say is that there is a whole lot to be done and areas to be addressed.
There are accusations that Nollywood movies now lack content and substance. How would you react?
I totally disagree with this because we are content-driven in this part of the world. But the question should be whether people are buying into the contents. There is still hesitation when it comes to movies, especially when people realise a movie is a Nollywood one. We are pregnant with raw talents and contents, but we are struggling to showcase all these stuffs in a place like Nigeria where we put our talents to use. It is not just about entertaining the audience, it is also about having a worthwhile message imbibed into a stage play. Let’s talk about erectile dysfunction which is the message of the last stage play I had. These are areas people don’t want to delve into. They can only visit it when we come and display it here on stage or screen. Human beings, especially the black man, like to see things before they are able to believe. When you talk about content, we have it. But when you talk about how to bring this content to life, that is where the challenge is. We are not doing badly in terms of content development.
What are you doing towards bringing this content to life?
Like I told you, we are attracting more Western interests. Netflix is already partnering with us. Some international entertainment bodies have also come to collaborate with Nigerian entertainment bodies. I also try to contribute into the space as well. So, we have been there for a long time, but I think it’s time we took the bull by its horns. We have our own ideas. We should create it and meet people that are able to buy into the content. Then, we are able to achieve. For instance, I have Fidelity Bank backing some of my content. They are partnering with me, as well as Terra Kulture Arena, Bolanle Austin-Peters and many others. People are gradually buying into some of our ideas and there is a whole lot going on with producers and content developers.
How have you been able to remain consistent over the years?
Well, let’s say it’s because I have been able to remain focused over the years. This is my area of interest. It is my passion in the sense that it’s about the public, about people and about the world. My fans have also been encouraging. When they see that you are doing something right, they support you with their feedbacks.
The industry might have grown in leaps and bounds but many believe that a lack of structure remains a bane for the progress of the industry. How do you feel about this?
I have evolved the industry has evolved and things are changing. This is not how things used to be; they are better now. We have more enlightened people who see what we have been doing consistently for the past 25years, and are buying into it. The cinemas have come to stay, Musson Centre has come to stay, Terra Culture has come to stay and every stakeholder who invests in our creatives has come to stay. Consistency for me is seeing some of these things in place and encouraging some of us to continue in our fields of work. It’s not been easy.
How challenging was your role as Mama Sheriff in the stage play ‘Alhaji’?
Mama Sheriff is an interesting character. She is a cunning, slimy, greedy woman, who saw two wives dealing with one man and still wanted to be the third wife. She is greedy and materialistic who only cares about her interests. She is a street wise woman, who would rather be a leech on something that she did not sow or struggle for. So, she is such an interesting character. We are talking about erectile dysfunction. Alhaji can no longer satisfy his three wives, and with all the stress he faces, he gets home to meet his three wives fighting always. It doesn’t help his emotions; it doesn’t help him. And these three women are strong-headed such that they always want to have a piece of Alhaji, but Alhaji is unable to satisfy them. So, he decides to look for a solution. There is no point in being sexually useless. We are able to take home the lesson that partners must be able to compromise at some point to make the home excel.
Are we going to be seeing more of human angle stories?
Definitely, we are going to be talking more about rape, domestic violence, erectile dysfunction, paedophiles. I once did a movie; it’s entitled ‘Innocent’. It’s the story of an 11-year-old boy that was being molested by an elderly woman. These are areas that people need to see more which reflect reality. There are issues that are difficult to discuss in the open, but when people see it on stage and in films, they are able to relate. People can also be spurred to be better as a result.
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You have featured in over 200 movies, how have you been able to able to cope with stress, marriage, amidst other commitments?
It’s just about finding the balance and finding the right partner. It takes two to tango because if your partner doesn’t like what you are doing, problem will surely arise. So, finding a partner who understands your job, supports your work and you as an individual is key. It will help to know how to find the balance.
What advice would you give to Nigerian women passing through marital abuse?
If it’s life threatening, I would advise that they should take a walk. But if it’s something they can manage, then you just manage it. For me, I will walk away. I can’t speak for every woman out there. Women have died because of ‘what would my father and mother think’. This shouldn’t be. It is you first before anybody else. When you die, you won’t know what would happen to the family you left behind. One needs to stay alive for the sake of the children, which is the priority. Take a walk; leave that environment first before taking any decision. Talk to God. talk to the Holy Spirit. You will get some sort of direction. You can’t stay in a hostile environment and excel. I don’t know how people do it. For me, I excuse myself at any slight sign of discomfort, and it has always worked for me that way.
Any plans for your fans to watch out?
I don’t like revealing my plans like that. There was a time I did and there was some sort of delay somewhere. Watch out for me in the next one month, you will see something explosive.