Like My Father, I Love Fair Women– Aluwe
HIS journey into the acting world, he believes, was ordained by God. In fact, since joining the Ojo Ladipo Theatre Group in the early 70s, Sunday Omobolanle (popularly known as Aluwe) has remained one of our foremost actors and comedians. The Oyo State-born thespian shared his story with AZUH ARINZE…
When and how did you join acting?
It was in the early 70s when I joined the Ojo Ladipo Theatre Group. I started on a part time basis, but later, like most other members, it became a permanent thing. When I was doing it part time was when I was still working with one of my uncles named Mr. Ayoola (now late). He was a pharmacist and I followed him around, distributing drugs to such pharmaceutical companies as Falemi and a host of others. He later died in an accident, together with a friend and two others.
Though, the family later met and said we should continue with the company Mr. Ayoola left behind, we ran it for sometime and later I took some time off and embraced acting full time. That was how I joined the Ojo Ladipo Theatre Group
which metamorphosed into Awada Kerikeri after the death of the leader, Ojo Ladipo, popularly called Baba Mero.
Did you join acting for lack of what to do or…?
(Cuts in) It’s due to the interest I have for it (acting). What really provoked my interest was a play titled Gbekude on NTA 10, a weekly drama programme. This drama was staged by the students of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). I loved this particular episode and there and then, I decided I was going to be an actor.
How did you come about the stage name, Aluwe?
I adopted the name from somebody. The man used to be my late uncle’s (Mr. Ayoola’s) staff. We called him Aluwe. This was because merely looking at the old man, without him uttering a word, you’ll start laughing. His visage and mien were comical. So, the new Aluwe (Sunday Omobolanle) is a replica of that man in manners, behaviour…
Is the man still alive?
Does the man also wear multi-rags like you normally do on screen?
No, I’ll tell you how I came about wearing rags. We went to perform at the premises of NTA, Ibadan. After the performance, a man called me and said that since Baba Sala (Apostle Moses Olaiya) had his own unique style of making-up, cosume-wise, and Baba Mero too had his, he advised that I should create my own identity too.
I saw sense in this man’s advice and I put on my thinking cap. Then, my mind went back to my days in my village, Ilora, where some people normally put on two or more clothes to either show off or shield themselves from the weather. So, I decided to be putting on multi-rags, then touch my hair with powder and coat my teeth with ink, complemented with a pair of weather-beaten boots.
And you think this has contributed to giving an instant recognition to the character of Aluwe?
Yes. To survive in the acting world, an actor must have a kind of identity or a logo that people can easily identify him with.
Assuming you were not an actor, what other profession would you have been in?
Hmmm! In those days when our group used to go and perform at the Bar Beach Show, I got fascinated with the job of the cameramen (cinematographers). The job then had a sort of panache and style that I had thought if I did not continue as an actor, definitely, I must be a camera man (cinematographer). I would have loved to be one of them.
Most observers believe that you are a stock character. That is, you are only good as a comic (comedian). Are they correct?
That is not correct. A good actor must not be contented with playing just one role over and over. He must be versatile. Those who have watched Kannakanna will tell you that I did not play a comic role in it. In Efunsetan too, I played Osuntunde, which is not a comic role. In my movie, Ekun Alagbara, I played different roles ranging from the serious to the mundane. And there are prizes for those people (buyers) who would be able to identify me in those different roles.
Again, when our leader, Ojo Ladipo (Baba Mero) died in 1978, we did a stage play, Omi lo Danu to recapture his last days. I played Baba Mero while he was sick and was in the hospital. Later, during his funeral service, I was the officiating pastor. To cap it all, I still did my normal Aluwe role.
On our theatre scene, once an actor is good at carrying out certain role(s), for example yourself and Baba Suwe, who are good comedians, most of your fans do not believe you should be seen playing other serious roles…
Yes, your observation is correct. But I think it now behoves on the actor to tell them (fans) that he is not a stock character. Look at that comedian very well, he surely did not start as a comedian, but an actor. For example, if a comedian is now picked to play the role of a lawyer, he (comedian) must completely drop the toga of a comedian and enmesh himself in the role of a lawyer.
This role requires seriousness, and no demonstration of comic antics. In the movie, Coming to America, Eddy Murphy played more than three different roles, and you will hardly know he’s the one.
You want to talk about the problems facing the performing arts and its practitioners in this country…
Successive governments in this country have done nothing to assist the arts and artistes in this country. But with the dawn of democracy, we are hopeful that things would change for the better. In India, they earn a lot of foreign exchange from films. If we get the necessary financial assistance, we’ll surpass India. We’ve got the manpower and we’ve got the talents.
Two, we have a lot of intruders in this profession, but we the professionals must not allow them to destroy the industry for us. This is because they (intruders) have nothing to lose. They rushed into it from either their carpentry or masonry jobs, they could as well rush back there.
We the professionals have nowhere to go. Three, there are a lot of mix-ups in the industry. You see someone wanting to be a writer, director, producer and probably the marketer. Jack of all trades, master of none. There should be specialization, a kind of division of labour.
When you are on set, where does your inspiration to act or make people laugh come from?
Practice is one. If I had been briefed on what is required of me, I’ll start rehearsing on my own. Assuming I’m given the role of a mad man, I’ll dash my mind back to a particular mad man that I’m familiar with and recall all his antics. When I come on set, I assume the character of that particular mad man. Likewise any other role, I’ll always have a character I’ll use as a peg.
Some people believe there is no big deal in making people laugh; that anybody can be a comedian, compared to playing serious roles?
Ehen! And you think so too? To make people laugh is very, very hard o. Remember, there are people who don’t laugh easily. While performing, I look out for such in the audience. I ensure I send them reeling in laughter. Comedy is a sort of spirit. For you to flow as a comedian, you must be possessed by that spirit.
What do you mean by comedy being a spirit?
A comedian receives inspiration as he climbs the stage and that inspiration never leaves him until he descends that stage. I’ll say a comedian is not an ordinary being.
Did you at any time regret being an actor?
No way! I believe money is not everything. If I come back to this world again, I’ll return as an actor. I got the national honour, MFR, Member of the Federal Republic, through my efforts as an actor. It is a sort of glory on its own. Again, I never thought of riding a Pathfinder, but I bought one. I got all these through acting. What else do I ask for, from God?
Would you encourage any of your kids to take acting as a profession?
God knows their destinies. If any of them wants to be an actor, fine. But I’ll always tell them that whatever you want to be in life, you must be truthful and pursue it with sincerity of purpose.
There’s this rumour making the rounds that there is a rift between you and Adebayo Salami (Oga Bello), how far is that true?
There is no rift between us. I think some people want to create it, but we won’t allow them. I believe some are just befuddled by the closeness and oneness between Oga Bello and I. He (Oga Bello) is my brother. In fact, we are family friends. Even some people think I’m from llorin, where Oga Bello hails from. Here is (points to a girl) one of his daughters with me. I wonder where they got the rumour from.
What sort of people turn you off?
I hate liars!
Any new experience that you’ll like to share with us?
I’m now a born again Christian and I’m using this forum to appeal to my colleagues to turn a new leaf too. If you are in God, He will teach you what to do and lead you. Since I’m now born again, I believe old things have passed away and behold everything is new.
What are those old things?
I won’t discuss that with you. Old things have passed away, that’s all.
You are a polygamist, having married two wives (Kudi and Peju). Is the action by choice or accidental?
It’s the wish of God. I believe that all what I’m doing had been pre-destined and pre-determined by God. It’s not by my own making.
Why is Peju living in Ibadan while your first wife, Kudi is with you in Lagos?
As I told you earlier, I don’t do things on my own. Lagos is my home, Ibadan also is my home. That’s how God wants it. Moreover, in Ibadan, we (the family) have a project there that Peju is in charge of.
How have you been coping with two wives?
For me, there’s no problem. Remember, there may be an individual who has one wife and that one would give him problems of twenty wives. I thank God for the nature of the wives He gave me. They relate to each other like sisters.
Which colour preference do you love as far as women are concerned?
I love yellow (light-complexioned) women.
Is that the reason you married two light-complexioned women?
Actually, I took after my father. He (father) married a fair woman. In that regard, you can also say I resemble my father (laughter).
Your counterparts in English movies believe their works are superior to those in Yoruba, in terms of storyline, glamour and effects…
I don’t believe that. Movies are not all about glamour, gigantic houses and what have you. The story must be logical and believable, and it must be educative. In fact, most of the movies in English are a parody of our works.
What’s your dream for the industry?
My dream is to have a big studio and a museum where all my works will be kept for people to visit and avail themselves of the legacy I had built over the years, even for generations yet unborn.
If you are chanced to meet the President today, what will you request from him?
I’ll tell him to help artistes. There are so many of us who have ideas, but no money to actualise them. Formerly, we had what was termed Open Theatre, wholly financed by the government. That is no more. I think I’ll tell him to give us The Artistes’ Bank, where we could go to and borrow money to do our productions. We’ll definitely pay back after the sale of such work(s). Ninety-nine per cent of Nigerian artistes are living in penury. We need Federal Government’s assistance.
NB: This interview had earlier been published
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