My father once saw me as a prodigal son – Basorge Tariah Jnr.
If three things are not to be denied this guy by anyone, then, they must be his high I.Q, good dress sense and of course an overflowing sense of humour. An interview session with the handsome, articulate, focused and versatile actor, comedian, compere and director will not only make an interviewer’s day, it will also leave you on the floor, rolling with laughter and enjoyment. Remember the dexterity with which he so manipulated Waffi language as Tonero in Domitila I? What about his weekly madness of fun as Do Good, the love-crazy houseboy in Candlelight? AZUH ARINZE, savoured much more than that recently when he called on Basorge Tariah Jnr. (fondly called Basone by very close friends) at his Lagos home. Enjoy what transpired between them twosome…
What can you tell us about your person?
Yeah! I’m Basorge Tariah Jnr. I hail from Buguma-Kalabari in Rivers State. I’m as old as I feel (General laughter). I attended Township School, Port Harcourt, Enitona High School and the University of Port Harcourt. I read Theatre Arts and graduated in 1993. I served in Abeokuta, Ogun State. I’m the third child in a family of four, two boys and two girls. One of the girls is now late. I enjoy eating spaghetti, plantain and edika-ikong. My mum is from Calabar. She is retired now, but used to work with Kingsway as a supervisor. My dad, Nat, was a banker.
How did you get involved with the industry?
I started as a young boy. Then, I had this knack for dancing. So, when I got into secondary school, I discovered that I had another fad which was acting. I even won the Best Actor Award for three consecutive years. That was between my year one to three. But then I still knew I had a greater love for dancing than acting and that was how I went back to dancing. I later participated and even won the 1st prize in the John Player Dancing Competition in Rivers State. I took the 4th position nationwide and also later represented Cross River State. And what that means is that one of the awards was for dad and the other for mum (laughter). I took the 3rd position. I equally got another as the Best Behaved Dancer. Of course, dad wasn’t happy with me all those while and that was because he felt I wasn’t going to make any head way even with the awards. At a point, he even began to see me as a prodigal son. Dad’s greatest concern then was my studies which he felt will be affected. It was after all that, that I now went in for Theatre Arts. He never wanted to give me his support until one of my aunties, Kikigba, and one other uncle, Mr. Kingboy Tekene, asked him to let me be and also pursue the career of my choice. It was from here that the whole thing started to fall into place. While in school also I was into serious showbizness, organizing campus shows, comedy trains, etc. I did the first comedy show in Port Harcourt.
So, how does your father feel now? Especially with the success so far made?
He feels happy like every other father whose son is trying his best.
Lately, your face has not been in movies. What is the problem?
I’m just taking my time. I’ve done enough and the only thing that I want to prove now is excellence, swim above the waters. What I want to do now are jobs that will advance beyond our shores. But most importantly, I now write, compere for many corporate bodies. They come almost weekly and I also do artistic consultancy on scripts. Let’s just say general artistic consultancy.
Sorry, what do you mean by artistic consultancy?
An artistic consultant is one who is endowed in the arts generally, an all rounded rounder in all spheres of arts.
What do you have to say about the current state of the industry?
Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry; appalling situation. It is true that it started like this in other countries, but when the growth of art is amputated for too long, it is referred to as a crippled child. I had believed that all the rush, enthusiasm of those rushing into it will create advancement in terms of acting, directing, marketing, total packaging, etc, but we seem worse off now than when we started. I laugh because I still see a future for us despite all these. I know that whether we crawl or creep, we shall surely get there because I’m a staunch believer in the philosophy of change. The only thing that I quarrel with is the pace.
Having said all that or rather sounded passionate about the industry, what in your own estimations are the problems facing the industry?
One, I want to believe that people are taking the industry for granted. They seem to think that it is an all comers’ event and so they can get away with all their negative attitudes. It is either you are trained as an artiste or you acquire the skills over time by practicing. It is true that talent is a common thing, but when you do not suffer the adversity of acquisition, you will never value that common talent. People do not make effort to improve on their limitations. They think that the mere fact that they are in the picture now justifies the ovation they enjoy. My advice is that we should constantly sleep and wake up with new ways of improving this industry. Actors should learn new techniques; directors, new approaches, script writers should create more laudable topics, issues with depth and challenge the actors with conflict of emotions and actions; marketers should create awareness for these products. They should not define demand by how many people come to you to distribute, but justify themselves by not only marketing the films but also the actors. Attempt direct marketing and seek other opportunities of improving the lot of those involved by relating with other people in other sectors of the economy. Finance and private investors should see great possibilities in making this the biggest thing after oil. It’s happening everywhere in the world, Hollywood, Europe and even South America. You can’t expect us to perform magic if you don’t provide the paraphernalia for performing magic, which is the firework, glamour, colour, etc and make idols and role models out of nobodies because these are the people who make people buy these movies.
How do you see yourself?
I’m an unassuming, but secretly ambitious young man who is aggressively focused, someone whose one major dream is to be able to make everybody in the world to accept him.
Can that be possible. I mean the global acceptance aspect?
Yes. You know why, because one common language everywhere in the world is laughter and I seem to have that developing wit and sense of humour to reach out.
What is the secret of your being funny?
It’s a good sense of humour developed over time. It’s also an attitude to life. Sometimes, the stupid and pitiable things we see in life are expressed in anger, but I choose to look at these same things from a stance of humour. If they can make me laugh, then I will not have to cry about them.
So, how has life been as a comedian?
Life as a comedian is blissful and at the same time it hurts. It is nice to see a lot of people laugh. It makes me happy to know sometimes that I have the ability to electrify people of all ages with laughter, but it hurts when I speak about serious issues through the genre of “dark comedy”, which is ludicrous, the incongruous and redundant morality and yet still see people laugh at their own stupidity.
What about life as an actor?
As an actor, life is full of rat races, chasing directors and producers to get my money. Sometimes, I don’t get my money, but I make sure I get enough exercise from chasing them. But the real truth is that it is just fun doing what you like to do best.
Who do you have as role models in both acting and comedy?
First, I respect Bill Cosby. I adore Martin Lawrence and I consider Ali Baba a mark. That’s for comedy. For acting, I respect Keppy Ekpeyong because of his very rich and open mind, his humility, his charisma and also willingness to accept criticisms. I respect Richard Mofe Damijo because he is another mark and also because like him, I will not be downstairs too.
Tell us the truth. How have you been coping with female admirers?
First, females are my great fans. I see them clearly from the perspective of those who appreciate talents and efforts we put into our work. They also know what is aesthetically valid and well; they are the best judges too. If they say you are nice, believe it. Guys will never tell you that. But I know when to draw the line between fan and friendship, in spite of everything.
If you believe in reincarnation, what will you like to return as?
As me, but luckier.
What are your regrets?
I regret that I would have achieved a lot more by now were I not in showbiz.
What scares you?
Oh! The thought that I might not be able to exhibit all my stuffs before kicking the bucket. Another is ending up a failure.
What is it that you don’t fancy about yourself?
The fact that I don’t seem to have a limit as to how far I should go. And that’s what makes me a workaholic.
Are you born again?
No. But I’m a Christian.
Finally, what is it that you hate about stardom?
It gets into one’s head. Thus making one to assume that he has reached his apex or zenith.
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