Actor cum producer, Saheed Balogun is a popular face in Nollywood. In this interview with Potpourri, the versatile actor who made it clear he would not talk about his private life took us on a journey through his career, his passion and did an expose on the movie industry.
Who is Saheed Balogun?
Saheed Balogun is a God-fearing person with a humble beginning and a graduate of statistics from Kwara State Polytechnic. I grew up in the North and that was hectic for me but I survived. My late father was a soldier and my mother, a trader. I am above forty years of age. I am an actor and a producer for decades now. I tend to help people remember their past, shape their present and see into their future through my works. Also, I am a typical Yoruba man from Oyo State.
How did you venture into acting?
Acting for me is an inborn talent because I got the gift from my dad who would make every one laugh at the barracks including the “always frowning and most feared” soldiers. I have only commercialized mine and I am so happy I did. Again, the desire and passion for acting was like a burning fire and I have followed it to the last letter.
Which movie brought you into limelight?
Every one of my movies have brought me into limelight and that is why I have many names. At a time, it was Walata when I did Ologbo dudu by Kola Olotu, later Omo Alhaja, some people still call me Mallam because of my character in a soap years back. (Smiles) I am different things to different people.
What would you have ventured into if you were not acting?
Well, I would have been a known scientist. I like researches and that has reflected in most of my movies. I am the first actor in Africa who has produced a two-cast movie and the first to do a film where every actor and actress wore Ankara in West Africa. I also did a movie where I was the only black man. And also the first to do a three-cast movie. All these put together is a result of rigorous research. My name will forever ring a bell in Nollywood because I have done what many actors will not go close to doing. I will again rewrite history by May next year with a one cast movie.
What are the challenges of being an actor?
Reading and interpreting scripts, pleasing your producer and director, changing characters and not losing your fans base. Getting roles at times could be challenging. Also, many Nigerians seem unable to differentiate between a character in a movie and in real life. They seem to mix the two up and getting good pay is always a problem. The producers are not smiling and our pay as actors drops day by day.
Why are the producers not smiling?
Nigeria is close to lawlessness. Piracy has dominated the make-believe industry. I spent N21 million on “You or I” and to make my money means selling like 10,000 copies which was impossible.
A candid look at the Yoruba sector of Nollywood reveals that many actors act, produce and direct their films, what do you think is behind this?
It also happens in America where people, who have the ability to act, produce and direct movies professionally go into it. For instance, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly had one person as the producer and director, but it came out as a bomb. But what we have in Nigeria is the outcome of our poverty level. Actors are trying every possible means to cut cost and maximize profits. This often leads to most of our films lacking focus.
I will use this medium to plead with my fellow actors to locate their calling and help this industry grow. Also, some actors do this to meet deadline. In a case where the executive producer wants the movie ready in three days and you can’t get a good director within the short notice, the actor will direct the movie and play the lead role himself because he would not want to be in the black book of the producer. Remember, he who pays the piper, dictates the tune.
What do you think is the way out of the mess?
Piracy has to be reduced to a zero level in Nigeria. Everybody in the entertainment world must know where he or she belongs. Actors should refuse to be instruments in the hands of politicians. Recently, Dr Joe Odumakin addressed the Golden Movie Ambassador and I knew we really needed change in many sectors of the industry and this can only be achieved when we are focused. There are some talented actors who you will never find in unbaked or half-baked movies .
Which actor do you doff your hat for in Nollywood?
The only actor I hold in high esteem is almighty God. He is the best writer, actor, director and producer; no one can beat his creativity in the universe.
You have not been doing much acting these days; can we say your broken marriage is the cause?
My broken marriage has nothing to do with this, besides; I don’t need to be in 50 movies to remain relevant in the industry. I am busy with my research so as to come out with a quality and distinct work of art. When I get good scripts, I will be on set. And I am giving the upcoming actors and actresses space.
What was your stand during the Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioner ANTP crisis?
My stand was what God ordained. I am presently the chairman of Golden Movie Ambassador, an initiative that was inaugurated early this year. In this association, we believe in re-branding and re-shaping the movie industry. The crisis of ANTP has nothing to do with me. The executives of ANTP remain our father and we will always respect them.
Don’t you think creating another association is like saying ANTP is not good?
No. Our constitution gives us the liberty to create or become members of multiple associations. We have many associations and the important thing is to belong to any association where your dreams can be achieved.
Are you a member of other associations?
I am the president of Golden Movie Ambassador. So I have to midwife the association to its greater height for now.
How would you rate Nollywood among other movie industries?
We are not there yet. In fact Nollywood is not born yet. We lack focus, we use low standard equipments. We repeat storylines. Nigeria has only produced one future film this year where a country like Republic of Benin has produced more than twelve feature films. Many things needs to be worked on in Nollywood.
Your memorable day as an actor?
August 26th 2006 was the day I had an accident on my way home from a location and I was already taken to the morgue but my mentor, God brought me back to life.
Apart from your one cast film, any other thing new about Saheed Balogun?
I am working on a movie where I will be celebrating our own Dr. Joe Odumakin. If the US government can recognize her, I think it is good to celebrate her here in my own way. I am doing a story about Nigeria.