Interview

Nothing spectacular about English genre in Nollywood – Eniola Ajao

 

Nollywood actress, Eniola Ajao, jettisoned her qualification as an
accountant to pursue her childhood dream in the movie industry. In
this recent interview, the beautiful actress speaks on her
relationship with ace actor, Odunlade Adekolan and challenges of the
make-belief industry among other sundry issues.

How has life been treating you and what have you been doing lately?
Life has been good. I’ve been into a lot of things. I’ve been doing good.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I have two projects that were shot this year. The first one is
‘Matron’ and then the second one is Okuta Ija which I just concluded
few weeks ago. I have two projects coming out soon.
Tell us a little about Okuta Ija
Sexual harassment, abuse and all. There is a lady in the story who had
a rough upbringing.  She was abused, molested and this made her grow
up to become a tough lady and she used all she had in mind to revenge
after some years so she became very notorious.
This doesn’t sound like the type of movies you do…
I think that is because of the character I played, story line and
everything that’s around the technical parts of it. We actually shot
it in Nigeria.  We used several locations and several beautiful
places. It’s kind of different from what I’ve been doing for a very
long time.
Who are those that starred in the movie?
The likes of Yinka Quadri, Jide Kosoko, Sanni Ali, Odunlade Adekola,
Madam Saje, Alesh, Nike Hamsat, and Olaniyan Tosin.
Most producers prefer big names in their movies. Why are you not
encouraging new acts?
That’s the situation if you write a story and you know what you’re
looking for – I mean those that would bring the best out of that
story, then you should go for the best. If the story is more of
elderly people, those that can interpret the role very well to my
taste, I can’t help but go for them. And they did an excellent job.
I’ve seen your face more in Odunlade’s movies, what’s the connection
between you?
The relationship between me and Odunlade, is that of a boss and
subordinate. I’ve known him for over 10 years now. I’ve been in the
industry for the past 16 years. I was somewhere before I went to
school and came back to the industry.
How did you get to meet him?
I met him in 2009 when I went to a location, I think with the late
Moji Olaiya. I saw him and I went to him. I told him I was a big fan
and that I will like to join him. He then said he does not have a
caucus in Lagos that his school is in Abeokuta. That was how it all
started.
Did you relocate to Abeokuta then?
No. I usually go for rehearsals every Wednesday. And I may come back
that day if it’s not late or next.
Is that why you appear more in his movies?
Maybe I should say I make myself available for his movies. He will not
call you to say he has a role for you. He is a very disciplined man.
So whenever I hear that there’s location in Abeokuta, I would pick my
bag go there immediately.
So you have an automatic slot with him?
Because I am under him. Definitely everyone has a slot so far you make
yourself available.
What are the challenges of being a movie producer?
It has not been easy. Let me say capital wise, you know you have to
source for money, source for people who will help you handle the jobs
because you cannot do it alone. I will just say I am at the right
place and in a good hand. Whenever I want to produce my job, my boss
always gives me time which is always okay for me because I know he
brings out the best out of the job. Basically, I’m not always in a
rush to do anything. I’m just privileged to be under somebody that is
helping me out.
What is your first movie as a producer?
Daramola was my first production.
What was the challenge and experience?
The experience was not good because it was my first-trying to source
for money, trying to think of the character, thinking of how to pay
the people on set, and their welfare. As a producer, all the casts and
crew members are on your neck. So you just have to look out for their
well-being.
Were your parents in support of you being an actress?
No. Actually, my dad wanted me to be an accountant, so he was against
it before he died. And I promised him that I was going to finish my
education, do whatever he wanted me to do but at the same time I love
acting. Acting is always what I’ve always wanted to do even when I was
in secondary school. It has always been there. So, when I graduated, I
went into acting.
So what has been your experience, I mean, with male folks, male fans,
I see a lot of comments on your Instagram page
It’s not been easy.  Some will call you a snob because most of them do
not understand you. I’m not really an outgoing person so whenever they
meet me, we just greet and move from there. Most want to create a
relationship which I am not ready for.
Is that why they say you’re a snub? Don’t you want to make friends?
Not that I don’t want to make friends. It’s just my nature and at the
same time, they don’t understand. Okay, you want to take a picture
with me and you want to hold me and we are outside. I mean it’s not
okay at all.
How do you reply your male admirers without knocking them off?
I don’t always know what to say and I don’t want to be rude. So it’s
better to ignore.
But what about the male folks in the industry, those who admire and
love you? How do manage them, mixing emotions with profession
It depends on how you relate with them. I’ve people who have asked me
out in the industry and I turned them down. You hear people say that
in the industry they sleep with one another. But it’s what you want.
Nobody can force you to do anything in this life. It takes two to
tango. So anybody that’s harassed put herself in that position.
Have you been harassed sexually on a movie set, like no sex, no role?
Never! At what age?
How do you manage your fellow ladies- the betrayal, the gossip?
That’s a good question. I am more of an introvert, I don’t really go
out. So most times, I have, you know, lovely people around me like my
siblings. And most times, I don’t associate more with my mates. I
associate with people who are older than I am. They tell me things and
put me through about life, so you won’t see me where they are
gossiping. I can’t control what people say about me but I can control
their perception of me. Anybody that gossips about me it’s their
choice, but you won’t see me gossiping about people because I won’t
put myself in that situation. So you don’t just say anything about me.
That doesn’t mean I don’t go to party.
You just came back from traveling from Ibadan and tomorrow you’re
going on a movie set, Wednesday in Abeokuta, how do you balance this
with the family life?
Well, my people understand the kind of job I do and they understand me.
How do you find time to relax with your busy schedules, movie location
and everything?
Most times I take two days off or a week and travel out of the country.
What else do you do aside from acting?
There are other things I will be doing in the future. I’m a business
person. Let’s see how things unfold.
It is often perceived that Yoruba movies are local and English is
‘posh’ and English actors make more money than Yoruba actors.
It is because they shoot their own films in English. There’s nothing
spectacular about them and they can see us as razz people. Most of
their productions are low budget productions.  All those ones they did
in Onitsha. They don’t have storylines. We do. Yorubas believe in
helping one another. Feature in mine and I will feature in yours which
doesn’t happen in English Nollywood movies.
Yoruba movie industry is always based on relationships which is
killing the business aspect of the industry. It’s one of the things
I’m not happy about. You call me for a role and you want to pay me
200k for a role I should collect like 1million for. It’s not nice. And
if I agree to do it for 200k that means I will call you to do mine for
me for that amount.
So professionally, the English part of the industry has the edge
They are not doing anything spectacular. We have a better story line.
But we need to invest. They are investing their money in it. That is
all they are doing. Absolutely, nothing else. So we need to cut our
low budget productions.  If you want to produce like five films in a
year, reduce it to two or one put your money together and produce that
just one film and make it a standard one.
I’ve not seen any Yoruba movie in the cinema yet
There are Yoruba movies in cinema. Yes. Some Southwest cinemas take it
from us but if it’s not like 70% English and 30% Yoruba, some cinemas
like Silverbird will not accept it from you.
You’re planning on working on cinema movie.  Would you be producing a
full length Yoruba movie?
Most definitely. I won’t want to do that because even this life, you
have to mix both Yoruba and English together.
Are you a twin because people call you Ejire?
Yes, I am. I have a twin sister. We look alike but not very identical.
Are you bringing her into the movie industry?
No. She’s not interested. People say I’m shy, but she’s more shy. She
knows what I do but she can’t be part of it. But she supports.
Why don’t you use the name Taiwo, why Eniola?
She has her own name. I’m Taiwo, she’s Kenny. She’s Lolade and I’m
Eniola and people know us.
Culled: The Nation

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