Ramsey Nouah: There Is No “New Nollywood”
Ramsey Nouah has been a household name in the Nollywood industry for decades. From the popular role of the lover boy which made him the crush of almost every woman who watched his movies to a prominent member of the industry who is pushing the envelope, one script, one movie at a time.
The award-winning actor is one of the most sought-after actors in the industry is a family man and an advocate for change in the industry with his works in movies like Figurine, his project with platforms like Homevida and his thoughts and aspirations for the industry.
The Family Man
Nouah has been married for over 16 years and has been able to create balance in his role as a husband and father as well as an actor. Why? He explains, “A whole lot of people think that you are hiding your family, no it’s not that. It’s more of the fact that that’s the thing that can bring sanity into the family.” He speaks on the backlash his family gets from his status as he explains:
“Even as we speak, certain people still know my kids and because of that, they suffer either a pat on the shoulder that your dad is a good player or a who’s that silly father of yours that thinks he is a good actor? As kids, sometimes they can’t handle it…they suffer hate speeches a whole lot more than when you give them appraisals.”
It’s about that for him, family comes first as he says, “When you think about that and you still want to let everyone know about your family, you run a risk of having to explain every day to your kids and wife in situations why they have to be a bit more accommodating, contained and more enduring. Not everyone can be as enduring and potentially have thick skin that we have developed over the years.”
Being a father can change even the most radical of men, what was the case for Nollywood’s lover boy? He describes the life lessons he has learned as a father as “huge”. Going on to say, “When you were growing up, you didn’t know the responsibility saddled upon your father and your parents. You have that youth mentality that it’s the world, that’s freedom let’s go catch it, parents hold you back saying don’t do this, don’t do that, they chastise you and we hated them for it not knowing they were trying to guide us.”
He compares the relationship between parent and children to the one between an artist and his medium as he says, “What parents do to their kid is what an artist does to a log of wood and carve an image out of it. Right now, I’m a parent, right now I have to be the responsible one. I’ve seen what life can do to you and I don’t want that for my kids.” His outlook on life has changed as he explains, “I would say it has helped me a whole lot in being focused and responsible because in our world as artists, we are free spirited, we like to do things by inspiration, that’s our personality.”
Nollywood which dates back to the 19th industry has been in a constant state of flux. This is one of the peak times in the industry as there have been breaking sales in the cinemas as well as great movie storylines. This progress created the discussion of segregation in the industry, talking about the topic of “New Nollywood” and “Old Nollywood”. On the subject matter, Nouah says, “ Some people want to admit that there is a new Nollywood and old Nollywood. I think, admitting that fact is what is causing it to truly exist.” Standing to his belief in one industry he goes on to say:
“I don’t believe in it, I think it’s the same Nollywood. It is just changing, I call it growth…there’s been like a wavy unbalanced growth for Nollywood and it’s still ongoing. You can’t really say because of that say it is established that there is one industry called old Nollywood and there’s another called industry called new Nollywood. It’s just a transition into a new phase, a new beginning, new generation, new style and it takes everyone along.”
On segregation, he says, “It’s one umbrella, if you check it, we are all acting. When you bring about that segregation it’s what brings about tribalism, political diversity and all of that. I don’t want to admit that that should happen and that’s my point.”
Buttressing his opinion with the business of movie making he says, “When everybody starts to admit that there is this clout of people for this and that market, you are making it seem as if you don’t need that market. Definitely in business, if you look everywhere you’d know that we need the Asaba and we need the cinemas and everything for you to actually cut even these days.”
From his typecast roles as a lover boy, Nouah has grown into pushing the envelope in the industry with his involvement in movies like award-winning, critically acclaimed supernatural suspense thriller Figurine by Kunle Afolayan as well as the romantic comedy 30 Days in Atlanta by Ayo Makun popularly known as AY which was recognised by the 2017 Guinness World Records as one of the films with the highest domestic gross in the territories of Bollywood, Nollywood and Hollywood, alongside PK and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
When asked about the motivation behind his recent script selection, he laughs as answers, “What should prompt it? You want to do good stories, you want to play strong compelling characters and do good movies too.”
His most recent appearance in a movie My Wife and I cast Nouah as a woman trapped in a man’s body. The plot revolves around the life of an unmarried couple, whose last chance to save their marriage ends up in a body swap. On getting into the character he says, “It’s not rocket science, I have my mother, my wife, I have a daughter, I have friends, so definitely I’d know their mannerisms, their gestures.”
Crediting his co-actor Omoni Oboli for giving good tips during the movie, he goes on to say, “Besides that, it was also very uncomfortable for me because that’s not just me. It’s very easy for women to try and be men for men to try and be women. Women can play masculine roles and they wouldn’t feel awkward but when a man tries to play a feminine role, it feels awkward.”
Dealing with the fame
Being a celebrity is no easy feat, your life becomes a public spectacle and you have limited control over the news that surrounds your brand. One of the major issues celebrities face here is fake news. Recently, there was the rumour that Nouah had died in a fatal accident while on set for a movie in Ghana. When asked on how he handles the rumours he says, “It’s a lot of pressure right now, you know with social media. When people just have the right access to social media and can hate speech or whatever speech it is and just throw it out there, they don’t know the damage that they are causing people.”
Speaking of the effect of rumours, hate speeches and all the vices one can face by living in the public eye, he sheds light on a Homevida, a platform he is working with to promote movies with societal and political matters. He explains, “We are putting this together with some young upcoming writers who will come together and after we’d choose the right script and actually film it. But it talks about all these things, where you throw words at people without knowing the huge damage you can cause to their life if you did that.”
His own coping mechanism is to use the tool of the art to curtail the issue as he says, “For me when it happens it is probably going to be overbearing me going on video to address it. Most importantly, we are hoping that this will curtail these hate speeches that go round.”