Ali Nuhu: I am very careful of roles I choose because of my audience
Ali Nuhu is an actor and director. He acts in both Hausa and English movies. Nuhu, who is known as king of Kannywood, has appeared in more than 500 Nollywood and Kannywood films, and earned numerous accolades. Born in Maiduguri, Borno State in North-Eastern Nigeria, he grew up in Jos and Kano. He holds a Bachelor’s of Art degree in Geography from the University of Jos and did his National Youth Service in Ibadan, Oyo State. He later attended the University of Southern California for a course in film production and cinematic arts. In an interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, Nuhu who is widely regarded as one of the most influential actors in the history of Hausa Cinema, speaks about his sojourn into filmmaking, nursing his passion and projects he has currently embarked on.
You are a strong voice when it comes to entertainment from the North. How were you able to break through?
It wasn’t easy initially because when I started out, most parents were not comfortable seeing their wards go into a profession like this. Some usually say it is a career for dropouts or people who have no future, but then I believed in the profession and I simply decided to stick to it. Secondly, I didn’t even check into filmmaking, I decided to go into capacity building – that’s what became a launch for my career. For instance, I went to study Transmedia Story Telling in the University of Southern California. That period served as an eye opener for me, and I understood that upon coming back to my society. What I was supposed to do wasn’t just limited to shooting films that have a theme of love, marriages and so on. You need to be someone that is an advocate for the society, to educate and sensitise them. That is what actually encouraged me and pushed me into it.
What has kept you going over the years?
Consistency in this profession, if you have the passion, you will go places. If you have the passion, you just have to do your things right. For most people when they come into the profession, they just feel the only important thing is gaining popularity and all the luxury in the world. But that shouldn’t be your drive. Your drive should be picking the very big scripts, irrespective of whether the role you are playing will fetch money or not. There are productions you do not because of financial gains but because of the level to which it will push your career. You have some outstanding filmmakers that make very good films. Sometimes you come across very good story lines written by good scriptwriters. You try as much as you can to ensure that you have a very good relationship with your colleagues and the media.
For you, are these key principles, because I am not sure it works like that for everybody in the movie industry?
For me, these are the key principles because for some in the movie industry, it is all about pursuing glamour, and just being out there. Asides from that, they get themselves involved in scandals to be in the headlines. I just feel these things are negative and whatever is negative doesn’t last.
You also do Nollywood asides Kannywood. How do you marry them, as we know that Kannywood has its reservations?
One thing is that for every person I am working with, I have my prospects, I have the kind of roles I can do and I communicate my inability to play certain roles directly. This is because a large chunk of my followers are from Northern Nigeria and are predominantly Muslims, so I need to be careful with what I do. For every production I get involved in, we try to do something that will appeal to the audience. So, if it becomes negative, it is definitely going to harm your career. So, I am very careful as to what roles I choose.
Are there projects you are currently working on that you want to share?
Of course, currently I am working on my own production. It is a series titled – Alhaja. And there is another that is a future project I will embark on. It has to do with gender-based violence.
You are quite huge on advocacy. What is the drive?
Like I said, my course of study on Transmedia Storytelling at the University of Southern California changed my mindset completely on filmmaking. When I got back, I had to do a film on drug abuse, but I concentrated on the rehabilitation aspect of it, because I noticed that in Northern Nigeria, a lot of families have one or two people that are involved in the vice. I felt like it was time for us to contribute our own quota by educating people on this. Then I realised that most people do not even know that you can take someone for rehabilitation. That is why I had to do that film. After that, the next thing was the issue of insecurity. I did a film on the country’s violent extremism, on how the youth are being radicalised and recruited into all these vices. That was an eye opener as well, and it gained a lot of views. It was a huge success.
What does fashion mean to you?
Putting on anything that will make you very comfortable. Any day, any time. Like the kaftan I am putting on now, I’m very comfortable in it.
What is your favourite local dish?
Tuwa Shinkafa and Meutwaushe
Can you describe Ali Nuhu?
What is your message to other Northerners who want to be in the same scene as you?
It’s a good thing to aspire to be great. But my watchword always is you need to have the passion for the profession. You need to be humble and dedicated.
A word to all your fans this Ramadan
Ramadan Kareem to all my fans!