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Continental pip for Kannywood starlet, Maryam Booth, at AMAA

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She was named Best Supporting Actress at the recently held last year’s edition of the prestigious Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) for her role in the well-helmed movie by Desmond Obviagele, Milk Maid.

Slim, tall and pretty, Maryam Adamu Booth ran over seven other nominees, including Chairmaine Mujeri (Mirage) and Linda Ejiofor (4th Republic) to emerge winner of that coveted category of Africa’s premier reward system for filmmakers in the continent and the Diaspora.

That award to Booth, which was announced virtually, brought the total number of awards won by Milk Maid to five. Milk Maid, which is Nigeria’s entry for the Best International Film category of the Academy Awards, otherwise called The Oscar’s, won the Best Film award, Best Nigerian Film, Best Film in an African language and award for achievement in Make-up.

The other winners from Nigeria include notable actor and later-day director, Ramsey Nouah Jnr, who was voted Best Supporting Actor for his effort in Living in Bondage: Breaking Free, which he directed, and Akin Omotoso’s The Ghost and The House of Truth, which fetched the only major technical award for Nigeria, that of editing.

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But the spotlight is on silky skinned and delectable young Maryam, who has continued to receive congratulatory messages from fans, colleagues and family members for the feat. Indeed, that award only confirmed that the starlet has a place not just on Kannywood’s long list of ‘A-list’ actors, but also amongst continental stars.

Born into a family of actors and actresses, including mother (Hajiya Zainab Booth), younger brother (Ammuda), elder sister (Sadiya), cousin (Ramadan) and aunt (Salma)- acting came naturally for Maryam, whose Scottish great grandfather, Booth, was credited with establishing the famous Salvation Army movement in Scotland.

She loved watching films as a child and would always take time out to reenact some actions in a film she had seen, taking the sitting room as her performance space and her parents and siblings as her audience. Her audiences could tell from the skits she performed that she was cut out for acting.

From there, the hunger for real screen action set in. All she wanted was to grace the screen, and she got that chance at age eight, and since then, there has been no stopping Maryam, who admitted that she was able to pull through because of the support and encouragement she got from her mother and aunt.

She recalled of her mother: “My mum is a great woman. She is like a mother to many Hausa movie stars and she is the best thing that has happened to me. We are best of friends and there is nothing I don’t tell her about me.”

Described by her colleagues as humble, friendly and disciplined, Maryam got her break as lead act in the movie about the daughter of a poor farmer who was raped by the son of a wealthy farmer.

Titled Dijangala, moviegoers found the movie engaging and applauded Maryam for her strong interpretation of the role of Dijangala, insisting she was believable and kept them on the edge while watching her live through hardship as Dijangala.

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She was to later earn the alias Dijangala. “That is the name most people call me. They liked the film and my role in the film,” she enthused.

With Dijangala and others, such as Dowo-Dowo, which she listed as her most challenging and memorable screen runs, Maryam, whose favourite Kannywood actors and role models include Ali Nuhu and Sani Danja, was ready for Kannywood. Her performance in those movies endeared her to producers who lapped up scripts for her.

Star of Danja’s Ga Ni Ga Ka, she has taken part in many Kannywood movies that she has even lost count of the number in her pouch. But she must have featured in over 100, including Bani Adam, Dawainiya, Garin Mu Da Zafi, Matan Aure Na and Karan Bana.

Hailed as Kannywood producer’s first choice for an actress that delivers her roles with ease, Maryam spends her off screen periods reading, watching films and visiting friends and family members. “I watch a lot of films. They help you to grow,” she says.

Not so much into the heavy use of jewelries, like some of her contemporaries, Maryam likes to appear good and simple, adding: “I don’t like loud dressing. I design what I wear. I just sketch the design and my tailor delivers. I like to appear simple. I can wear jeans and tops, but you can never find me exposing my body.”

Has acting made her so rich? Maryam chuckled and simply said she has found it rewarding: “It has opened doors; it has made me popular and has given me an opportunity to touch and affect lives.

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“I go out and people tell me how they have learnt a lot from the roles I portrayed. That is the reward for me. I value it than the millions you will pay me for acting. So, I am comfortable and I thank Allah for providence.”

If there is any sour moment in her career, then it would be when her ex-boyfriend, Deezell, caused her nude videos to be released on social media. Maryam, who accused him for being the mastermind of the leaked video, where she was shown trying to wear her underpants, described that period as one of her most “trying moments.”

She added: “It was one dark moment for me, but I thank Allah that people saw that it was a case of blackmail. I am grateful to my family, friends, fans and professional colleagues, especially the Kannywood Guild of Artistes that rallied round me.”

Asked if she has any regret being an actress, she replied empathically: “No! No regrets at all. I thank the Almighty for how far he has brought me. I still have a long way to go and I am assured Allah will be with me all the way down. I want to get to the top of my career and go international.

“I also want to be able to work and earn enough to support my family and husband when I settle down. I am one of those who think the era of a woman being a liability to her husband is gone.”

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