Popularly known as TK, he is a veritable father figure for the serious minded in Nollywood and for those who continue to break the glass ceilings in the Nigerian filmmaking environment. A cultural advocate, TK has treaded where most Nollywood filmmakers have feared to, with the production of classics like Saworoide, Magun (Thunderbolt), Oleku, Ti Oluwa Nile, Agogo Eewo amongst others, all of who’s creative originality many years after their release have remained reference points in movie making. Cornered at the premiere of yet another flick Dazzling Mirage, Tunde Kelani spoke on his works and the current state of the Nigerian film industry.
At 66, you are still very much active in the industry, what keeps you going?
First I would say God. I give all glory and adoration to him for having kept me thus far and to my family members for taking good care of me, most especially my wife. Also I eat good food and drink lots of water.
Most of your movies swing between the Yoruba speaking Nollywood and the English speaking Nollywood. Which are you most comfortable with?
Well, it all depends on the particular project the movie is tilted towards. I think a movie is a movie. Whether it’s Yoruba Nollywood or English Nollywood, that is immaterial. It depends on what the story is saying, and the relevant themes.
Here you are premiering your movie, Dazzling Mirage, long after you vowed never to release your movies in Nigeria anymore as a result of your, movie, Maami, being pirated barely 48 hours after its release. What is responsible for your change of mind?
Yes I did say that. Actually, I made that comment with a lot of emotions, but the truth is that, Nigeria still remains my primary market, and it’s such a huge audience that I do not think that I would ever abandon it. You see when Maami was pirated, I was very sad. The pirates are killing us in this industry and something must be done quickly so that they don’t shine on our glories.
Will it be right to say that you have recorded more profit from previous collections of movies than the recent productions like Arugba?
Definitely. With our first collection of movies like Saworide, Oleku, Agogo Eewo and the earlier movies, we didn’t have a depressed infrastructural setup at that time and we didn’t have the menace of piracy, which gave us a false sense of security. But today, piracy has impacted negatively on the industry and it’s destroying lives and businesses. We just manage to stay afloat ourselves, as we’ve lost our investment base. The attack of piracy is getting worse, the attack on Arugba was worse than the attack on Maami and all the other movies that we have produced.
Are you implying that the industry is worse than it was, when in fact, things shoild be better, in terms of profit making?
The challenge is to recoup the original investment. We can’t even begin to talk of profit, and it’s made us more careful. Unfortunately, it has slowed us down. It’s getting more difficult to get funding to go on, and unless we find solutions, Nollywood will perhaps not get to the peak. There’s still a long way to go and there’s hope for improvement.
Which of the new generation of filmmakers can be said to have met or even surpassed the standards you have set over time?
I think that Kunle Afolayan is a shining example. We were in a way saddled with the pioneer syndrome or problems, but the young generation of filmmakers are breaking the mould. They are doing very well, and it’s very promising.
Your movie Dazzling Mirage is currently doing well in the cinema since its release. What is the movie about?
Dazzling Mirage is an adaptation of Yinka Egbokhare’s novel of the same title and traces the life of someone living with sickle cell who fights through betrayal and denial to focus on helping the public understand what sickle cell really means and getting the society to care more for people affected by the medical condition brought upon them through no fault of theirs. The movie is however is written by Ade Solanke, I love the piece and that is why I embarked on shooting a movie on it.
How would you rate the quality of new Nollywood movies these days and in what ways do you think filmmakers can improve the quality of films they put out?
I think the quality of the movies has improved enormously, and a clear evidence is when these movies get to the cinemas. The audience base is also growing, people are returning to cinemas, though there is still a conscious effort to woo potential audiences. Surprisingly, there is an increase in the number of screens in the country and that is a clear indication that the industry is growing. So there is no doubt that in this digitally advanced world, Nigerians are getting access to better means of production, which has helped to improve the quality of movies churned out as they are above board.
Did you know?
- That Tunde Kelani attended Oke-Ona Primary School in Ikija, Abeokuta
- That his grandfather was the Balogun of Ijaiye Kukudi
- That he kicked-off his career in 1970 as a BBC TV and Reuters Correspondent
- That he co-produced his first film with Adebayo Faleti called Idaamu Paadi Minkailu (The Dilemma of Rev. Father Micheal)
- That his production company, Mainframe Production was set up in 1991
- That Kelani was the assistant director on the set of a major American drama, Mister Johnson starring Pierce Brosnan, Maynard Eziashi and based on Joyce Cary’s 1939 book.
- That Tunde Kelani has 18 movies to his credit.
- That he was born on February 26, 1948.