Posted by The PM News on
Veteran actor and a colleague of Oba Funso Adeolu, the late Alaye of Ode Remo, Lai Ashadele, spoke about his death, the repackaging of the New Village Headmaster, Nollywood and other issues
Q: Accept our condolences on the death of your colleague, Oba Funso Adeolu, the Alaye of Ode-Remo. How did you receive the news of his death?
A: Actually, the news of the death of Chief Eleyinmi was shocking. A friend of mine called to inform, but at that time, there was still a controversy over his death because one of his wives had refuted the rumour. So, to confirm the news, I rushed to a nearby newsstand and saw a different thing entirely. The wife affirmed that he was not dead. But usually, if an Oba dies, it is not the wife that is in the position to announce it to the public. They will have to wait for some time before it is announced. Uncle Deolu’s death is not tragic, he died after an illness as we learnt and for a man like him, he died as a fulfilled man. In this part of the world, when somebody has reached the golden age of 50, the diamond age of 60 and across 70, the person should begin to expect that anything can happen. He was a wonderful man that will be missed by both his subjects and colleagues. I pray to God to grant him a place in His bosom.
Q: What will you miss about him?
A: I was on the set of Village Headmaster before him, but every moment I spent with Chief Eleyinmi was memorable. He never encouraged oppression and was a defender of the weak. When he became the king, he used to call me from his palace, but I did not have time to visit him always. When we were on the set of Village Headmaster, Uncle Deolu, as we fondly called him, would be the first to criticise you whenever you don’t do well and he would also be the first to applaud you when you deliver your role well.
Q: Was he the kind of person that interpreted his role in the Village Headmaster series perfectly?
A: You see, what many people did not know during the Village Headmaster days was that we were given a free hand to suggest ideas and use our own discretion. Everyone of us played the role that was natural. So, Chief Eleyinmi interpreted that role perfectly and would bring in his own natural behaviour on the set.
Q: What about Councilor Balogun, the late Oba Wole Amele, the Alara of Aramoko Ekiti?
A: The three of us were close pals. In fact, behind the scene, both Eleyinmi and Councillor Balogun usually entertained us with their roles in the Village Headmaster. They were fond of each other and Councillor Balogun was also a good man. They were all interesting people to be with and I cannot forget them so easily. The late Garuba, Joe Layode, was another man to talk about.
Q: Don’t you think their death can affect the revival of the Village Headmaster series?
A: Even before their death, it was certain that none of us would retain our roles if the Village Headmaster was reintroduced because we had all outgrown them. It is only Dejumo Lewis, the Kabiyesi of Oja that is likely to continue with his role because he is still of that age. Moreover, they (Councillor Balogun and Chief Eleyinmi) had become kings in their respective domains and it was not possible for them to leave the throne for location. But they were involved in the script writing.
Q: Don’t you think something is wrong somewhere as Village Headmaster crew and cast members are dying the same way in recent times?
A: All these things are mere coincidence. Death is natural and people die in other places. Ours is not an exception. If journalists and others can die, I think the death of Eleyinmi and others is natural.
Q: Can you remember the last time you met him and what he told you?
A: I cannot say vividly the last time we spoke on phone and we had discussed so many things in the past, so I cannot easily recollect what he told me last. But I can remember that we had a disagreement on an issue and that was a long time ago.
Q: Having talked so much about the Village Headmaster cast and crew, do you think the old hands will be willing to come back if it is reintroduced, particularly because of the issue of royalty?
A: Actually, we all acted due to our passion and not necessarily because of money. I think we collected about N25 per week and that was all. But today, other people have come into the industry to turn everything upside down, it is a pity.
Q: Is this why you stopped acting and the reason you became a photographer?
A: I cannot stomach the embarrassment posed by movie marketers who know nothing about the industry we sacrificed a lot for. Without mincing words, I can say that the Igbo marketers practise tribalism and that is unfair. They prefer to use their brothers, yet they want us to assume that we operate Nollywood. I don’t believe in Nollywood because I think it is madness. Must everyone come from the ‘wood’? America’s film industry is called Hollywood, Indian film, Bollywood and I guess very soon, Ghana will have ‘Accrawood’ and the ‘wood’ madness will continue to spread. Everything is wrong with our film industry. Look, my children are comfortable enough to take care of me, but I cannot just sit back doing nothing. Some time ago, a young producer came here and started begging me to act for him without collecting money. In fact, he called me “daddy” and I made it clear to him that I have my own children and vice versa. So, nobody should come here with the aim of duping me. Until we learn how to do things the right way, we shall continue to have problems with the ‘woods.’ As for the photography you talked about, I am a dynamic person and that is why I don’t limit myself to one thing only. I do still photography and video coverage, but most of the time, I am consulted for film directing and production. I prefer to teach people who are ready to learn, the rudiments of theatre arts.
Q: How does that make you feel fulfilled?
A: Absolutely, I am fulfilled by the number of people I have been able to encourage so far.
Q: If you are asked to write the script for the Village Headmaster, what would you like to change in it?
A: I think the death of Chief Eleyinmi cannot affect the new Village Headmaster, but if I am asked to write the script as you said, I will make the new Chief Eleyinmi to be a family title so that his name will not be forgotten.
Q: Finally, how do you unwind?
A: I unwind by doing what makes me happy. So, that tells you that I don’t unwind at all. I am always busy.
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