Film Business

Nollywood: Rich Industry, Poor Actors, Actresses


The luxury is complete. Fast cars, big houses, fat bank accounts and pretty girls…at least in the movies. But the real lives of many Nollywood actors and actresses do not reflect what they portray on screen. SEUN AKIOYE examines the real lives of the movie stars.

WHOEVER has seen Kayode Odumosu, known widely by his stage name Pa Kasumu in any of his numerous films, would believe the veteran actor epitomises the perfect life. Sometimes, he was the rich and influential father and at another time, he rose from grass to grace. But most of the time, he was the voice of reason, intelligent, a disciplinarian and an honest fellow. Many envied him and for the generation of Nigerians between the ages of 20 and 40 years, Pa Kasumu, now 60 years old, must be very rich.

That was Pa Kasumu, the veteran actor in Nigeria’s make-believe world called Nollywood. To know Kayode Odumosu, you will have to alight from your day dream of cozy world of wealth and glamour, the mansion in Lekki, fine clothes and easy life. You will have to descend into the often dangerous and perilous streets of Mushin, a ‘ghetto’ in Lagos where even the average Nigerian may not contemplate as a place of permanent abode.

Alayaki Street is one of the hundreds of streets in Mushin. The street begins from the junction where Odulami Street crosses into it. There are about 70 houses on the street, nearly all of them built in the ‘face-me-I face-you’ fashion which has become the preferred choice for Lagos poorest. Around 4 pm on Christmas day, several parties were underway on Alayaki. Loud fuji music blared from loud speakers deliberately directed at the road and passersby.

The inhabitants of this street as well as all the adjoining ones are tough-looking young men and women. As they danced in the streets to the music from the parties, they cursed each other using some of the slangs taken from the songs being relayed. The old were not spared; some of them engaged the young people in a game of wit and argument. This combined with the cacophony of sounds coming from several generators placed strategically at the back of the rooms, which complete a picture of chaos.

The house numbered nine is a non-descript storey building. But judging from the dilapidated state of the other houses, number nine fares better and it looks cleaner. There are 12 rooms downstairs and four others are joined to the main house at the back. There are 10 rooms upstairs; this is because the first two rooms serve as kitchen. At the back is a one-bedroom apartment. Though it has its kitchen, the occupants of the room share the toilet and bathroom with other tenants. In this house, tenant number 10 is Kayode Odumosu, also known as Pa Kasumu.

In October, Pa Kasumu was in the news. His family raised an alarm about his failing state of health and their inability to fund his medical bills. The family said he needed N12million to undergo medical treatment abroad. Failure to raise this money would endanger the life of the veteran actor.
Many Nigerians who heard this were shocked. But the greatest shock was when the media focused on the house where the old man lives. Many do not understand how such a man who had lived all his life on the screen, bringing joy to many homes would be in such terrible state. For them, N12million is a small deal for Pa Kasumu, but for Kayode Odumosu, it is a life-threatening sum.

No Christmas for Pa Kasumu
The reporter climbed the staircase two at a time and at the top came face to face with a budding youth. On enquiry, he directed the visitor to the last room by the left.
“That is Pa Kasumu’s room,” he said.

For those who never lived in such apartments, it may be difficult to appreciate the conditions under which this veteran actor lives. The living room was crowded, a result of trying to fit in too many furniture in a small space. At the north was a 14-inch television set, which stood on a shelf, also housing an old VCR video player and radio– which from all indications are not working.

There were four seats in the room and on the longest, a child slept peacefully oblivious to the chaos and noise of the environment. A small centre table completed the modest furnishing. On the table was a black nylon containing bread-the Agege variant- while at the back of one of the seats was the dining table moved closely to the wall such that it could only accommodate one chair. The dining table also played host to several books as well as the microwave.

On the wall were several self portraits of Pa Kasumu. There was one with his wife and another with Chief Lateef Jakande, the revolutionary second republic governor of Lagos State. Another picture revealed Odumosu is a member of the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC).

“Pa Kasumu is at the backroom, you can wait for him if you are not in a hurry,” his daughter, who received the reporter, said. Twenty minutes later the actor arrived; he seemed to have difficulties walking and he could not keep his eyes straight for long.

“You want to see me? Please wait for me, I will have to take my bath,” he said. The bath took a whopping 25 minutes and when he arrived, he had a white kaftan on and blue slippers. His hair and beard had been finely combed and he smelled nice. He took his seat on one of the single seat chairs, wiped the water which was forming on his brows with his left hand and apologised for taking so long in the shower.

Since his illness was disclosed, Pa Kasumu has received many visitors in this humble abode, but on this Christmas day, the old man was alone– save for a couple of young fans who came to see him in the morning. He spent his Christmas in bed, no feasting, no killing of chicken or any of those festivities. For the Odumosus, Christmas was just any other day.

Rich industry, poor practitioners
Honest Nollywood actors would admit that the Nigerian film industry preceded the 1992 release of Living in Bondage by NEK video link owned by Kenneth Nnebue. In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, filmmakers, such as Hubert Ogunde and Ola Balogun were involved in film production. But Living in Bondage set the stage for the blockbuster that is Nollywood. Since then, movie producers have not looked back, churning out about 2,000 movies a year. In 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared Nigeria’s Nollywood the second biggest film industry in the world after India’s Bollywood. The industry took Africa by storm and also soon dominated the world. The Ghanaians, seeing the enormous opportunities in Nollywood, joined the bandwagon. Today, Nollywood is reputed to be worth between $200 and $500 million. True, over 21 years, Nollywood had turned out several millionaires and had changed the lives of many. But these are mainly the directors and distributors as many of those who act have remained poor and frustrated. The bulk of these could be seen in the Yoruba section of Nollywood. . . has the full feature.

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AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
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