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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Interview: "There is a difference between Baba Latin, the comedian and Bolaji Amusan" - Mr. Latin

Nollywood Yoruba actor Bolaji Amusa popularly known as Baba Latin talks about his life and career in this interview with Punch.

How did you derive the name, Baba Latin?
When I ventured into comedy, we had actors such as Baba Suwe, Baba Sala and so many others. Then, I was always speaking big grammar on set. One day, a man on set asked if I was speaking Latin and everyone laughed. The name stuck and I decided calling myself Baba Latin.

What made you go into acting?
 I never had intentions of acting. In fact, I hated it and dreamt of being a footballer instead. I loved Segun Odegbami and wanted to be like him. But each time I played football, I came back home with injuries which I would nurse for three days. I just concluded that I was not destined to be a footballer. Later, a friend of mine, who observed that I love to talk, dragged me into the industry. He invited me on the set of a movie and I started to act. I still love football anyway.
Can you give a brief background of yourself?
My name is Bolaji Amusan. I’m a native of Gbongan in Osun state. I was born in Gbongan but spent my childhood in Abeokuta, Ogun State. That is why people mistake me to be an Egba man.  I attended Army Children Primary School, Abeokuta and had my secondary school at Gbongan High School, after which I relocated to Abeokuta, where I started working. I didn’t attend any higher institution until recently when I enrolled for a programme in Tourism at the Exceldel Institute in London, United Kingdom.
Of what importance is tourism to you as an actor?
It is very important especially with my job. Tourism and culture go hand-in-hand and basically, my profession promotes culture.
For one who is not a graduate, you speak the English language fluently. How did you come about this?
I lived with an uncle who was a military officer. As a child, he mandated me to read newspapers and I had to summarise the content of those newspapers to him whenever he came back from work. Failure to do so was serious punishment! That was what helped me and till date, I’m so used to reading newspapers and I read more than six everyday. PUNCH remains my favourite of all. I wake up by 5.00am, pick up my i-pad and read all dailies on-line before I start the day’s activities.
Are you married?
Yes. I am happily married and have two children. I have one wife. My family relocated to Dublin about four years ago and I visit them at least three times in a year. There is no reasons attached to their relocation, it was just for a change of environment.
What do you do aside acting?
I am into business. I sell cars but I am very involved with my foundation, Mr. Latin Foundation: Save a Life Today. I had to travel abroad to source for ideas on how to help people and profer solutions to their problems.

What was the first film that you featured in?
It was titled Pakute and was produced by Ebun Oloyede in 1988. I was into routine acting until 1991 when I ventured into comedy.
Why are you based in Abeokuta and not Lagos?
Abeokuta is a very peaceful place to be. I have been in Abeokuta since I was a child. Relocating to Lagos might be quite difficult. Moreover, affordability is another reason for my stay in Abeokuta. Life is not as expensive in Abeokuta compared to Lagos. For instance, majority of artistes in Abeokuta live in their own houses. Instead of going to Magodo Estate in Lagos to rent an apartment for N3million, I had rather buy a plot of land in Abeokuta and build. We are comfortable here.
Are any of your children taking after you in acting?
My firstborn is 14 years old and he was into a bit of acting before travelling abroad. I believe when a child is exposed to such stardom and he sees himself as a kid actor, he becomes less interested in education. I want them to be educated first. Most of the kid actors in the entertainment industry hardly concentrate on their studies. They get so distracted by the limelight. Even their teachers will treat them specially and they feel bigger than their mates. When my children were with me in Nigeria, I rarely went to their school. I didn’t want them to feel they are so important as children of Baba Latin.
Are you as comical at home as you are on the screen?
There is a difference between Baba Latin, the comedian and Bolaji Amusan, the family man. If you are not firm with your family now, that could be a problem in future. I will not neglect my responsibilities as a father and husband because I am a comedian. Nothing lasts forever
How many films have you produced and which one do you find most challenging?
I have produced 35 movies in all but the most challenging ones were ‘Mr. President’ and ‘Omo Ode de.’ Mr. President was very challenging because I had to understudy former president Olusegun Obasanjo—the way he talks, walks and behaves! I had to mimic him perfectly and it was so challenging! On the other hand, ‘Omo Ode de’ saw me playing the role of a man mingling with spirits! I had to act and pretend as if I saw evil spirits.
Why are your roles always comical?
The audience determines what we churn out. Unfortunately, that has stereotyped me. Even when I want to play more serious roles, they will complain that the film isn’t interesting! Whenever I am given a role, fans expect that I must be a comic.
Most movies now are churned out as comedy. What impact does that have on the society?
That is what is trending now. The current situation in the country is responsible for this. There is tension everywhere in the society. Imagine someone who had worked all day, experienced traffic gridlock on his way home, you would not expect that he would get home and see a movie where actors are too serious or weeping. Then, how are we influencing the lifestyle of viewers? We are to make people laugh and be healthy. It is a good trend and I am proud to be a part of those who make people laugh.
Do you have people you are mentoring?
Yes, I do. As a young actor, I had the big names I looked up to—Baba Suwe, Baba Sala, Baba Aluwe and others.  Those after me are also looking up to me. We all are trying our best and I know God will make us successful.
You are always featuring with Odunlade Adekola in films. Any special liking for him?
He is like a brother, a friend, and a colleague. He respects me a lot and I love him. I have always loved him even before he became a star and he took to my advice. You know Odun is also a very funny chap, so we blend well. Our relationship is very cordial.
What is your advice to people who are venturing into acting?
The movie industry is not as rosy as you think. The first step is to be dedicated. You don’t run into acting because of money, you will never make it. It takes the grace of God to be successful in this industry. We have actors who are not known and they are making money. Ironically, there are other aspects of filmmaking that fetch more money than appearing on the screen. My advice has always been to have a good source of income before delving into acting. That way, you can survive before becoming a star.
Artistes in Abeokuta seem to have taken over the Yoruba movie industry?
I don’t think so. We all produce films and we mix artistes to get a good movie. If I produce a movie and pack all artistes in Abeokuta without making contact with Lagos and Ibadan, then, I would not get anywhere.
Can you be referred to as a wealthy man?
It depends on your definition of being wealthy. God has blessed me. I have and live in my own house; I have cars; I have a wonderful family; I can afford three square meals and my name is not scandalised. That should make me a wealthy man.
What clothes do you like wearing?
I love to wear jeans, shirts, polo shirts and other casual attire. I am not a designer freak but I wear clothes that fit me. I dress to suit whatever occasion I am attending.
Do you have any favourite food?
Yes. I love asaro (yam pottage) served with stew and fried fish.
How do you unwind?
I am a member of Abeokuta Sports Club. I go there to relax. If I want to relax indoor, I play a game called ayo in front of my house with my friends.