He’s Tubosun Odunsi, a renowned artiste, movie practitioner of repute whose track records and career transition in the movie world have spanned a golden age. The veteran actor of sterling qualities, according to his words does not accept any script that would mar his image regardless of the fee involve. He recently spoke with Enquirer’s Faith Irabor about his career, life and other sundry issues. Excerpts
Can you remember precisely when you started acting sir?
I started acting in the year 1955 with one Syncopation Orchestra led by Chief Olayeni. Many people believe that I started with Ogunde, no! I started with Chief Olayeni. He lived at Apapa road near the Fire Station then. He had his hotel there. I could remember there was a time a cow with five legs was brought to Lagos, it was in his hotel people were paying ticket to watch it. It was that cow I went to see that I met them rehearsing a play, coincidentally and eventually, this play was brought to our church at Jehovah Jireh African Church. And in that play titled, Queen Shebba Meets Solomon, a young chap had to give a gift to Queen Shebba, so I was chosen to be that boy giving gift to Queen Shebba and I was given a T-shirt that day. I was so small then, very tiny in stature. That was how I developed interest in it. After my secondary school days, I worked with West Africa Thread Company in Apapa where they were making T-Shirts (singlets) and so on. But then the quest for theatre was very deep in me. I was doing it part-time but I later discovered that Chief ‘Layeni was a “Lagos rat,” so you wouldn’t travel outside Lagos. Later I heard that Pa Ogunde was travelling all over the country and that made me switch over to Pa Ogunde.
Can you tell us why people often refer to you as Idaamu Paadi Mukailu?
Alagba Adebayo Faleti wrote the book, Idaamu Paadi Mukailu and I acted it on the television, the then WNTV/WNBS. We took Idaamu Paadi Mukailu out to all parts of the country, including some parts in West Africa like Accra in Ghana, Cotonou and so on. It was there I derived the name — Idaamu Paadi Mukailu. So, people have since been calling me Paadi, Paadi.
I must commend your acting skills especially easy flow of tears considering your age, what would you want to attribute this to?
(Laughs), thanks my dear, I would answer that question by defining who a real artiste is. An artiste is that somebody who can fit into a role at any point in time, someone that can be at his best at all given time, that can interpret any character very well, having said that, it’s not everybody, not every actor put together male or female that could fall into that character, it depends on their trainings but all the same I bless God for giving me the strength to be good at what I love doing. The moment you give me a role to interpret and that is exactly what the role demands, I would immediately put myself into the character because I am like a porter in the hands of the clay. If you give me a role of a messenger, I have to behave as a real messenger regardless of my age, you give me role as a king, and you want to see the king really happy, I have to bring in the happiness of a king. You know the happiness of a king is quite different from the happiness of his subordinates; you just have to come into that character. If you have not actually brought out the real character, then you are not yet an artiste.
How do you choose your scripts, I mean what determines the kind of roles you play in the movie, is it the money or the character you are playing, what really motivates your acceptance?
That depends on the producer, the producer knows who plays a particular role, if you want a king, a lawyer, a judge, a mechanic, you determines who can interpret that character and you call the person in, acting for me is not for the money, sometimes the money is not even the thing we are talking about but the real person who can actually interpret the character.
Have you ever rejected a script?
Yes I have.
What was the basis?
When I see a script and am not feeling the story, I reject it not minding the fee involved because I believe a wrong script can mar my image.
Not much has been heard about your family, I mean your wife and children?
They are all around and are doing fine.
Where is your wife?
She is in my house, am taking care of her, (laughs)
How many children do you have and how old is the eldest?
Like the Yoruba adage will say, you don’t count children but I have men and women and the oldest is about 41 now and they are almost all gone am left with my wife.
Is there anyone of them towing your part?
No, except for my last born a female, but she is not actually in the movie industry. She studied Mass Communication and likes the art world.
As an elder in the industry, are there issues you would like to address?
Yeah, there are lots of challenges. First is the kind of scripts we write these days, I want us to look at our scripts and bring them down more towards our culture so that we don’t allow outsiders to misconstrue our image, sometimes we misrepresent our culture. Bringing the western culture into our movie is really diluting the originality of the culture. This is one thing that often gives me concern.
Ok, so what are you also doing to correct that?
By the grace of God we are doing a lot, making all arrangements for our people to bring out our culture in every production as an elder in the system and that is why I sometimes do not hesitate to reject scripts when they are not passing the right messages across, I would not say more than that.
Do you see yourself retiring soon and how old are you?
Honestly maybe soon, am in my early sixties.
What month are you?
I was born in the Month of July.
What’s your favorite meal?
Iyan (pounded yam) (laughs)
Where are you from?
I am from Aworiland in Ogun State.
What movie would you consider your best so far?
You people watching would be the one to say, because when you give me a role to play I will put in my best, if another person gives me another role, I will also put in my best and this time it may even be better than the previous one.
What about your most challenging role?
I honestly don’t have any yet (laughs).
There are crises in the ANTP, what are you as an elder doing to resolve these issues?
(Sighs)We are trying our best solution that will resolve it.
Who is the ANTP president?
We don’t have any president at the moment and that’s the truth but Jide Kosoko is the outgoing president.
Can you mention few of the movies you’ve produced?
I have tried some, EJO N’GBORO, AY’ORUNBO, and OGUN ABELE.
What advice do you have for the upcoming ones?
My advice goes to the so called upcoming producers who are not ready to do things the way it’s supposed to be done. They should first get trained for the purpose and stop entering through the window. You shouldn’t try to enter through the window, they should enter through the right channel that is get trained. Those who have gone through training when you see them and their works you would see the different.
Can you cite any example?
My daughter, when you see a good movie, you don’t need to be told, I won’t mention names here but good producers are not much but identified by their works.
What message do you have for your fans?
I want them to support us in our struggles, make sure they don’t patronize pirates, and get the real thing from the real people.
It’s being nice chatting with you?