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Yes, women are always around me–Bob-Manuel Udokwu

Source: nigeriafilms.com
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How is the movie world today?

We are in deep stress because of the global economic meltdown. We need to go into collaboration with other movie makers to revive Nollywood.

Can you remember the number of films you have participated in so far?

It should be more than a hundred. I was part of the pioneers in the movie industry in Nigeria from the days of Living in Bondage till now and I am still there.

What have you to say about Fame Corp and your recent election into the board?

First of all, the election was credible, peaceful and well organized. I see my election as a call to service and I believe in the ideals of Fame Corp, which is now being translated into physical action. Fame Corp stands for film, fashion, art, music, movies and of course, entertainment.

We are one large family in Fame Corp. It is a company driven by performance in Nigeria and it is my conviction that it will serve as the vehicle that we need to attract and export international products and also make it a profitable business. In America, the likes of Charly Chaplin took the initiative to start what is today known as the United Artistes and attracted investors and financial institutions to back them up. Today, United Artistes is a major player in movie making in America.

How does fame Corp stand to benefit artiste?

Whether actors, fashion designers, media people, producers and those who perform and entertain, it is meant for the artiste to be able to reap bountifully in the enormous creative input they make to entertain people and give people of the world quality products and as much as possible, cut down on piracy and substandard duplication of works and arts.

How are you affected by the ongoing crisis in the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN)?

I think it is unfortunate really what that crisis has evolve into. Issues were not properly managed and I think personal interests and ego came to play. At a time, my name was branded but I hope we will resolve it. I understand that there are about three people now claiming to be president of AGN. We have to look for a mature way of resolving the crisis so that we can forge ahead like one body. It is an unfortunate crisis orchestrated by people for selfish reasons.

What does it takes to anchor Gulder Ultimate Search TV Reality show consecutively for three years?

I feel honoured to present it because it is the first, the biggest and the best reality TV show on television today. It is indeed to the good of the Gulder Ultimate brand that today you have all sorts of reality TV shows. I only hope it is going to get bigger and better.

I am also engaged by Gulder to present the 10 contestants before their state governors and see what they have for them because they are role models. Last year, Governor Olusegun Mimiko made the contestant from the state, Elvis Abogu, a youth ambassador and awarded him scholarship up to Masters degree level.

In Enugu State, Governor Sullivan Chime gave scholarship to the girl that represented Enugu state. Her name is Vivian Okafor. The other year, scholarship was given by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of River state in the GUS, Abigal Opuogulaya.

The GUS is really a way of empowering the youths and Nigerian Breweries is trying to help youths through various programmes.

So, what are the challenges presenting GUS?

There is no formal script because it is a reality show. What you see is what you get. Everything has to happen spontaneously. The challenges in terms of weather, topography, etc… Yes, other elements of production are there because it is happening at the spur of the moment; you just have to know it and have the personality, the verve and what it takes to present the programme and hold people spell bound for 21 straight days.

By God's grace, and by the fact that I am trained by one of the very best - the late Professor Ola Rotimi, of the "The Gods are not to blame" fame, and coupled with the fact that I have been very consistent in the industry, I have been able to hold mine and propagate the ideals for which the Gulder brand stand for.

What kind of problem do you encounter with the contestants while in the jungle?

Some of them may not understand instructions as you give them. So, you have to repeat for them to understand. Ordinarily, I don't have problems with them. There is a task to be accomplish and they go ahead to accomplish it.

As one of the contestants in the GUS Celebrity Show Down, what do you think of the exercise?

It is a real experience if not totally strange for me because I have been participating in the regular GUS as the presenter. I also think it is worth the experience because it will make me see and feel the other side of the coin as a contestant and not the presenter. It will also afford me good exposure to mingle and bond with my other colleagues. I am very prepared for it and I hope to do my best?

Are you also looking forward to winning and how would you feel if you are evicted early in the programme?

Laughter… well, it is all part of the show - win or lose. Remember, it is a reality show and what you see is what you get. I also have it that if I now win, people will think I take advantage of them, having been part and parcel of the regular GUS. So, win or lose, the experience is what counts for me.

We understand you are a member of board of Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), how do you cope with the responsibilities?

I was appointed a member of Board of Directors of Anambra Broadcasting Service in 2007. Since then, I have been serving on the board. At some point, the board was dissolved and a new one reconstituted. So I am still there in the new board.

It doesn't stop me from doing my other works. Whenever there is a board meeting, I attend and regularly too. I also make worthy contributions to the board, most especially, with my exposure.

How do you go about these enormous responsibilities without blemish?

I get information, look at my time table and get these things planned ahead of time. It is not easy, it takes a toll on the family life because I am always travelling and I have a very wonderful family that understands that in as much as they need me, I have obligations in terms of my job to move around. I won't say I am very lucky in that regard but the job has to be done and very well too. It is a commitment.

I have a wife who understands the nature of my work. I have children even where they are still young, understand that daddy is a special gifted person and he travels all the time and as they are growing, I think they are beginning to understand it more and more. We have work to do and it demands travelling just to do it.

I am actually travelling tomorrow (Day after interview) to a location where I am going to shoot a film. I just return from Liberia on official invitation. It is tight and tough actually. It is not all the A-list artistes in Nollywood that are as busy as I am, be it in front of the camera or not.

I try as much as possible to make my family understand. Now, I have just sent my wife a text message because she knew about the meeting here today, she didn't know about the subsequent meeting I will be going for and I promise to give her details later when I get home. I thank God for giving me strength, the kind of family He has given me and the ability to do things.

What informs your dress sense in attending to the various jobs you do?

I really don't make up my mind in advance on what to wear. I think I am a spontaneous man. My mood actually tells me what to put on. When I wake up in the morning, I probably look through my wardrobe and select things to wear based on the occasion.

I hardly make new clothes for occasion. I get new stuffs when I have the opportunity of getting them. I may or may not use them immediately. I also seek a second opinion from my wife when I pick things to wear. Sometimes she suggests things and I agree with her. Sometimes I come out to say this is what I would want to wear without a second opinion.

When you stay away from home for up to a month or so, maybe in a hotel, don't you feel the urge to have a woman around you?

Whether I am out working outside my base in Lagos or I am in Lagos, I always find women around me because by the nature of our job, you always find women and children closer to you. Actually, very few men find time to watch television and home videos. They are for mostly people who stay at home.

I have come across company executives and men who will tell me 'your name sounds familiar but I don't know you, but I am sure if my wife and children were here, they will know you.' So, it is something that doesn't have to be when you travel. When you are in your base on daily basis, you meet people. Children will run to you on the street and say hello to you. They will appreciate and show you love in the church and other places. It is something I have to live with.

Conscious of your celebrity status, don't some of these women make a pass at you?

Laughter… As you make your bed, so you lie on it. You make your mind on what you want to do with them from the onset. I choose to avoid certain things that will give me bad image because I know that I am a role model to a lot of people.

My marriage clocked 10 years and I don't think I want anything to hurt my marriage and I don't do anything that will hurt my marriage. Yes, people may want to try something. Again, you have to be firm without being insensitive because rejection is something that nobody wants. So you have to be firm to make the opposite sex understand that there is a limit to what her accommodation can be.

Majorly, I think what they see in me is just an image formed by what they see on television. I may be the nicest looking guy, but I may not have the nicest of character. What they see actually is a product because if I was in my bedroom and I was watching Africa Magic and they were showing one of the films I did some years back, for some people watching it too, the willing suspension of disbelief may make them believe that okay, I am watching Bob Manuel on television right now, whereas, the person they think they are watching on television is actually lying down in the bedroom and in the comfort of his wife and living his normal life and watching Bob Manuel the actor as well.

So, they are only seeing a product of what I do while as a person, the individual, a husband and father, is also there watching the product. So, there is a distinction between the product and the individual. What I see in that is that they are satisfied customers who probably want some more.

How does your wife react when she sees you in very romantic and sexy scenes with another woman in films?

She was already watching me in movies before she agreed to marry me. Yes, you cannot rule out some elements of the human feeling in terms of being uncomfortable with them. Again, I also realize that I have a responsibility to my family and my training also tells me that you don't over act, even if it is a violent or romantic scene.

There are some of my colleagues I see over acting, weather in violent or romantic films as if they want to prove a point. What point is there to prove? But I don't need to prove a point at my level. The whole world knows that I am a good actor. If it is a romantic scene, I have to play it convincingly. Being convincing doesn't have to be vulgar or revolting, it doesn't have to take the Census Board to remove that thing.

Again, the standard we have here is unlike Hollywood where certain pictures are expected, certain level of intimacy is expected. We have to stick to what is our standard here. I want to be able to do productions the whole family can watch. It is not like doing a romantic film and parents become uncomfortable because children are there.

That is why I am so glad that a programme like the Ultimate Search, the whole family can sit down and watch comfortably because there is no indecent exposure.

But some parents usually raise apprehension over the tough terrain and dreaded jungle?

It teaches children true life. It makes them to understand that life is not a bed of roses, neither is it a bed of thorns. It is a mixed bag. Look, my wife tells me that my children also organize their own ultimate search at home when I am doing mine. It shows that they are picking something from there. Again, they always have favourites among the contestants. As I am evicting them, this one will say this is now my person since the other one has been evicted.

Don't your children influence your decision in the Ultimate Search?

Very sorry, I don't enjoy the luxury of speaking to them when I am on the Ultimate Search. It is forbidden.

Doing movie or presenting the GUS Ultimate Search, which is more challenging to you?

Every element of doing a movie is in the Ultimate Search. The only difference is that you don't have a formal script. Each of them has their own challenges. You have the challenge of performing with other people who are not as good as you are or doing stories you are not convinced about in a movie just as you are on your own to do it live and prove your mettle in Ultimate Search. There is no cut or re-take. It is live and direct.

What is your advice for the industry?

With the nature of the global economic recession and for the fact that the world knows about Nollywood, let's go into co-production. It is the right step to go for now so that we bring the standard to internationally acceptable level, get nominated for Oscar and all that and do productions that cut across cultures all over the world.

Story by Alayande Dayo