Movie actors should speak more than one language


Renowned playwright, actor and director, Chief Adebayo Faleti, boasts of an enviable career in the theatre spanning five decades. From an operatic group, which he floated in the early 50s, the artiste's professional career traversed the stage, radio, television, film and lately the home video.

Among his major works are: Won Rope Were Ni (drama), Omo Olokun Esin (prose), Idaamu Paadi Mukailu, and Maagun which was adapted to Thunderbolt by Mainframe Productions in the year 2000. He also scripted for Remdel Optimum Communications, Afonja , an epic drama.

As an actor, Faleti has acted in a number of films like Saworoide, Thunderbolt and Agogo Eewo, by Mainframe and Remdel's Afonja. The filming of his historical drama, Basorun Gaa, which will soon be released in home video format, was his first major work to be shot into a movie. The drama, which was serialised by the Western Nigeria Television/ Broadcasting Service (WNTV/WNBS) in the early 70s, had its press preview recently. Speaking with Daily Sun at the event, held at Lagos Television (LTV) premises, Ikeja. The award winning dramatist spoke about his passion for the theatre, his pioneering efforts, promotion of Yoruba language, screening of Basorun Gaa and why the stage should not be allowed to die.

Producing other works on video
Something is in the offing. Plans are underway to shoot Omo Olokun Esin, a historical novel into home video. That is going to involve Mainframe, Remdel Music and myself. Another historical work which is going to be exclusive to Remdel is Kurunmi, the Ijaye generalissimo, and a name to reckon with in Yoruba history. I am working on the script now.

Simplifying his language
We cannot simplify the language for the sake of the younger generation. What we could do is try and demonstrate what the language connote. You may say that the language I used in Omo Olokun Esin is difficult perhaps because of your linguistic background and your age. I think that the ultimate aim of any production, be it historical or fictional, should be to give the audience new things and enable them appreciate your language better. By retaining the language, I believe it is a way of teaching the people, the vocabulary of the Yoruba language.

Influence of D.O. Fagunwa
I was very young when he was writing. Actually, he influenced me quite a lot. Unfortunately, his influence died by accident. For instance, my first novel, Suru ati Ogbon (Patience and Wisdom), was fictional and it used characters that are also imaginary and bear strange names. That was how far Fagunwa influenced me. Regrettably, the manuscript of that novel got lost. After that, I decided to write something realistic. It was I who brought reality to Yoruba drama. I pioneered the use of real names in Yoruba literature.

Before then, novels and drama in Yoruba employed strange names which no one could relate with. For instance, in my first novelette, Ogun Awitele, real names of people were used. So, when I was writing Omo Olokun Esin and Idaamu Paadi Mukailu, and Won Ro Pe Were Ni, real names of people were used. In addition, I pioneered division of plays into acts and scenes like the English.

Influence of the Osogbo theatrical community
I did not form my theatre group after meeting the likes of Duro Ladipo, Kola Ogunmola, Oyin Adejobi and the likes. My first drama group was founded in 1950. It was called Oyo Youth Operatic Society. I did not work in Osogbo until 1956. We were contemporaries when I met the Osogbo-based dramatists. As a result, we became friends. However, I went a step further than them because I was writing scripts for my plays. Before that time, plays were improvised. After that, I founded the Egbe Alebiosu Drama Group in 1958. I was a drama producer on television and radio then. At a point, I was tired of producing drama through improvised dialogue. So, I was compelled to write the script for television. That group, Egbe Alebiosu, was founded to use the scripts that I wrote. At that time, between 1958 and 1974, I knew that I must write a drama script in a week. I introduced the Adegboye detective series in Yoruba and for four years, I was turning out a scripted episode per week.

From stage to television
I was in information service when I was at Osogbo. From Osogbo information service, I joined the television service. At the television service, I was not in production at all. I had nothing to do with programmes. I was discovered when I was doing part-time broadcasting with Radio Nigeria. It was there that somebody pointed me out to them. So, I was transferred to the programmes department. I didn't start my career in broadcasting with production, I was in film editing department.

Pioneering invitational drama production
That was a time of big rivalry among the big dramatists. When I wanted to produce Basorun Gaa, I wanted to introduce something that was unique. Remember that drama troupes were run on group basis at that time. So, I invited both the Yoruba and the English groups-talking about the Armchair Theatre in Ibadan then and the Orisun Theatre. In my cast then were the likes of late Wale Ogunyemi, Nike Ladele and Jimi Solanke. In like manner, I invited the other groups and all the major artistes of the period. I extended the same invitation to the late Chief Hubert Ogunde, but he felt that I was doing a silly thing. Ironically, the initiative he rebuffed was what actually sustained him when he started producing his own films.

Casting of Basorun Gaa
I want to retain some of the original cast members. Though some of them were getting old, it was my way of perpetuating them through the film medium. Apart from that, they would quicken our production. Many of them were farmiliar with the lines, so it did not take them a long time to catch up. Also my daughter played Agboyin, Alaafin Abiodun's princess and Olayiotan, Gaa's son. My son was also the location manager. I am happy that they were interested in the project

Production Cost
Basorun Gaa costs quite a lot of money. The production gulped some millions of naira.

Film location
The location was a village called Daago, very close to Ibadan. What we did was to put thatched roof on all the buildings.

Video, killing live theatre
Actually, it is killing it but we don't want it dead. I think that it is expedient for live drama to be revived, how, I don't know. I think members of the Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP) are thinking about it. I think that the Artistes Night which members of ANTP hold should be converted to live performances. Unfortunately, most of the home video actors today have not tested themselves on stage. We all know that the stage is more challenging than video. You could make amendments if you make a mistake in a film, but the same cannot be said for stage acting.

Reviving Yoruba Language
All the Yoruba speaking states should make laws that will make the study of Yoruba in schools compulsory at the primary and secondary levels.

Cross over artistes
When they come to act in Yoruba, they speak in Yoruba. Is it not a shame on us that we cannot take on Igbo films and speak Igbo like them? Some of the Igbo artistes speak Yoruba, some even speak better than we, Yoruba. By now we should begin to learn Hausa and Igbo languages, so that, when we produce a film, we can produce Igbo and Hausa versions of the same film instead of subtitling them. By so doing, Nigerian languages, and the home video industry will grow simultaneously. The Igbo are the only ones making concerted efforts. So, if we invited them and they responded and now, they are doing well, it is a boost to Yoruba culture.

I speak French. I studied at the University of Dakar. I read French literature and I did French as a subsidiary.

Translating works to French
Of all my writings, I have translated Ogun Awitele to French. Many of my poems have been translated too. Ominira (Freedom) for instance, and Didake Akewi ( Poet's Silence) have been translted to French too.