Ladies call me heartless –Ali Nuhu, actor
Probably because of his roles in movies, Ali Nuhu, a fast-rising actor, tells KEMI DAYO-AIYETAN that many people are now demonising him.
GRADUALLY, he is becoming a screen god. This is thanks to his role in Wetin Dey? an HIV/AIDS awareness soap opera aired on various television channels in Nigeria. That was all he needed for a break.
”Everyone started condemning Ibrahim (my role) for marrying an innocent woman and infecting her with HIV,” he enthuses.
”Anywhere I went to, people would ask me why I refused to tell my wife that I was a carrier and even killing my girlfriend, Nana. It became more terrible when I met a pregnant woman in the market, who happened to be my colleague's wife. I was teasing her about her state and she said I should not kill her as I killed my girlfriend and that if I killed Halima, my wife on set, she would deal with me.
”Even after putting to bed and I called her to congratulate her, she was very cold. I meet some ladies and they would call me heartless, callous and all sorts of names just because I did not tell my wife I had HIV and infected her with the virus. At a point, I became confused about explaining to people that my role as Ibrahim in Wetin Dey? was make-believe. On the other hand, I grew to love the condemnation because it showed I interpreted the role well,” he enthused.
That is the amazing world of Ali Nuhu, whose foray into Nollywood started from the Hausa films genre. His first film Abin'sirrine (It's a secret) was in 1999 after he graduated from the University of Jos, with a degree in Geography. ”I have always wanted to act, even when I was a small boy. I knew I would act someday but how it would start was unknown to me,” he offers.
Luck smiled on him when he read an advertisement. ”It was about an audition and they needed cast for a film. That was after my graduation but the film that shot me to limelight was Dijangala, which recently bagged an award of the Best Hausa Film at the recent Zuma Films Festival in Abuja. Though a re-make of the old Dijangala, it was what I needed to be hot in the Hausa film market. Since then, I have been in the Hausa genre of Nollywood before Wetin Dey?”
Getting the role of Ibrahim on the Wetin Dey? set was by a stroke of luck. ”I came in late,” he revealed. Late? Didn't he want the role from the outset? ”Already, they had taken the pilot copy to London for selection but they needed to make changes. I was invited for an audition in Kano and was told that it was a BBC-sponsored stuff. There were four directors on set and, after my audition, I was chosen to play the role of Ibrahim and we were on set for a year and three months.” He played the role so well that you would think he suffered from the deadly virus. Ironically, he confessed that: ”I didn't know about HIV/AIDS or even stigmatisation of victims until I got to the set. I got to meet people infected and we learnt from them in interpreting our roles. The role of Ibrahim was a true life story of a victim who knew he had AIDS and, to cover up, he quickly married his cousin. He was afraid of stigmatisation and discrimination. So he continued covering up his tracks until he met his waterloo. I believe the society made Ibrahim who he was and not because he was callous or wicked.”
Based in Kano, his handsome face has featured in many Hausa films and he is one of the celebrated stars of the Hausa movie world. Attesting to the fact that the Kano movie industry is getting more vibrant daily, Nuhu says their audience is not only northern based. 'From Abuja to the East and neighbouring African countries, we are watched and our stars celebrated. In a year, we have produced over 200 films. We are doing well in the market and we are set to do more.”
Back to Wetin Dey?, he agreed that the soap had influenced his life. ”We are fighting a cause but I was told that people could mistake me for HIV positive person but I didn't mind because we wanted to make viewers know that HIV/AIDS victims are people like us and should not be discriminated against. That was why I put in every skill I have but viewers believe I am HIV positive in real life. I am not. I have gone for test and I am negative. That I play a role on television does not mean that I am that person.”
So, who is he? To his numerous female fans, who think Ali Nuhu is not married, this is indeed sad news. ”I am happily married and I have two kids. My wife is quite beautiful and I would do anything to please her. I even give my scripts to her and anything she would not like, I would not do on set,” he said. Is he saying he would not kiss or touch a woman on set just because his wife would not approve? ”Though she is Hausa and a devout Moslem, she is liberal and believes my profession is important. Oftentimes, my roles on set could have to do with women and she would not object to kisses or hugs. Romantic scenes are allowed but there is a limit.”
But his religion, Islam, forbids it. ”I am a professional actor and as long as what I am doing on set is not sinful, my religion would not frown on it. A lot of Nigerians mistake your roles on television or films for the real you. They have forgotten that your real you is different from the actor in you. I could dress scantily on set but would not do that in real life.”
Asked Ali Nuhu if his wife gets jealous over his female fans and he replies, ”Naturally, women are jealous and could get possessive over their husbands. I feel for wives of actors when female fans flock around them for photographs, autographs or make calls even late in the night. Naturally, my wife is not a jealous person but there was a time some rumour-mongers were all over town saying I was dating an Hausa actress. After an event, I gave the lady a lift and my wife saw us together. She was not angry but she cautioned me to stop being seen with that girl because people could mistake our intentions.”
At this juncture, he highlighted challenges of being a fine-faced actor: ”There are numerous female fans who would call endlessly. Some would even ask you if you were married or still single. I would proudly say that I am happily married but there are some stubborn women who would continue beeping and making nonsense calls. When I could not control it, I got a software that helps blacklist some numbers from my hand-set. What the device does is that any number I don't want to answer would come in as unknown and would not ring. The phone would just beep.”
You would not really blame him because within 30 minutes which this interview held, he had 137 unanswered calls which his hand-set recorded as ”unknown.”
An exasperated Nuhu says, ”That is how the calls keep coming daily. So, imagine what I would have gone through if I didn't get that device. Before then, I would receive so many calls that answering calls became a stress.”
What if he is termed as being proud? ”Anyone who is close to me and knows me very well would say that I am not proud. There are some calls which come in when I am on set or when I am busy. That I do not pick such calls does not mean that I am proud. That I don't give attention to some stubborn female fans does not mean Ali Nuhu is a proud actor.”