Why Nollywood Remains Backward
Lilian Bach surely needs no introduction in the Nigerian movie industry, otherwise known as Nollywood. In a remarkable showbiz career, she has been involved in singing, modelling and marketing. In this interview with BAYO ADETU, the sultry actress talks about her life, the movie industry and other issues.
Q: How are you different from the Lilian Bach we see in movies?
A: I'm very sure the Lilian Bach you're seeing is different from the one you see in movies. This is because, I'm only interpreting the roles assigned me. However, I'm simple and down-to-earth. I don't have any air of pretence about men, I do my job as an actress and interpret my roles to the best of my abilities. I play different roles in movies, like a wayward lady, funny housewife, a devoted housewife, a schoolgirl, etc. I've actually played many characters, but the real me is simple and God-fearing.
Q: Have you at anytime played a role that accurately depicts the real you?
A: I can't remember, because I have played so many roles. So it is difficult for me to say. May be when I get home and search through the movies I have acted, I will be able to know the ones I acted something close to what I am in real life. But for now, it is very difficult for me to say.
Q: People believe it's your beauty, more than anything else, that gave you the Nollywood breakthrough.
A: People can say what they like. The're entitled to their opinions. I was in India some weeks back and was watching CNN. They were interviewing a lady who is one of the reigning stars of Bollywood. She just did a movie with Jackie Chan and the journalist asked her: 'people say it is your sexy look that got you to the top'. I was really impressed with the answer the lady gave. She said Jackie Chan used his muscles to get to where he is, so if her sexy looks got her to the top, what is wrong with that? If people see that I have a light complexion and therefore I'm fit for a particular role, what is the problem about it? Even if you have the physique and you can't interpret the role properly, you won't be given any role. So, for them to have given me roles means I have the qualities and I give God the glory.
Q: So, what will you say actually brought you to limelight?
A: I don't know because I started as a model, so I've always been in the limelight. I started modelling when it was no big deal here, when it was just gradually gaining ground, just as some people began acting before home videos gained ground. I've always been in the limelight, but I'm a quiet person, I'm not a noise-maker, I'm a silent achiever, so I can't say this is what brought me to limelight.
Q: What makes you different from other actresses?
A: Yeah, we have a lot of actresses, and the sky is so big for every bird to fly without having accidents in the air. That's the way I see it. What makes me different is that I guess I have my own ways and I'm sure my fans, directors and producers who have been using me for jobs in Nollywood know what makes me different or may be when it comes to some certain roles, they know I can handle them better. I really don't know that special thing about me, but it's left to those who've been using me to say that thing is special about this girl. I just know I'm one of the talented people in Nollywood. Each of us has what distinguishes her from the other. I just know I have been able to play different roles, I've not been sterotyped to play one particular role, I've found myself playing all kinds of roles.
Q: What kind of roles do you enjoy playing most?
A: Acting itself is just like playing, and you're been paid. I enjoy every role given to me, so I can't say this is the one I enjoy playing most. I'm still looking forward to more challenging roles which I have not played. I want to play the role of a blind woman, I want to play the role of an old woman, it is possible with good make up. Those are the kind of roles I'm looking forward to.
Q: Tell us about your experience in Nollywood?
A: It has not been easy, I must tell you. The way to the top is not always easy. I've been discouraged many times, but the love of the job keeps pulling me back. It's been so good and at the same time, there have been ups and downs along the line. For example, when I started in 1997, you won't believe I wasn't paid for the first two movies I did. I just said 'is this how the so-called Nollywood is'?. At times, you see or hear some things that could discourage you, or actually discourage you. But then, I've learnt that you just have to turn deaf ears if you want to remain in the acting world. You pretend that you're not hearing anything at all. Is it what your colleagues who are not happy about you say or what you read about yourself in the papers that are not true? I believe if others are surviving such criticism, I too can survive it.
Q: How do you really feel when actors are smooching you on set?
A: They are not smooching for fun, they are acting their roles. There is nothing to it at all. If you're given a role to play, you just have to play it perfectly, to convince your viewers. So I don't see anything wrong in people smooching themselves on set, according to you. As far as you are doing your job, and not just smooching out of set. They are smooching because the role demands them to smooch. As for me, I interpret my role and character. If the role says smooch, we have a way to smooch so it is not something indecent and that's where it ends.
Q: But an actress once said some actors go the extra-mile in interpreting the role?
A: I have never experienced such a thing. I guess it has to do with whoever is playing with whoever. A professional is always a professional. I'm not saying that there are no people that go the extra-mile to interpret their roles, but I've never experienced it because when I'm doing my job, I'm strictly doing my job. If I want to do romance or play funny, it won't be when I'm doing my work.
Q: Don't you sometimes get carried away when touched in a sensitive part of your body by an actor?
A: What sensitive part are you talking about? I haven't seen people going beyond kissing in movies. Anyway, different things turn different people on, but as for me, when I'm working, my brain is telling me I'm working. I don't get carried away by anything. I think it has to do with the structure of your mind and brain. Some people are not disciplined and they are careless and useless when it comes to simple touch or whatever it is. That is when they can get carried away, but I'm a disciplined person. May be some people have been admiring each other before and when they meet on set, they see it as an opportunity to express whatever feelings they have for each other.
Q: What is the reason behind your recent trip to India?
A: I went for Indian Broadcast 2005. It's about some exhibitions. I think it's something that holds every year. We were supposed to be greater in number for the trip, but some people backed out for one reason or the other. For me, I love anything I will gain from. It was an official trip really, a lot of people came from all over the world to exhibit the latest technology in film making. We saw the latest cameras, different kinds of recording equipment and all that. That's what I went for: to see how the industry is developing out there. I learned from the trip that there is another 'acting industry' in South India called Tollywood. I was surprised because I'd never heard of Tollywood before and I heard they have the biggest studio in the whole world, which is even bigger than Hollywood. Due to insufficient time, because I spent five days, we couldn't visit Tollywood to see things for ourselves. I also learnt about a HDB camera that people are going for now. You can actually transfer to 3-5 ML converter for cinema viewing, so I came back with a lot of brochures of the latest cameras. I saw a lot of new equipment that we've not been using here in Nigeria.
Q: How do you see the quality of films we have in Nollywood compared to Hollywood and Bollywood?
A: To be honest, in terms of quality, we haven't arrived yet. But we have good stories. Quality is our problem now. We can as well do better if we try to use some of those equipment. I even discovered that some of those equipment are not expensive, it's what people can come together to buy, an individual can even purchase some of these equipment. It's just that standard and quality that we have not achieved. Afterall, the actors in Hollywood and Bollywood are human like us, so I don't see what they're doing that we cannot do. We are even better than some of them in terms of acting, directing or producing. What is killing us is the penchant for cutting corners and that won't do us any good. When you spend money on a production, it's always better than when you cut corners. The major barrier we have is to stop producing wishy washy films, we should try to use these latest cameras and all that, so that people will stop complaining about our works. Another problem is that Nollywood is not united. A house divided against itself will never stand. Anyway, may be these things are happening because we are just growing. It's high time we stopped crawling, we need to walk, and for us to walk, we have to do away with the ugly things. We know what is right for the industry to grow. No more wishy washy films, use the right cameras, no more cutting corners, if the budget of a production says N5 million, go ahead and do it. Some are actually afraid of piracy but I can tell you these things can be curbed if we are united.
Q: What is your interest in music?
A: I'm a singer, I have an album that I have cooked up for about four years now which I'm yet to release. I don't want to be referred to as having joined the bandwagon. I'm a very patient person, I like to take my time on whatever I'm doing. People were just fortunate to see one or two tracks out of the six tracks, and that is the Makossa track that talks about marriage. But I've got some superb tracks, like hip hop and other genres in the album, which people have not heard. It's a Christian gospel music because that's my calling.
As time goes on, I will make up my mind on when to release it, I'm not in a hurry or under any pressure because I'm not doing it to make money but to win souls for God.
Q: You're still single, I've heard you saying once that it's because you've not met Mr. Right. Have there not been pressures from your family?
A: I'm not from that kind of family, nobody is putting any pressure on anybody, so I thank God for that. In my family, my mother respects everybody's opinion and feelings about life. I will let you know when it is time. I've not changed from the Lilian Bach I used to be. I appreciate the media in terms of their encouragement and good publicity. Without you journalists, some people will never know us. Some of the new movies I did are not yet out, so you guys should just watch out.
( The news )