Mr Latin Yoruba Movies Comedian reveals all in lengthy interview!
Mr Latin Yoruba Movies.
Feels me with joy to say Bolaji Amusan aka Mr Latin or Baba Latin is one of my favourite Yoruba comedy actors.There have been many times that Mr Latin left me laughing uncontrolably on the floor.We are also share the same birthday month .Mr Latin was born in October 15 1966,making his age 49 years old as of March 2016.Mr Latin is happily married to Ronke who resides in Dublin with their children.Mr Latin and his wife have two children,a boy and a girl.
In a recent interview with Rotor Concepts,the famed Yoruba comedian reveals all in a lengthy chat that is more or less a biography of the actor.He talks about his family,how he changed the face of comedy,how well both the male and female actors are thriving in Nollywood,his biggest joy in acting,why actors and actresses bleach,his supposed rivalry with Baba Suwe and more..Sit back relax and enjoy the ride with Baba Latin...
The name Bolaji Amusan may not readily ring a bell when heard as most of his timing fans are not so familiar with his real name. But just call his stage name, ‘Baba Latin’, then you realise that you’re actually referring to a global legend especially in the Yoruba circuit of the make-believe world popularly referred to as ‘Nollywood’. With a career spanning over 25 years and over forty movies to his credit, Baba Latin confirms he’s not set to retire any time soon.
Can we get to meet you Sir?
My name is Bolaji Amusan popularly known and called ‘Mr Latin or Baba Latin’. I am from Gbangan in Osun State but reside in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Thus, I’m a dual citizen.
How did you come about the name Mr Latin?
When I started acting, there were a lot of babas in the industry, and I wanted to bring a bit of education into comedy, so I chose to be speaking French even though I was not so good in it when I did it in the secondary school. I spoke it badly and I liked it that way. One day, we were acting and Ola Ogungbe, the elder brother of Akin Ogungbe said, 'This man that is speaking foreign language, is it Greek or French or Latin?' I said it was Latin and the name stuck.
I didn't start as a comedian. I used to have a landlord; he is late now. I regarded him as the original Mr Latin. I was very close to him and I always liked to mimic him in the midst of my colleagues. I would ask them to come and listen to what my landlord said today. Then around 1990, my late oga now called me and said, 'Can you mimic your landlord in a film?' I said I could. My landlord used to be a liquor distributor. He was a very nice and blunt man. He always believed that two multiplied by two was equal to four, nothing more, nothing less. Each time he acted funny, he would call me to sit down and learn. He didn't know that I would mimic him then. He just saw me as a young man who should learn one or two things about life.
How long have you been in the movie industry?
My acting career started in March 1988. By the year 2018 God-willing, I’ll be celebrating 30 years in the industry.
In the 27 years of your career, what are the changes you can recall in the industry over the years?
Whoa! Rotor, a whole lot of things have changed since I joined the industry. In recent years, you can see for yourself that there is more awareness and acceptance for the profession compared to the years past. Then, acceptability was very low and people looked down on the job, but now, it is a generally accepted profession. The trend has changed drastically. Now-a-days, you see engineers, doctors and other people in different fields of profession encouraging their children to enroll at acting schools and the rest. Another significant change can be seen in the aspect of technological advancement. We cannot compare the types of cameras and equipment we use in shooting movies these days with the types we had when I just started out. The cameras and equipment we have now are very good, fast, efficient and easy to set up. Rotor, you see the artists that started out during my time, my humble self-inclusive, dived into acting because of the passion and zeal we had for the job. As at that time, dedication and professionalism was on the high side. We received very little remuneration for the jobs we did and we were not even bothered. All we wanted to do was to impact our society through our acting prowess. It’s so unfortunate that in recent times, most of the people in the industry are not passionate about the profession but the fame and money that come with it, that’s why you see a lot of half-baked people parading themselves as celebrities because they have featured in one or two movies.
Often time we see most of the movie legends in both the Yoruba and the English genre suffer at their old age. As a matter of fact, some of them come out publicly to seek for help before they receive any form of attention. What do you think can be done to avoid this or improve their welfare?
Many thanks for the question, however, you should realise that this welfare issue is not peculiar to the movie industry alone. It’s prevalent in almost all the sectors of the country’s economy. Retired teachers, railway workers and the rest also go through similar challenges. In a situation like this, I believe the fault should be attributed to the government of the day. Let’s take for instance, in some developed countries, when you reach certain age, the government will start providing you with some basic amenities to make life comfortable. You have access to free medical care, free transportation etc. But here in Nigeria, the reverse is the case. Sincerely, I have to admit that actors’ guild is not happy going cap in hand to ask for help anytime one of her members is sick or in dire need of help. We believe that the services we render to the public were not for free, so why should we bother them again? They paid for the movies and so they are not under any obligation to start contributing money for us because we have personal issues. Because of issues like this and several others, that was why we in Theatre-Art and Motion Picture Practitioners Association on Nigeria (TAMPAN) introduced a health insurance scheme, whereby members contribute a certain amount annually, so that in the case of any health eventuality or challenges, you are adequately catered for.
This leads me to the next question. Why do actors like mentioning peoples names’ in movies like Rotor of London, Olue of Houston, even when such people have nothing to do with the scene or the movie as a whole. Some people say it’s a stylish way of soliciting for funds or in actual fact, a way of begging for money from these people. What is your take on this and how true is it?
Many of us are guilty of this, including me. We did it that time because it that was what was in vogue. You see people doing it and you just want to do it also. However, I have to admit that it is not professional and we have unanimously decided to desist from such. As you know musicians will sing praises of their benefactors and we were also trying to do same at that time, but we later came to the realization that there were several ways of showing appreciation without necessarily mentioning names in the movie. You know how things are in Nigeria, once someone does something, then everybody will start doing it, but the older and more exposed we became, we realised it could be done in a better and civic manner. This is why we now appreciate them at the end of the movie without shouting their names in movies.
Baba Latin Suwe.
It is insinuated that there is bad blood between you and Baba Suwe, that your emergence on the scene eclipsed the popularity of the ace comedian…
There is nothing between the two of us. Baba Suwe is my very senior colleague. We are good brothers and I give him his due respect. You see, there is time for everything and everybody has got to use his time fast. Once upon a time, we had Baba Sala; then we had Pa Luwe, then Baba Suwe and then, others. Nobody can push another person out of the market. I am doing my own. My comedy is different from those of other comedians. It is not true that I chased anybody out of market. All I know is that I am doing my own the way I know to do it. I respect my senior colleagues.
There is this general belief that most female artists are doing better than their male counterparts, how true is this and why is it so?
It is a very wrong notion and perception. Do you know how successful Odunlade Adekola is with the number of properties and assets he owns? Have you been to Femi Adebayo’s abode to relate with his success? Same can be said for Sanyeri, Muyiwa Ademola and many other male artists. My humble self is also not left out. To God be the glory, I can call myself a success in this profession as well. The way we all decide to use our lives are different. There are some of us who doesn’t like to blow our trumpets. Even many of the male artists including our Ogas in the industry are doing well. But of course, I admit that that the female nature is somehow different. Even outside the movie industry, for you to know that a man is rich; you need to see his wife. A man may have a Range Rover and another small car, for all you know he may be driving the small car while the wife will prefer to cruise the Range Rover even down the road to buy tomatoes. Even if she is a full time house wife, she would dress to kill with jewelleries and other accessories, drive the Lamborghini to the market just to buy Iru (locust bean), that is the feminine nature for you.
We also need to understand that some male artists have as many as five children in the university, a wife at home and other family issues they attend to financially. Hence, the way and manner they will spend or show off will surely be different from a lady that is single or still have a man to take care of her. The actor may just have a car and build one house and then channel all his energy on the children and wife.
Another factor is that most of the opportunities open to female artists; the male are not often accrued to. For example, a Senator may just watch one movie and if he likes a girl, he may just send one of his boys to go and give her a car. A Deputy Governor may just decide to go and dash a girl a lump sum of money because he just loves her in a movie. Although, we do see some women do same for some male artists, but surely not on the same level with their female counterparts. So whether they do it for them or not, females normally live flamboyant lifestyles and we are surely proud of them. They are our seniors, colleagues and juniors and we are happy seeing them excel in the industry.
In the industry, most of the female artists are now fair complexioned. Hardly would you find a dark coloured actress. Is it the producers that requires them to do such or it’s just a pre-requisite to be a top actress?
Well, I think it’s a matter of personal conviction. It’s not peculiar to the female artists alone; some male artists are also guilty of this act. We can also attribute it to bad company. Some believe that with a flashy colour, they’ll get easily noticed, so they just go for it. Some other believes that producers will notice them easily if they are fair in complexion, so they step up by toning. Also, some believe that since my friend is light skinned, I have to be light skinned too. But the truth is that, nobody, no producer will make it compulsory for you to be fair or light skinned before you can get a role. Let’s even take for example, if Antar Laniyan is playing the role of a father, it would be difficult to use a fair skinned lady as his daughter, same as if Ogun Majek, or Ogogo is acting as a father in a movie too, it would look absurd to cast a very fair skinned girl as the daughter. Therefore, being dark or light skinned have their different advantages and disadvantages
How many movies do you have to your credit?
To God be the glory, I have produced over 40 movies. At least I can boast of the highest number of comedy movies in Nigeria. Most of my movies are comedy and have been in production since 1996. My very first movie was produced in 1996 titled ‘Ebun Igbeyawo’ (Wedding Gift), my second movie ‘Faworaja’ was produced in 1999, ‘Nnkan Olomoba’ (2000), ‘Talo n gbemu’ (2001), ‘Eegun Mogaji’, ‘Obajobalo’, Mr President etc.
Can we have your say on poor movie subtitling and what you think can be done to have it improved?
That is one area that is giving us serious headache in the industry and we are trying our possible best to correct the menace. Recently, the TAMPAN executives under the leadership of Dele Odule had a meeting with all the movie marketers, led by Corporate Pictures on how to improve on this. Rotor, I have to admit that both movie producers and marketers are the root cause of this. Let me give you an illustration, when I produce a movie, I do the editing and give it to the marketer. Most of these marketers have people that subtitle movies for them and, more often than not, the persons subtitling may not be a professional and may also have so many jobs at hand; thus, they have to rush up just in time for the release of the movie. Therefore, no time to proof read by the producer or even the marketer all because the work was rushed up to meet up with the deadline for release. The marketer is focused on selling the finished work and make profit on his investment, the producer also want his/her financial gains back on time while the person doing the subtitling have several other jobs waiting for his/her attention. So the cycle continues. We have recently come to the realization that this act is affecting the business negatively. So we have therefore decided to tackle the menace by handling it professionally. People easily get discouraged because of the poor subtitling and this has turned us into laughing stocks in the society. You read some subtitling and you’ll nearly faint. We are not proud of this and are doing everything humanly possible to tame it. We now have a guild of producers, guild of directors, guild of writers, guild of interpreters, guild of editors and the rest. So if you are not a member of guild of producers, you will not be allowed to produce a movie, if you are not a member of guild of writers, you will not be allowed to write a script and so on. With the different guilds in place, we can control and tame the activities of everybody involved in a movie production, unlike now that it is free for all. For now, anybody with capital can just come in and produce a movie, but very soon, that would become impossible. In a short while, the new plans would be put in place, then, you’ll definitely see a lot of improvements in the way things are being run in the industry.
In other words, you mean if I want to produce a movie with my money, I won’t be allowed?
Like I mentioned earlier, once every of our plans are in place, you won’t be able to produce even if you have the money. You will just have to give such money to someone that is already a member of the guild of producers to produce the movie on your behalf. You can only be credited with the movie as executive producer or financial producer. This is because there is already an agreement between the artists, producers and marketers that only accredited cameramen would be allowed to handle camera, only the accredited producers can produce and so on.
Are you invariably implying that one must be accredited and accessed before delving into the activities you mentioned above?
Yes, you have to be accredited. In our association, the Chairperson of the Guild of producers is Funke Akindele. To be a member, you have to be accessed and accredited by the committee of producers before you can be allowed to produce a movie. People like Adebayo Tijani, Muyiwa Ademola and several others are members of the committee.
When this new rule is finally put in place, what would be the fate of those that have been producing before?
Thank you for that question. The answer is very simple, previous producers would still be required to go through screening and assessments. Every member will have to do that, including even the National president, Dele Odule. Despite the fact that I have over forty movies to my credit, I’m still expected to go through the screening. If you pass the screening, nothing stops you from being recognised as a producer, but once you fail, you’ll have to come back the following year
In a situation where some members or a key member of a particular committee have scores to settle with an intending producer and so decides not to accredit such person, what do you think can be done?
We have an appeal panel where people can lodge their complaints if they feel aggrieved. Mind you, all the decisions by the panel are subject to the approval of the National Executive Council where the final say lies. The National Council can be petitioned as well.
Are your assertions just for TAMPAN members alone because I’m aware of the existence of several other groups and associations?
There are some mushroom associations that we do not give any form of recognition, but there’s a good working relationship with several other recognised bodies and association. For example, if you are a producer from the Golden Movie Ambassadors led by Saidi Balogun, we can work with you because we recognise them. We will ask for your licence, and if you get accredited, then we can work with you. We can work with people from RATTAWU and the other recognised bodies. All that is needful is that you have to belong to an association that has a working relationship with us and is also licensed. TAMPAN has Dele Odule, Ogogo, Yinka Quadri, Abbey Lanre, Muyiwa Ademola, Baba Suwe, Fathia Balogun, Antar Laniyan, Toyosi Adesanya, Yomi Fash-lanso, and so on as members and for us to have a good working relationship with you and recognise your group, you must surely know what you are doing. We used to be a part of ANTP, but due to one reason or the other, we left ANTP to form TAMPAN.
Describe your happiest day or moment in the industry?
I have had several happy moments but the most memorable of them all was the day I was given my visa to London by the virtue of being an actor. The day my work gave me that recognition and earned me visa to London still stands out day for me till date. That was in the year 2003.
What about your saddest day or occasion in the industry?
Mr Latin: I’ve not really had a sad day but there was an unforgettable event that occurred in 2004 when I was on the set of ‘Imported Lomo’. I shot for 3 days and I had about 15 crew members on my pay roll on that particular set. I also had seasoned acts like Baba Wande, Ayo Mogaji, Jide Kosoko, Madam Saje and host of others. We recorded with the best cameras available at that time, but unfortunately on the third day, we realised that the picture and voice qualities were so poor that we had to start the shoot all over again. I felt so bad about that incident.
How fairly do you relate with other comedians?
I’m like Wasiu Ayinde in comedy. I internationalised comedy and introduced comedy without costumes. I made people realise that you can make people laugh even without wearing any form of costume. I personally believe wearing a costume to make people laugh was unnecessary. Before I came on board, the likes of Babasala, Babasuwe, Baba Aluwe, were the fathers and grand fathers in the industry. They all had one costume or the other they always use for comedy. When I just started out, I was also wearing costumes, but by the year 2000, I stopped using it and to the glory of God, most comedians now do act and perform without costumes too. Now to your question, we are all very close and relate as one big family. Sanyeri is my brother, he respects me and I do respect him as well. Okunnu is a brother and Baba Suwe is a father, Oga. I respect him so much as my senior in the industry. I thank God for what he has done for me and also for using me to change the face of Yoruba comedy.
What is your take on artists campaigning for politicians?
It is good and also not good. It is good in the sense that artists are human being too; they also have corporate social responsibilities to identify people that are good and disassociate themselves from people that are bad. For instance, if a Governor is doing wonderfully well, there is nothing bad in associating and identifying with him by lending your support for his continuance. But some of our people have abused the privilege. You see some of these artists in Ogun, then in Osun, kwara etc. Like myself, I only campaigned in the last general election for one Governor, Gov Amosun, APC man and I also campaigned for one PDP candidate in Osun State who vied for a seat in the House of Reps. He goes by the name kayode Oduoye. He is a personal friend and I believe he can make a difference if elected into power. I have known him for years. The governor in Ogun is doing well and I live here and can see it, so I decided to support him. Unlike some people that will say Omo detergent is good, elephant detergent is good, Lux soap is good, Sunlight soap is good. Some just do it for money and don’t really care if the person involved is good or not. I was also approached by many other politicians, but I turned them down and stuck to my belief of good governance. I’m not a politician, I’m neither APC nor PDP, but I believe in good governance and support individual that can make a difference.
What is your best food?
I really don’t have a best food, I eat whatever I like and feel like eating, but I prefer our African food to continental dishes.
If you are opportune to meet one prominent personality, who would that likely be?
Mr Latin and his son in Dublin Ireland.
Mr Latin: That would be Bill Gate. Not because of his fame and fortune, but because despite his poor educational background, he still made it to the top.
Mr Latin's wife Ronke.
Is any of your children in the industry?
Mr Latin: I have just two kids, a boy and a girl who are both grown now. My boy was interested in acting, but I had to stop him, because I wanted him to concentrate on his education first. You know if he starts acting and eventually gets famous at tender age, he might easily lose focus
Finally, any message for your fans and what should they be expecting from you?
In order to give back to the society that made me, I established a foundation called Mr. Latin Foundation. I know almost everbody has one foundation or the other, but this is different because we actually impact lives. We have a board of trustees and board of directors. King Wasiu Ayinde is the grand patron and the foundation was founded in 2011. We do carry out various projects from creating awareness on child abuse, drug abuse to awareness on domestic violence. We have campaign against malaria and HIV among other projects. We currently have about 150 people in our skill acquisition centre where we also hold our annual lecture. The last lecture we had, had in attendance King Sunny Ade, Adewale Ayuba, and other notable people, the State Governor was even the chief host. For more information about the Foundation, you can visit our website @www.mrlatinfoundation.org