Weekend Magazine: When did you join the Hausa film industry (Kannywood)? And what attracted you to film close making?
Nafi’u Shu’aibu Gwammaja: I join Kannywood in 1997, and what attracted me to join the industry was the role Kannywood plays in entertaining, educating, informing and bringing awareness to the people. Before I joined Kannywood I was in petty trading and it didn’t go quite well. One day I saw my neighbours carrying camera, dolly and boom microphone, I met one of them and told him I wanted to join the film making industry, he welcomed me with open arms. I registered with the Sarauniya Film Production, and my first film was ‘Kainuwa.’
WM: Can you tell us the number of films you starred in?
Gwammaja: They are too numerous to mention, but I can remember a few like ‘Allura Da Zare,’ ‘Rintsi,’ ‘Zarge,’ ‘Sangaya,’ ‘Nagari,’ ‘Sartse,’ ‘Garwashi,’ and all these films were under Sarauniya Film Production. I later registered with Usmaniyya Film Production and starred in films like ‘Kansakali,’ and ‘Dawayya.’ And now I am with Saira Movies and we have produced films like ‘Musnadi,’ ‘Jamila Da Jamilu,’ ‘Garinmu Da Zafi,’ ‘Ya Daga Allah,’ ‘Walijam,’ ‘Dan Marayan Zaki,’ and ‘Lamiraj.’ I also starred in ‘Uwar Gulma.’
WM: Out of the films you have mentioned, which one is your best film and why?
Gwammaja: The film I like most is ‘Uwar Gulma.’ It was the first time I played a villain role in a movie. In the film I was a member of a criminal gang, which smoked and terrorised people without mercy. The viewers commended my role in the film and I am delighted to hear that from them.
WM: How did you get the nickname Mogambo?
Gwammaja: Amrish Puri was an Indian actor, who was an important figure in Indian theatre and cinema. He is remembered for playing iconic negative roles in Hindi cinema. To Indian audiences he is the most remembered for his role as ‘Mogambo’ in Shekhar Kapur’s Hindi film, ‘Mr. India,’ in 1987. I can remember I got the nickname Mogambo when I was in primary school, and then there was no way somebody would beat my class mates without me taking avenging for them.
What happened was that, one day somebody beat my class mate and I was furious, I held his hand and asked him to show me who did that to him, after he had shown me the boy I beat him up mercilessly and he was unconscious, some of the boys that followed us ran and told our headmaster. The headmaster called for an assembly, and asked our discipline master to give me 10 lashes. When he was beating me the headmaster kept asking me, you as a ‘Mogambo,’ when they beat your class mates you will take the law into your hands ko? Since then our school mates started calling me ‘Mogambo.’
WM: Is it the reason you mentioned ‘Uwar Gulma’ as your best film since you played a villain role like Amrish Puri played the negative character of Mogambo in the film ‘Mr. India’?
Gwammaja: It wasn’t the reason. Why I like ‘Uwar Gulma’ is because of the role I played. It was the first time I played a villain role. It was new to me and I enjoyed it.
WM: You have spent more than 15 years in the Hausa film industry and you are yet to win a major Kannywood award, what do you think is the reason?
Gwammaja: I am into acting to educate, entertain and inform people, I am not into acting to win awards. I derive joy in acting. I am more than contented with the way things are happening to me in the industry. Yes I will feel honoured when I win awards, but awards are not my priority in Kannywood.
WM: What are the challenges you are facing as an actor?
Gwammaja: I faced challenges during my early days in the industry. I found it difficult to reach stardom. I can remember during those days producers didn’t want to cast me in their films. They were looking at me as a stranger and inexperienced, it was late actress Hauwa Ali Dodo that took me to most of the producers and told them I was her brother, since then my doors in the industry opened and many producers casted me in their films.
The one major challenge I am facing and the entire industry is facing, is the menace of piracy that bedevils its growth and survival. You will spend so much money and one day after you release your film you will be competing with pirated copies in the market, this is sad and disheartening.
WM: Despite the challenges you faced, what are the achievements you have recorded so far since you ventured into film making and acting?
Gwammaja: Acting has done everything for me in life. I married, built a house, bought a car, and I am taking care of my family and helping other people.
WM: What do you still want to achieve?
Gwammaja: My dream is to be a world class actor that will act in Hollywood and Bollywood. When you become a world class actor you will find things easy in your day to day transaction and interaction with other people. I can remember I went to US embassy for visa to travel to America, up till now I haven’t got it. But recently I escorted African actor Ali Nuhu to the same embassy, he got the visa within one week, the reason being that he is a popular actor; therefore the officials know he can’t do anything stupid to tarnish his image. I asked Ali Nuhu why he didn’t find it difficult to secure the visa and he told me that, he tells them he is an African actor; they went through his records and certified his claims.
WM: Where do you see Kannywood in the near future?
Gwammaja: Kannywood is growing rapidly. It is beginning to have international recognition. A few years back if you saw the equipment we used they were nothing to write home about, they were of low quality and very cheap. We used cameras like BHS, Beta-cam, Z7, but now we are using digital ALEXA and 35mm ARRIFLEX, Phantom Flex, and Canon C300. These cameras are the ones used to shoot Bollywood and Hollywood films. Some years back we were not using boom-microphone, but now we have boom-microphone department in the industry. Before we didn’t have scriptwriters, we produced films with poor stories, but now the storylines of our films are exceptional. In the near future I see Kannywood competing with Bollywood and Hollywood in terms of quality of the films produced.