Funky Mallam is unarguably one of Nigeria’s most hilarious comedians and highly talented showbiz personalities. The graduate of Mass Communications of the Bayero University, Kano has featured in quite a lot of sitcoms and TV soap operas that has brought him immense fame and progress. He was a prominent character in the award-winning movie 1st October produced and directed by Kunle Afolayan. With real names as Saeed Mohammed popularly known as Funky Mallam, this very funny character has brought laughter into the homes of many with his very funny artistic displays whenever he is on set. The Glo Ambassador took time out to have a chat with AGWAZIM ISAAC IFEANYICHUKWU, Publisher, TOP SOCIETY MAGAZINE where he speaks on Hollywood, Nollywood and Bollywood, the movie industry and his words for the younger generation storming the industry like bees. Excerpts:
Can you recall your journey into the entertainment industry?
Yeah. I started exactly with Paradise Park that’s a sitcom TV comedy in the year 2000 alongside with Julius Agwu and so many other talented artistes. That was immediately I finished schooling and I came to Lagos and I was given the opportunity by Mr. Femi Lasode the producer and that was how it started. I think after that I was given the opportunity by one Kemi Brown to come and join her at her programme Laughline that takes place on NTA every morning. It’s a programme that started with Alarm Blow, Okey Bakassi and Julius Agwu joined them later of which Kemi was given the opportunity, because she wasn’t a comedian, but she was asked to play as a comedian to be able to create humours. That was when she invited me but when they changed the time belt and at the same time they tried to refurbish the programme and the title was changed from Laughline to Humour Eyes, I was given my own slot on Human Eyes. I think on Human Eyes, people started calling me. After the programme, people will call the TV station and they will talk to me and inform me about wedding or birthday party coming up. That was how I started anchoring events at the same time. So, that was actually the beginning of my journey into entertainment.
When did you take up acting professionally as a career?
Actually, Paradise Park was my first attempt which even went nationwide because it was on NTA network and then I was being paid N4,000 per show which I came to realize that it was one of the highest payments that time. So, that was my professional debut and that was the beginning of the commercial aspect of my career.
How do you feel being a Nollywood actor, a comedian and at the same time an MC as well?
Well, as Nollywood comedian, actor and MC is something that has been really tasking doing all these at the same time but the most important thing in life is that, you have what you really want to achieve not actually because of the money but because you have flair for the game, it will really help you and you’ll never see the difficulty and the stress involved in it because you’re doing it because of the passion and you are doing it passionately. So, that was the beginning of the journey, it was due to the passion and when the whole thing started and it manifested into the next level, endorsements start coming in and gradually, things like that, and up to this point that we are today. So, I feel so great. In every situation, you have to learn how to pay your dues because anything that comes up easily might go down easily. So, that is why most of the things that you see that are actually so successful in life, you find out that those are the things people started building from the foundation to the topmost of the game because if you do not start anything from the foundation, you might not be able to know how to stand it to last. You know, you might not be able to even maintain it not to even make it to stand to the last point of the game and that is because you don’t know how it is being built, you don’t know what it takes to stand a solid building. It takes a test of time. You might think it is easy come, easy go but if you start from the scratch, you start from the foundation, you know you have done a lot of cement concrete and you know that you are standing on a very solid ground and definitely even if you want to dispose, you know that it is not going to be easy for you.
If you are not been found doing movies, what other thing would you have been found doing?
Well, my other option before I came into entertainment. I was in love with banking. So, even when I was applying to JAMB, I took banking and financing and mass communications. I got the mass communications in Bayero University Kano and it’s called banking and financing diploma then in the University of Jos. So, instead I just went for Mass Communications in BUK.
What has been an actor done for you so far?
Been an actor has done a lot of things for me. I mean the popularity am enjoying today which has made me come across captains of industries without much queues and which actually makes people to invite me and pay me to do advert which means endorsement and now, am a proud Glo ambassador and I handle so many other products and I’ve just been nominated as United Nations Peace Ambassador which am going to collect my award for that in Abuja on the 19th of this month and so many other good things that I cannot even mention for now. Then, so many other things are still coming up and that has given me the opportunity to know the second side of entertainment which is the showbiz. You know we started with the show and now we are into the business aspect of it which is the Showbiz. That is when you know that you are fully matured in the game. Being an actor is what took me to the business of acting and am not only an actor but a businessman as well and we are looking forward to do so many other things as part of entertainment.
What is that you hate been an actor?
Well, what I hate been an actor is being on a movie set and work with quack directors and producers. I don’t know what they do and I don’t have schedule for the production. That makes me sick.
What makes a good actor to you?
A good actor is somebody who is deliverable, who is gentle, goes gradually and took his job seriously and who is always abiding by the rules and regulations between you and your client and who actually is willing to give the best even if it is not your own production because not giving the best will definitely affect you and it will affect your career not knowing that it wasn’t your fault at the same time. So, that is why I told you that I hate working with quack directors and producers because they make you to overwork yourself because no matter what, you can’t just say that because they are not serious with the game and then you just bill at them. Definitely, when the end product is being taken to the market, the public will blame you.
Have you ever had any bad press so far as an actor?
Bad press! I think I try to avoid that as much as I can because am not that kind of a person that indulge in negative things with my colleagues or other people. I’m not that kind of a person you can find everywhere at all times. Sometimes I believe that even bad publicity is a publicity and for me, as long as notoriety is concerned, I know that getting that bad publicity will definitely make people to recognize you as a negative character and that will actually deprive you a lot of endorsements which is where you get the business part of the show.
Let’s look at Nollywood generally, what are those things you feel that are not really the way they ought to be by now?
Well, looking at the things that are making Nollywood slow down, there are some people who actually don’t know what movie is all about and because they found some money and because they found themselves into the game, they start messing up, you understand? Not knowing the rights of an actor, not knowing the rights of crew and so on and so forth. Some of them believe they are doing the people a favour of which they know they cannot handle this case. It’s a division of labour, you are not doing anybody a favour and you might even not be as good as me, so you are not doing me a favour. Now, we have quack directors, fake directors or let me say 419 directors, 419 producers that have actually succeeded in making foreign investors not to believe in what we are doing. You understand, because they have duped a lot of them. I don’t want to mention names here but there are actually producers/directors that are even here in Nigeria and everybody they work with eventually comes to crying, whether they’ve duped that person some amounts of money by delaying the project and by telling lies that something has happened, one thing or the other and they’re floating the budget unnecessary and you now say okay somebody has already given me a project which I already agreed with and eventually because you have already wasted the money, and then you now come back and started creating some flimsy excuses that this thing is not right, you need to do this and the executive producer wants his movie to be done and be in the market. Things like that eventually cripple a lot of producers who come to invest in the industry and make them to believe that this is not what they want. I know a producer who came from the US and actually wanted me to be part of his movie and before you know, the person who she trusted to produce the movie chose to make himself the major character and at the end of the day, she was so angry about it and that it’s not the story she gave him, he end up producing. He ended up producing his own story and when she found out, it was annoying and ever since then, she never trusted that person again not to talk of those that have vowed that they are never going to come back to Nollywood again?
The Nollywood of the year early 2000, what do you think needed to be amended today?
The difference between the Nollywood of 2000 years and today is that the world, not only Nigeria is beginning to appreciate the out products and initially, we were seen as the second content producer. That is in content, not in quality. I think America first and then Nigeria second but when it comes to quality, I think it’s Hollywood and Bollywood. In today’s context, I think Nollywood has even overtaken Hollywood in quality because we have so many serious-minded Nigerians who go out of their ways to invest a lot of their money to produce and make sure they get the movie that require international quality. You know, audio, picture, when it comes to costume, actors and everything. You understand what am talking about and the rebirth of cinemas in Nigeria actually also, has given a boost to that development not to talk of the intervention of international bodies like Netflix, Amazon and I heard that even Lion Gate is coming at the same time which means some of the biggest movie producers in the world have started having interest in the Nigerian content which actually has brought changes to Nigerian movie today. Before, you can use N500,000 to N1 million to produce a movie, but today you spend N100 million and you are sure that as long you have done the right thing, you are going to make your money and again today, some producers are even enjoying royalty unlike before because we never taught about that. Even Netflix has started paying some crews their royalty and that is why we are look forward to see how, this institution everybody will started paying us royalty; I think we’re going there actually and with the pace we are moving, despite the fact we have some bad eggs in the industry, directors, producers and actors at the same time, I think we are still climbing the ladder a little bit faster.
What is your value in Nollywood?
There are so many different values you can talk about. Everybody regards himself as a useful act in this game of acting. Nobody will tell you that he is not important as long as you can run up to producers for a production. So, we all have values and I think it was just that some people have advantage one way or the other than some others but I think I remain who I am because am not competing with anybody and I think a good value in multi-billion dollar company like Globacom Limited to sustain me for number of years as ambassador. So, that shows my value.
What does it cost to get you on stage?
Well, it depends on the programme, it depends on the proximity and then it depends on the customer because what you are going to charge a company might not be what you are going to charge an individual and even when it comes to individual, what am going to charge Dangote is not what am going to charge an ordinary businessman because we have no same strength financially. So, definitely there must be that consideration when it comes to our kind of job.
Who is Funky Mallam outside the screen?
Funky Mallam is a very prudent, nice looking, respectful fellow who actually mind his business in everything and who respects people he comes across and someone who’s been striving to make sure that he takes care of his family and other people that actually depend on him. So, Funky Mallam is an ordinary person who loves to live an ordinary life and enjoy his life to the fullest.
Who is your role model in the movie industry?
I do have without any hesitation RMD. He is a very good fellow in this industry. I think because most of his contemporaries, some of them have given up, some of them could not even repackage themselves and some of them think old age is the full stop of their career but even at over 60, I think he is even beginning the game and he tried to blend with all generations he comes across and that makes him look younger, stronger and more explosive in the game.
Can you recall your very first movie and how do you feel about it and how has it been to you?
Well, beside the sitcoms and TV dramas that I was doing, the first movie I could think about was 1st October. It’s also on Netflix now. 1st October has been one of the greatest movies that have ever been shot in Nigeria by a Nigerian, Kunle Afolayan and up till today, I believe if you put it in any contest, it’s going to stand out because it’s a movie that actually depicts different characters and makes even people that lived in those years to be able to identify with the contents of the movie because it’s not the kind of movie that somebody who doesn’t understand English language will come and be speaking English. You understand what am talking about. So every character was put in his or her right place and everybody fit the character. Everybody did an excellent job in that movie, the producer, director, I mean everybody did an excellent job. I think that was the first international standard movie that we can talk about in Nigeria.
What would be your message to the upcoming generation who would like to go into acting as a career?
Well, as you can see we have a lot of young boys and girls trooping into the movie industry and with no time, they stumble and fall and this is because they don’t think on how to be able to do the thing on the right path. You don’t just come to meet somebody who has been there for about 20 years and you think you’ll be able to compete with that person in terms of experience and whatever. So, I mean all you need to do if you want to succeed is to follow the ultimate success formula the others are simple. For the ultimate success formula, first of all is a target, what is your target as you are going into movie, what is your target? Do you understand, what do you really want to achieve. Okay, you have it right, how do you want to achieve it, then you now take action towards that and when you take action, you have to know the direction you are going because sometimes you might deviate from that point of field or that target you are taking action to hit. When they deviate is when they start disrespecting everybody because they have gotten one or two movies and they have suddenly become popular and it gets into their heads and that’s all. They started messing up and when they start messing up, some of them now, it started affecting them because producers will stop calling them and they now started knowing life is tough and this is because they don’t have the business aspect of the show. This time it’s all about bling bling, telling lies on social media and then they would know that that’s not the end of the game, the end of the game is in the next five, ten years, what are you going to show as an achievement of all these noise you’ve been making about. So, now the third is sensitivity. You have to apply your IQ into the game that you are going because that will make you become who you are. You need to identify yourself and make sure you are not just running helter skelter just like a mad man into the game. You know where to move faster, you know where to slow down and then then forth factor is what I call flexibility. You understand, when I say flexibility; that is where you see somebody like Tuface, you won’t even know that this is Tuface standing with you by the road side, eating boli. You make sure that you find a way to have it in mind that you are not going to hurt anybody to be able to know the next person that is going to help you. You come easily to the person and say, Funky Mallam how are you doing, even if it is to call me next time when you are having production to just come around, I wouldn’t mind, that’s flexibility but sometimes when you are fixed by mistake and you appear in a big movie, you’ll then say who is Funky Mallam? Na old school dem be now. So, I mean you just have to learn it the proper way.