Sani Danja looks in every way like you would expect someone of his background and career to do, splendid, smart and suave. In this interview with Stellamaries Amuwa, the Kannywood director, musician and dancer speaks on life as a movie director and other burning issues in the industry.
Give us an insight into Kannywood.
The thing is that if you look at the Kannywood industry, it is more or less like the Indian film industry, Bollywood, where you have a lot of music in the movies. Though people think that Kannywood copy Indian movies but the issues is that the culture of the typical Hausa man is full of music and dancing in all aspect of life, from wedding to naming ceremonies up to the act of harvesting farm produce and so on. Whenever the Emir is coming out it is always music all the way.
Apart from that, in the typical Hausa setting, down to the villages, you will see a group of boys on one side and group of girls on the other side clapping and singing, though the boys don’t sing but as normal as it seems the girls will be singing indirectly for their loved ones. They are not copying from the Indians. It has been their way of life. A typical Hausa man likes the Indian movies because there are similarities in the culture between the Hausas and Indians. Again, most Indian ladies cover themselves with veil and beautiful makeups, same as the typical Hausa woman does. When it comes to agriculture it is the same farming methods they share with the Indians.
You don’t perform in Nollywood movies like you do in Kannywood; why?
I do Nollywood movies too; I have also travelled to some parts of the globe to perform in different movies. Kannywood movies like Igbo and Yoruba movies are also Nollywood films as far as they are all called Nigerian movies. The reason why we sometime different in Kannywood is because we try to promote our culture. We have rich cultural heritage. Besides, we are in the business of promoting and selling the Hausa language, which is one of the largest languages so far in Africa. The truth is that we can as well promote the Igbo, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Tiv, Berom, Benin, Efik, Ijebu, and Ika dialects. Nigeria is so blessed and our beauty is in our diversity.
What are the challenges in the industry?
The major challenge in the industry so far is marketing. After spending your money, time and talents, the issue of getting back what you invested becomes a challenge. The market is so saturated with pirated copies of our original work. It is not encouraging when you invest, let’s assume N50million, in a movie and you cannot even get back N5million. It is so depressing because in everything you await profits.
Again, you meet someone at the Cinema and you ask, ‘which movie is that’, and you hear them say ‘I don’t watch Nigerian Movies’. If you don’t patronise your country, who will? I know sometimes we might not be perfect maybe for lack of equipment or funds but we need our people to support us. We might not have met the standard you want yet, but we are almost there. Nollywood is the second largest movie producer in the world. Show us some love.
What has been your driving force?
I am a very principled and straight forward person, though there have been a lot of challenges coming up in the industry based on where I’m coming from and because of the religious and cultural aspect. In our movies we have some limitations. For instance, you cannot touch a woman; even if she has an accident, you cannot carry or hug her. Even at that, we are still moving forward but sometimes we have to speak out, like telling them that this is a movie. If you are a lawyer, doctor or an engineer, you cannot dictate for us what to do when you are not a producer and movie making is not your profession.
Moreover, you don’t know the story line and message it’s trying to send to the audience. For example, there is a movie called Sallaha which means someone that is very religious and pious. The movie tries to show that it’s not only someone who veils that is upright. So, in the movie the lady dresses very decently but secretly she is worse than a prostitute. But she disguises herself by dressing decently. Yes it’s good to dress decently but it should go beyond dressing. Let your inner self be worthwhile.
Some might not really get it right when it comes to dressing but inwardly they are very religious, decent and shun evil vices. We should learn not to conclude on people just because of appearance. You could preach to someone and they may not understand but through music or movie, he or she may learn a lesson. Movies are very strong weapons for sensitising the masses. Check out places like America; the US government invests so much in movies just to prove that America is second to none.
In a movie, they will show you weapons that they don’t even have just to make you believe that the world’s power is in their hand, and when you meet an Almajiri on the street and say Nigeria is going to fight with America the first thing he will say is, ‘Haa they will finish us in a second with all the weapons they have’, just because he has watched some movies by Americans while he has never left his local domain. Movies are very important to our unity as Nigerians.
We can use movies to solve all our differences. For example, if people like Phyno, Flavour, and others sing about how caring a Northern Muslim can be, you will see a situation where a typical Igbo man would see an average Hausa man as his brother. Same thing with us from the north; if we sing or make movies about how good an average Igbo man can be, our brothers here too will relax and see them like their own. Let us work towards the things that unite us; we are stronger as a nation when we are united.
What prompts your good look?
I always want to look good and based on what I do as an actor, I always want to appear in a way that people will be happy and like you know, it’s a world of pictures. Whenever people see you they want to have a quick photograph with you. Sometimes you might not like your dressing but you cannot tell your fans that you do not want to take a picture. So, you always have to be ready at all time.
What does fashion and style mean to you?
Fashion to me is very important; I have a particular designer that makes my outfit. Fashion to me is how I want to be accessed apart from my stage clothes. My look is very important to me.
What are those fashion accessories that you cannot do without?
Eye glasses, blink blink and good wrist watches
What was your most memorable childhood experience?
They are numerous but one major one is this: I had three Christian friends whom I see as brothers; we started music together. They are all Christians and we formed a group like the musical groups in those days and we started our music in the choir in a church. Then there was no discrimination; we go and sing in the Church, we celebrate Christmas and Sallah together. I remember my father used to sow Christmas clothes for our Christian friends and when it’s Sallah, their parents will reciprocate by sowing Sallah clothes for us. Then it was one big family; everybody loved one another. It was so until when I was made to understand that I cannot go to the Church and sing anymore. Our group broke up and then I started all over again. It is high time we forgot about what divides us and look up to what unites us. We should look at our capability not our tribe or religion.
What makes you happy and sweeps you off your feet?
I am happy when I buy an expensive car but when I put smiles on the face of the less privilege it sweeps me off my feet.
Tell us a bit about your family?
I am married to one wife, with four children: one girl and three boys. I am from Nasarawa local government area of Kano State
What has life taught you?
So many things; like honesty, straightforwardness and sticking to the right path, no matter what happens. That is what I also inherited from my father.
What is your greatest fear in life?
My greatest fear is for me to be at the back side, for me to tell lies and be aware that I am telling lies and doing it because of selfish interest.
Share something exclusive with us?
As an artiste I believe so much in my fans because they made me. I feel very humble each time I am recognised anywhere; it brings so much joy to me. I respect my fans a lot. I am not a snub.
What is your message to your fans?
Be hardworking and always do the right thing. You know what is right, so do it. Though you are not perfect, mistakes can be corrected.