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How I handle men’s advances

Few years ago, when Nollywood actress Clarion Chukwurah celebrated her 30 years in showbiz, many thought she probably was thinking of going off the klieg-lights. But Clarion proved a lot of people wrong as she got busy again in one production after another.
Just few weeks ago, the talented actress had an all white party at Vintage Lounge FESTAC Town, Lagos, where she and celebrated Movie Director, Aquila Njamah, unveiled a partnership between their two production companies, Eagle Eye Production and Jade Productions; the two had decided to work together. They also announced their first epic production which will be, ‘The Legend of Ameh Oboni The Great (of Igalaland).’ An excited Clarion shared this great moment with us in this very revealing interview. She spoke to PAUL UKPABIO.

You recently had an all-white party that became the talk of town, can you tell us what the party was about?
Yes, sometime last November, Aquila Njamah and I decided to come together to form a production partnership to work on projects. And in February, we were approached by Martin Adaji, who was the former Artistic Director of the National Troupe and former General Manager of the National Theatre, to do the film ‘The Legend of Ameh Oboni The Great. Ameh Oboni was the Attah of Igalaland from 1946 to 1956.  He had a turbulent reign because of his conflict with the Northern Council of Elders and the colonialists.
It is a very rich history, one that we researched and accepted to do because it mirrors our objective to do films that will take our culture international and expose the richness of our culture and traditions. We have had real heroes, who had lived in this country, people who stood up against oppression, who stood up for what they believed in. After that, we met with the present Attah, Ameh Oboni 11, the son of the subject of the movie.
Now, our script is being adapted from one of my great stage directors’ play, Ahmed Yerima. He did a play on The Legend known as Ameh Oboni.
So, part of the film will be adapted from his stage play. As it is, I am the producer; Aquila is the director, while Martin Adaji is the language director. The white party we had was to formally celebrate Aquila Njamah’s birthday, which was on the 25th of March and to announce our first partnership and first project.
When will production take off?
We have been working on the research which eventually took about three months. We will, however, be going on location next month. The recent elections actually affected our earlier schedule. One did not envisage that the elections would be postponed from February 14 to March 28 like we saw happened. However, we continued with our research, going to Kogi, Kaduna and Ilorin.
When are we expecting to have it in the box office?
It is not a movie that can be shot in two weeks; it is a project that will take us a minimum of three months. It is a film that we hope to premiere at the end of the year. Though we have another project, which we will be shooting while on post-production of The Legend of Ameh Oboni.
Are you excited?
Oh yes, I am very excited because I have been working towards being a producer of this kind of movie, the type that I think Nollywood should be making at this point in time. Nollywood has made so much impact on the black population in Africa and in Diaspora; our movies are watched all over the world.  We have through the dint of hard work and resourcefulness created an opportunity to take our country to the next level, which is to combat the negative image with our originality. Of course culture- based movies are more attractive to the outside world because they are colourful and show how we are in real life. So finally, I have started doing what I’ve always wanted to do.
So, does that mean that you will be out of circulation between now and the end of the year?
(Laughs) You can always see me when I am off the production set.
Few years back, you celebrated your 30 years in showbiz. What has been the staying power for you?
First and foremost, it is focus; it has been my determination, hard work, resilience, my faith in God and my family. It is about having a well inside of me that springs forth.
Tell us about the movie that you will never forget?
Indeed, I have done a lot of movies. But Oduduwa, Egg of Life, Apaye, were scripts that went deep down inside of me. If you watch these three, you would notice a tie that runs through them. Oduduwa is culture, it is Yoruba history. Egg of Life is Igbo history, and Apaye is South-South history. Those were movies that I had to reach into my training as an actress to deliver.
How about your stage works, which will you not easily forget?
I have so many of those too. There is The Divorce by Wale Ogunyemi, Camwood on the leaves by Wole Soyinka, Restless run of Locust by Femi Osofisan, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Yemoja by Ahmed Yerima, and of course, The King Must Dance Naked by Fred Agboigbe. Those are my six best plays.
Why do you choose outstanding plays to play a role in?
The truth is that in all those stage works, none did I personally choose a role. I was chosen to take part in those works.
Why do you think that you were chosen?
I will explain it this way; Prof Ahmed Yerima described it one day after a dress rehearsal. He was talking to the whole cast. He said: ‘The thing with Clarion is that Clarion lives her role for the period that a project is on; you see that character in her, whilst other actors wear their characters like a garment, and the moment they go off stage, they take the garment off and hang it.’ That describes everything.
What determines your acceptance of a role?
I watch out for the relevance and the vital elements about the character to the whole play. The personality of the character to the objective and message of the play or movie is what does it for me. If the character is not central to the play or movie, I do not take it.
My modern movies, the ones that I like most, are the ones where I played the most emotional characters. I have done fewer movies in the last two years because most of the scripts that come are hard guys, hard woman stuff. So I question such.
This is a three-in-one question. At what stage do you think Nollywood is right now? Is Nollywood still growing? Some say that Nollywood practitioners have abandoned their calling; what’s your opinion on these three questions?
I will give the three questions one answer. Before President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan became president, I met him and his wife at Aso Villa chapel, he was Vice President then. I actually met him twice then. On the first occasion that I met him, he drew his wife closer and told me that she is my fan. He said his wife watches my movies, that she watches African magic movies 24/7. I guess because of that, when he became president, he had lofty plans for Nollywood.
But like every other thing in the period of his presidency, he had very bad advisers. For some reasons, he himself seemed to lack a sense of history and did not specifically ask for a team of researchers who will go into existing places like the Nigerian Film Corporation, the National Archives, where the records are, to inform the opinion given to him.
So his lofty plans by actualisation, worked against Nollywood. Rather than moving Nollywood forward, he moved Nollywood not just backward, but to a place that Nollywood shouldn’t be.
Nollywood was built by men and women who started from cinematic industry, the likes of Jeta Amata’s grandfather, Eddie Ugboma, Ade Afolayan, Hubert Ogunde. We still have Ola Balogun today, Eddie Ugbomah is still around, so is Zack Amata who I met at the University of Ibadan, Department of Theatre Arts, when he was just about leaving. We still have Afolabi Adesanya, who made the last cinematic film before the home video, Vigilante.
We have the records there at the Hall of Fame; we even have the library at the Nigerian Film Corporation. It was the austerity measures introduced by Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida that shot down the cinematic industry because the film makers of the cinematic era could no longer afford its production. The so-called soap opera and television producers began to look for a way out. The resourcefulness of the likes of Bayo Salami, Muyideen Aromire, Jimi Odumosu who approached Kenneth Nnebue, led to Living in Bondage and the rest is history.
I lived and worked in the UK for a while. I know about the OBE and the MBE. The few living artistes today who have OBE in Britain, can be counted on three fingers. There is Elton John, Paul McCartney and one other person. And the only footballer is David Beckham. When you become an OBE or MBE, when a new king is being crowned or a prince is getting married, you get a gold plaited invitation that is served at your door by a servant from Buckingham Palace. When any president of note in the first world is having his ceremony, you get a direct invitation and you sit among presidents.
How can a lady who is getting older still look so young. What is your health and beauty secret?
(Laughs) Beyond watching what I eat and doing my exercises, I will say it is natural. When somebody asked me the same question yesterday, I replied by asking the person if he is a Christian. I was born a Christian and a practising Christian. So, I rely on the word of God. Psalm 103 says: ‘I will renew your youth as the eagles’. I take good care of myself, but beyond that, I live in faith.
Let’s look at Clarion Chukwurah at 20; Clarion at 35 and Clarion now. Have you changed?
Yes, I have changed. Clarion at 20 was heady, very uncompromising with crazy dreams. Clarion at 35 was also temperamental, and very me. Clarion today is less temperamental. I am still a thinker. However, I do see reasons these days to compromise, but there are still issues that I will not compromise on. I am more faith-driven but haven’t lost belief in myself and holding myself accountable.
What appeals to you?
One thing has always been and still is; I love risk driving. I love to go on the highway and race a car. I love speed. I love to drive on long distance with the car music in the loudest volume. I love racing. I love history, forensic science, research and I love the sea. I love to go sit by the sea and meditate.
You are seen as one of the glamour faces on television here. Do you think Nollywood still exudes glamour as it used to be?
There is still glamour, but it is not as glamorous as it was a couple of years ago. What still amazes me is the mentality of the current so-called young people. Instead of advancing forward and thinking out of the box, they are still thinking the old ways. You hear some people saying Clarion has always been there. They ask why I am dressed this way or that. They even say, ‘Why doesn’t she leave the scene for us?’ I get amazed because they sit in front of the television and with the channel mostly on the Entertainment channel, yet they do not see through what they are watching.
For instance, right there on the Entertainment channel, they can see Demi Moore who is a year older than me and then there is Hale Berry who is the same age with me. They see these people, see the way they dress, even Julian Moore, this younger generation is permanently in front of the Entertainment channel, yet they cannot transfer what they see in there into the industry that they belong to over here. I think the younger people should sit up because my generation is more glamorous than their generation. They are still thinking inside the box!
How easy would you say it is right now for young talents to break through in the Nigerian film industry?
It is harder right now because the industry has been in stalemate rather than being progressive. Right now, young people are doing more work. They are made to source money and make movies on their own in order to put themselves out there. So, because of that, they are forming cliques of their own. However, I must warn that cliques do not help the industry. I lay the blame of the current state of affairs at the doorstep of President Jonathan because the guilds that are supposed to be strong structures, that are supposed to give the new comer platforms to get into the industry are not awake to the duty.
Any regret?
I wish my country had a better crop of creative-minded leaders; a crop of more fore sighted, more focused leaders because any regret I have has to do with the fact that I have not been able to move as far as I would have loved to because of the kind of bad leadership that this country has had. When you talk about Nollywood, you talk about the entire county as well. Nollywood is just a drop in the ocean. Nigeria as a whole is the ocean. If things are not okay in the legal arm of the country, then the other aspects cannot be fine.
Given another opportunity, what would you have loved to do differently?
I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I had my son Clarence Peters when I was 17 going 18, and that was three years after I started acting. If I had not had my son, I definitely would have left the country because a number of my colleagues then had such plans. But I stayed because of my son. And today when I look at what I would have had if I had left, like being a success in America, and I put that beside Clarence Peters, he outweighs the other. I’d prefer Clarence Peters any day.
If you weren’t what you are today, what else would you have loved to be?
I would have loved to be a lawyer. As a lawyer, I wouldn’t have stayed here. I would have been a defence lawyer or tort lawyer, suing companies which make wrong products for the consumers. In Nigeria, there wouldn’t have been a future for me with that kind of law practice.
Which has been most rewarding to you, the English or the Yoruba genre of movies?
The most rewarding has been the English genre of movies and productions. That is because I did the Yoruba movies for just a few years. I stopped in 2003.
Any special reason you stopped?
It was because there were too many compromises in the act itself. For me, the act has to be on point. There is a lot of that in the English movies also, but then you can work around it. That is why at a point, I left completely for three years. When I returned to it, it became a pick and choose situation for me.
You have done well for your children as a loving mother. Though you still look pretty young, are you looking forward to being a grandmother soon, per chance Clarence decides to fall in love?
Of course, I am looking forward to being a grandmother(laughs). We are already having a running battle on the ‘get married’ thing. But he keeps saying that he is not yet ready. He says that he is consolidating; that he doesn’t want to get married and his wife suffers, not in the financial sense because he can afford to marry, but suffer in the sense that they would have to be fighting because she will always be in the house, while he will always be in the studio.
Clarence is always in the studio if he is not on set. That is why you do not see much of him at industry events. He is a workaholic. He is Shina Peters all over again. That is how his father Shina Peters was. Clarence is just trying to make sure that he does not make the same mistake that his father made in the area of having children with different women.
Now that you are still looking young and sexy, how do you handle the men folk?
As it is, I am not just the girl next door or the girl on the street. To get access to me is not that easy. I ignore those who buy my number or try to reach me via the social media. If I meet you one on one, I try to be nice. I do not joke with my fans. I treat them well. It is my goodwill that has sustained me all these years. It was Sam Loco who said that, ‘when a handshake goes beyond the elbow, it has becomes wrestling (laughs).’ So when greetings go beyond necessary, I shut down!
But does that mean that you have shut down on being in a relationship?
I am in a relationship right now.
Clarion in another five or 10 year from now, what future do you see?
The future, for me, is what has started now. I will be producing movies, helping young talents grow, and I will be participating in a sustainable growth for Nollywood, especially in the Actors Guild, to make sure that young actors and actresses, who are currently in school now and those already out of school and looking for a way into the industry, will find a non-exploitative platform to fulfill their dreams.
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