interviewBy Amina Alhassan
Nigeria's Ameen Khan has continued to make waves in Bollywood. He is an indigene of Kano State and looks forward to bridging the gap between Kannywood, Nollywood and Bollywood. He is also working on bringing the big names of Bollywood to Nigeria soon. He spoke to Weekly Trust via phone.
As a Nigerian who has been starring in Bollywood films for quite a while. So far, from what you have seen, how would you rate the entertainment industry in India?
It will be very difficult to give a straight rating, but one thing I can say is that the Indian entertainment industry, to me, seems hundred years ahead of African entertainment industry, more like a thousand years if you compare it with Kannywood. Of course, we all know that the Indian entertainment industry started earlier so there's nothing to wonder about the gap between ours and theirs. I believe with time and commitment, the entertainment industry in Africa will reach that stage. If you permit me, I will say we are even faster than they were because we are number three in the world. When it comes to movie production, for instance, we are right behind Bollywood.
One of the reasons why we are faster than they were before is technology revolution. The only difference is that the Indian government and the people are hundred percent in support of their entertainment industry unlike in Nigeria where movies are not considered as a source of income to the country.
Here it is a different ball game. A film star here is given all the respect and support he needs because they see them as helping to project the image of the country and its culture. He is not a small person. Let me give you an example, I have a friend who is a Nollywood actor - I don't have to mention name. We once attended Salman Ji (Salman Khan) set together and my friend was surprised that all those police convoy and bodyguards are not escorting a minister or governor but a film star. So that is how serious they take their entertainment industry and the entertainers.
I remember you saying not long ago that Kannywood has a long way to go. Is there a way to shorten that long way? What do you think can be done to redeem the image of Kannywood?
If government can come into the industry and give all the required support the entertainment industry needs it will go a long way in fixing the problems in the industry. On the other hand if the producers can listen to the demands of the audience and give them what they want to see, then the sky will be the limit. There's no use producing something that the audience are buying but complaining or condemn at the end of the whole thing. It is not unusual to hear the audience complaining that what is portrayed in a particular film is not their religion or culture. At the end of the day, you may make money but lose the respect of your community. So what's the use? We ought to project our culture and beliefs, we don't need to borrow anything thing from any culture to thrive.
Indian movies are known to have a lot of dancing and singing. As an actor, have you adapted to this kind of entertainment style?
(Laughing) To become a successful actor you must accept any role assigned to you and give it a trial no matter how hard. With a lot of practice I have adapted - may be adapted is not the right word, but I have fitted well into their entertainment style. They are usually amazed at how well I do their dances. It is always fun.
How was the experience like, with all the singing and dancing?
I will say it was okay because, Bollywood concept of shootings is a long time process. It is not a day's or week's job. A movie could take six to one year or more to complete. So, my first Indian dance and song was okay, because the directors and producers were willing to take all the time needed for me to get it right. We took a lot of time for preparations and the crew members were excellent as they were always willing to help out.
You don't get to shoot movies every day. So what do you do at your free time?
You are right that everyday isn't a movie shoot. At my own free time I work with Artemis Health Sciences and do my own little contribution towards humanity there.
Being African and a Nigerian, what were the kinds of perceptions you got when you first got into Bollywood?
None! You know 'language is power.' If you speak the people's language then it's hard to get any perception. It's just like home because they naturally welcome you and feel free with you instantly.
It is said that Indians prefer to collaborate with the western world more than Africa. Would you say you have been treated fairly in your stay with them?
In terms of being treated fairly, yes I have been. The only problem am facing is that they prefer you as African to go to the gym, develop a lot of muscles and then they keep giving you action sequences as a bad guy role which I can't do, but now they understand the kind of person I am and give me the normal role they would give the Khans and Bachanns. Yes their target is other parts of the world as they don't count Africa, but with my African brothers and sisters' support I will surely show Bollywood how important Africa is to their entertainment industry.
Has the thought of calling it quit ever crossed your mind? If yes, tell us why?
Not at all! This is just the beginning of Kano's Ameen Khan in India. Very soon there would be high demand for Nigerian actors and actresses in Bollywood.
You are now a celebrity sort of, what do you think is the hardest part of being a celebrity?
The hardest is handling the fans. Once you become a celebrity you are no longer allowed to be yourself. Your life is generally for your fans, which I see as the hardest part as some fans can do crazy things when they see you.
You have worked with many Bollywood actors and actresses; who do you always look forward to acting with again?
I have worked with wonderful people, but always look forward to working with Shahru Khan and I would also love to work with Akon and Genevieve Nnaji.
To act in Bollywood, I am sure you had to learn the language. Tell us how that went?
Back in school days it was Telugu that was the popular language of the city where I did my first degree. It was after I left south India that I began to learn and speak good Hindi, but one good thing with Indians is that they will force you to learn their language. For them Hindi always comes first before English
Do we see Nigeria's Ameen Khan bringing Indian's Sharukh Khan, Salman Khan, the Bachchans etc to Nigeria someday to do collaboration with Nollywood someday?
I am working towards that and also discussing with some stakeholders in the industry here. Soon and very soon you will see us take Nigeria by storm. Yes with time Inshaa Allah we would have the Indian industry big names in Nigeria. You just spoilt the surprise I had for Nigerians and movie lovers by asking this question. But it's ok.
Are you married?
No I am single
Why are you still single?
I am still searching.
What is your next big project and what is it about?
It's a Hindi movie 'Ticket to Bollywood'. It is a love story of two African Bollywood actors dating the same Bollywood actress, so the movie is a movie industry story line. It's intense and going to be the bomb!