Kano — Murtala Muhammed Bala alias Balala, is a trained lightener, a sound mixer and a set designer in the Hausa movie industry. He is seen as the brain behind the remarkable changes being recorded in the industry because of his innovative and expert contributions towards the development of the industry. In this interview, he told Sunday Trust how he rose to prominence.
How did you come by the name Balala?
Balala is a name I got in the movie industry, but my real name is Murtala Muhammed Bala. I was born in Bauchi state on 14th February 1976; I attended my primary and secondary schools in Shendam, Plateau State. I am a graduate of Business Studies from Kaduna polytechnic.
When it comes to the movie industry I am a gaffer, a sound mixer and a lightening director. I was trained professionally by theBBC World Service Trust. I worked with them for eight years and only recently I resigned from New Age Network in Kaduna State.
You are seen as the messiah of the Hausa movie industry for the fact that you brought some remarkable innovations into the industry. How did you do that?
When I was a kid, movies were my obsession and I was always curious about how you will see someone flying like a bird or how some certain effects were achieved in movies. This curiosity became part of me up to the time I joined the movie industry as one of those who operate from behind the scene. So when I got engaged with the BBC World Service Trust, I started as a sound engineer and I was involved in a TV series programme called "Wetin Dey," a series sponsored by BBC World Service. I later became a gaffer. During this period, I was able to gather the knowledge which helped me to become a Director of Productions and a set designer. However, this experience is what I came into Kannywood with at a time when people were complaining about poor sound quality and poor pictures. With my experience, I was able to make some changes in the sound quality and pictures. And another thing was that during the shooting of the TV series, Ali Nuhu happened to be the only Hausa movie actor to make it through the screening. Gradually, I got to meet him and we hit it off instantly being from the North. I could remember he was the one who told me that the Hausa movie industry is in dire need of my services; that was how I joined the industry. Ali Nuhu made sure that I gave my best to the industry, he challenged my work and this made me work more to give my best especially in my first movie Timbin Giwa.
Having received training from a professional body like the BBC, are you making any attempts to see that you train others?
I don't want to applaud myself or blow my own trumpet, but ask around you will find out yourself. I work with my crew without any reservation. In fact, if you are not willing to learn new things you are definitely not my kind. I have trained many young men and also sets them up with equipments that will enable them stand on their own and be established in the business.
I believe that being great or famous is not all about what you have done alone. To me, being great is all about what you help others achieve. I have so many youngsters with me learning the business and I believe they will live to remember me as someone who refuses to give fish to them but has taught them how to fish.
Among the movies you worked on which one will you say is the most challenging?
There are many movies that I have worked on and each movie comes with its own peculiarities, but I can say movies like "Ahlilkitabi," "Sai Watarana," "Carbin Kwai" and "Adamsy" are some of the challenging ones that I have worked on.
These are movies where the director wanted nothing but the best and I believe I have done it to his satisfaction. Though I have done works like "Jamila da Jamilu," and a lot of others, but those I mentioned earlier are more challenging.
What are some of the remarkable things you have achieved in the industry?
Like I said earlier on, I don't want to blow my trumpet. But I am optimistic that when you go round the industry you will definitely see for yourself what I have brought in terms of new technical innovations and other positive development recorded recently in the industry. For instance, I was the one that introduced the 5ft jeep camera which was never seen in the industry before and now the industry can boast of having one.
Is Balala married?
Yes, I got married five years ago. My first son is late now and my wife recently delivered a baby boy.
How would you like to be remembered in the movie industry?
My relationship with the people I worked with, my family and my neighbours will determine that. However, I will like to be remembered in the movie industry for the changes and achievements that my work was able to conquer. I want to be remembered as someone who made producers, directors and the viewers happy and I want to be remembered as that man that made it possible to many people when in reality they have lost all hopes.
Where do you see Kannywood in the nearest future?
Kannywood is absolutely growing to become a very big industry that will become the largest employment provider to millions of Nigerian youths. I foresee an avenue where fortunes are going to be made, a castle of success stories, of successful individuals.