Behind the scene | 29 February 2008 17:27 CET


By By Gbenga Olumide

DELE Odule, prolific playwright, dramatist, and man of culture, was born in Oru Ijebu in Ijebu North Local Government area of Ogun State over 40 years ago.

He is the sixth child of his family and hails from a humble background. He had both his elementary and secondary education in his home town and obtained a Grade Two certificate from the Teacher's Training College in Oru, as well as a diploma certificate in Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan (UI), Oyo State.

Speaking with Weekend Ride recently, he described his growing up as hectic. "As one actually brought up as an orphan, it wasn't easy.

But I thank God, the Almighty, for His mercy; because, no matter what, I have every cause to say I thank God."

What led him into acting?
"My coming into acting was not by accident. People have asked me several times and I do tell them that the environment where I grew up actually influenced my artistic career.

"I was brought up in the setup and because of festivals here and there then, I used to be very involved, not as an idol worshipper but I used to involve in activities like drumming, dancing and some other things. When I realised that one could even do it to make a living, I never hesitated to go into it fully," he stated.

Was his coming into acting to make money like others? He said, "No! I got into the industry by sheer interest. It is purely interest and it is after I had been in the system that I started thinking of how to make money out of it - at least there is nothing you are doing that you won't think of making money to survive."

Odule further stressed that he has been in the system for over 30 years. "I started so early in life. I came into acting 30 years ago, under the tutelage of the late Mukaila Adebisi, the manager of Oloko Theatre Group. After my training, I worked briefly with the late theatre arts professional, Dele Ogunsanya, who influenced my artistic career. Since then, I have also worked with different professionals in the industry."

The seasoned actor said that before accepting any script or role, he first thinks of the job.

"Professionally, I have to think of the job, but because I'm more into Yoruba production than English films, and there is no way you can do away with your culture, part of which is to render assistance, sometimes, even if the script is not all that good, I don't want to run away from it. It's a fact that not every script can be good and for someone like me, who is culturally blessed, I don't run away from any script no matter how bad it is. I prefer to contribute my own quota to make it good. I don't actually run away from scripts."

Odule rarely features in English movies, even though he speaks English language very well.

"I have featured in some English films, but as I've said earlier, I'm more into Yoruba films. This is because I started with Yoruba productions; and if you look critically into English films, part of what we are talking about now is actually dominated by the Igbo.

He explained: "Not that I'm condemning them; I'm not, but the one I would be specific about is that no matter what, I cannot go and beg for a role. If any script is handed over to me to come and interpret and I believe I can do it effectively, definitely I will do it, no matter what language is used to write it.

"It is not that I'm not interested in English films; those people there are not ready to make use of Yoruba artistes. If they say okay, come around, I will partake; but if they don't give me any script, I cannot lobby."

Dele Odule, often described as a versatile artiste who is capable of shifting naturally into any character, says it is a gift

"As I said earlier, I got myself into the system because of the interest I had in it. I think my versatility in the industry is actually because I'm interested. Any profession that you are engaged in with keen interest, things work out magically for you. You will do it without stress.

"And I have to tell you that I thank God because I am artistically endowed. I don't want to run away from the fact that I'm talented. I have the grace to have been somebody that easily blends or shifts naturally into a role. It is a gift."

According to him, he has produced not less than 10 films; and based on what he has gained from these films, financially he said he is a fulfilled actor.

"I'm fulfilled. I am fulfilled to an extent. I am not talking about being wealthy now, but I think the beauty of anybody in this life is when you are relevant to your generation.

"That I am relevant to my generation is part of fulfillment. I can say I am an actor, and among those actors they can say Dele Odule is one of them. Among actors in the country today, even if I'm not reckoned among the first set, I'll definitely not be among the last.

"So, it is fulfillment, because when you are doing a job and people can say 'Ha! We recognise you', seriously speaking, then you are fulfilled. I'm not talking about the monetary aspect, but even when it comes to the living standard of the average Yoruba actor, I am not rich but I am contented."

Odule, who made his debut in the 80s, said, "One has to be very modest, and without mincing words, Ti Oluwa ni Ile actually brought me into the limelight.

"I've said it several times that this particular film took me into the mainstream of acting. It is very funny when I tell people that I have featured in over 1,000 films. How can somebody feature in no less than 1,000 films in his life time? That is not the way it's supposed to be done but if you can't beat them, you have to join them. That is the system in Nigeria. This is not peculiar to the industry alone; it involves every area of human endeavour in Nigeria."

Speaking about his most difficult experience in the film industry, he said: "There is no job that does not have its own ups and downs. I see everything that I have encountered so far as something I must pass through. So, I don't actually see them as problems but difficulties; and inasmuch as you can scale through them, they are no more problems.

"I have never experienced terrible problems since I started this job and it is not by my doing; it's by the grace of God.

"But acting can be frustrating atimes. It is now that people are beginning to seriously appreciate the work of art, unlike before when people saw us as outcasts. They saw us as jobless people.

They believed that acting was meant for those who were not ready to pursue a very good job. It is now that people are now beginning to appreciate what acting is all about.

"Then, it was frustrating and it got to a stage that I wanted to leave acting career because I was not making anything out of it, and people started ridiculing me, insulting me as if I didn't want to pursue anything tangible in life.

But to God be the glory, one of my ogas, Tunbosun Odunsi, a.k.a Idamu Paadi Mikailu, had to encourage me. He got wind of what I wanted to do then and he encouraged me.

"He said, 'Dele, you are a promising actor. Don't leave this industry; you will definitely one day get to where you are aspiring to be.' And I thank God today that I took his advice.

"As I said earlier, there is no way one wouldn't have gotten his ups and downs. So it's one of my ups and downs I am talking about."

Does he have a role model? Odule said the Lord Almighty is his role model. "But I have some people that are my sources of inspiration; those that inspired me into the industry - like Kola Ogunmola and Hubert Ogunde. Those are legends in the industry; those who have paid their dues in the industry."

Odule is the current national Vice President, Association of Nigerian Theatre Practioners (ANTP). He used to have a group, but not any longer.

"With the way the industry is being run now, I don't keep a group. However, I still have the intention of having one, but not now because I wouldn't want to run the thing in the usual way. I want to have a group, maybe when I have time to establish a school that will be referred to as a Drama School in the real sense of it; maybe the kind of an institution that can be affiliated to where people can get the real orientation and they would be able to know the rudiments of production."

For now, his only preoccupation is acting. For Odule, as a married man, to kiss another woman on set is a taboo. "Rather than kiss such a person outright the way it if often seen in most Nollywood films today, I would rather peck. But kissing? I think that would be going too far."

Odule is currently running his degree course in Mass Communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University.

Other sites The Nigerian Voice