When it comes to kannywood movie directing, Aminu Saira is arguably the biggest name you’d mention now. This is because his movies are vividly and movingly expressive that they become popular among kannywood followers so much so that a movie directed by Aminu Saira is a must watch. Ibrahim Umar Bello caught up with him during the shoot of TUFKA DA WARWARA and the eloquent director talks about the kannywood industry, his struggles, pre and post Hiyana saga, the art of directing and many more in this epic interview. The man has the best interest of the industry in his heart.
KS: Assalamualaikum, kannywoodscene is saying good day sir.
Aminu Saira: Wa’alaikumussalam.
KS: We would like to know who is Aminu Saira.
AminuSaira: my name is Aminu Muhammad Ahmad, generally known as Aminu Saira, I was born in kano, Gwammaja Qrts, Dala LGA. I attended my primary school at Mahrathul Islamiyya in Gwammaja, I finished my primary school at Masaka and I attended Tahfizul Qur’an at Ringim. Again, Taariqil Abadiya Jigawa, I attended Kwakwali for my senior secondary school and later on moved to Aminu Kano Islamic Legal Studies where I obtained my Diploma. And now I ventured in to movie Industry. (Kannywood).
KS: What inspired you into movie making?
Aminu Saira: I have a friend – Mahmud Uba Leader, long time ago we were watching an American movie titled Devil’s Advocate the content of the movie annoyed us, because it’s like a blasphemy and it contradicts Islam. There and then I started thinking why our film makers are not showing the teaching of our great religion (Islam) and the beauty of our tradition (Hausa)? So this is where my interest began, so I picked up my noble Qur’an and searched for a story (qissa) which can suit in a movie that will enlighten people. From there we kept on the move with friends, we ventured into the industry through Sarauniya Film Production headed by Auwal Sabo and Aminu Sabo, through them I gained a lot of experience on the business and how to be successful as well.
KS: People are saying acting will suit you best, but why do you choose directing?
Aminu Saira: I have no interest in acting, I only have interest in creating something that will be a challenge or competitive in nature. For instance, I created something and somebody created another thing different or better than mine or vice-versa and let it be like that continuously. At the same time I have the interest of promoting my religion, customs and tradition of Hausa, so I consider it as my best area of interest.
KS: After Maryam Hiyana’s scandal, you were the only person who re-suscitate the industry. How did you achieve this victory?
Aminu Saira: It’s better if you said we were many or I lead the rest to the work, because that time we have a team that consist Nazifi Asnanic, Kamal S. Alkali, Ali Gumzak, Nasir M. Gwangwazo, Umar UK and my myself, to mention but few. Whenever we met, what we discussed was we- don’t have good film makers, we have no qualitative movies and we were like nothing in the industry that time, because there are those on top. The movies of that time were just a collection of too many actors; they sing and danced without conveying any message. This always hurt us as team. Therefore, we decided to form a group and called ourselves G-TOP at that time we were growing rapidly all of a sudden the Hiyana saga pop up, everyone withdrawn and everything shattered. I said to my colleagues if we give-up the fight the whole kannywood industry would collapse, despite all the lost we recorded we (G-TOP) reinvest with the little money we have, yet we encountered another problem with the state censorship board and the state government. We were harassed, insulted and terrorised. But now the business is back again, better than ever before.
KS; How can you explain the qualities of the current movies and those of “pre- Maryam Hiyana Scandal” any difference?
Aminu Saira: Actually we can say there are a lot of differences, we can understand through social network and media on how people are commenting on our movies and you can understand how possessive people are by our movies. Some people said they can’t watch our movies with their family before, but now they can, even in the presence of anybody. And our Nollywood counterparts want us to merge and work together on some projects like what we did in Karangiya and during the promo of Dan MarayanZaki one of the film makers of Nollywood saw it and shown his interest to market and distribute it. This is a clear indication that Kannywood is reaching its target and is a great achievement. For your counterpart to wish to join you and work together it means you attained some level. If you are looking for a film industry that captured audience in West Africa is Kannywood, we have great men who promised to help us improve our movies, some are professors, doctors, chiefs and many more. You see if people like these would sit and watch our movies, is a sign of great achievement. So these are the kind of things that we looked at and say yes this industry is growing and by the grace of God we’ll get there!
KS: Can you please tell us the process of making a movie in brief?
Aminu Saira: Is a long process, because it’s a field of its own. To explain it even in brief would take a long time.But the only thing I can say is whoever has an interest in making films/movies should visit one of the websites, online Nigerian sites or foreign. It really needs a lot of explanation because movie making is a course of study itself in Universities or Polytechnics.
But if you are an executive producer and you want to finance a movie, I will advise you to find a producer, any film that you’d watch and you are satisfied with the quality of the movie, you can work with the producer, he will surely guide you, tell you this is how it should be done.
First step in making a film is script/story, but producer is the one to tell you that so-so-so script/story is marketable or not. For instance there are critical films which are not purposely for commercial, or a festival movies and sort of. In short if a person want to be a film maker firstly let him find a good producer.
KS: How can you explain a work of director?
Aminu Saira: The work of a director is like fleshing a skeleton (script) and bringing it back to life. The challenges of a director are the script he would work on, the producer, as well as the artistes. From the beginning, the director, the scriptwriter and the producer are to work together, but at the end they will drop the scriptwriter, then the work will continue between the director and the producer, they share ideas on whom to cast, who should be the D.O.P, production and set designers etc. so when the shooting of the film starts then everybody is under director. When the shooting ended, then the film is taking to the studio and after it has been edited then the director became part of the audience. The only person who is more involved than the director is the producer, because producer is working from script to market, although the director is responsible for making a film to be good or otherwise.
KS: What about actors, who is choosing them, producer or director?
Aminu Saira: Should be director, because he knows who can play the type of character he wants. But I have told you, film is a team work, producer can give his director a 100% chance to pick his actors or they can pick them together or in some cases they can employ a casting director whose work is when he read a script he knows who fits to be casted or they can even employ artistic director in case of audition. You can understand, it is a team work.
KS: What do you think is the challenge of Kannywood film makers?
Aminu Saira: The main challenge that we are facing now is the issue of piracy. Our dream is to make the standard of our movies to be like that of Hollywood or Bollywood and if you look at three years back, we technically improved, if you watched our movies you can see the sound pictures, the artistes performances and the quality of the movies. In fact if we have enough capital, we will be competing with the big movie industries in the world, because we have all it takes. If you look at the business as a whole government are not supportive, politicians and elite too, you can’t mention ten people among those categories I mentioned and tell how or to what extent they help Kannywood. We start the business with less than a hundred thousand and now we are dealing with more than fifty million naira. You see the way it’s growing if the government and the rich people are investing in the industry, it would have been better than it is now. Yet we are paying tax to the state and federal government as well as copy right commission but they are not protecting our interest, they all knew about piracy and it is increasing in geometric progression and none of them is taking any action, it’s unfair! We alone cannot fight piracy, because it is a law only government can fight it. Whenever we caught a pirate and handed him to the law makers they later releases him on bail without any sanction or fine, it’s disgusting!
Now, we are not lacking capital or technical facilities, our main problems are the issue of piracy, this is our greatest challenge. You know if Kannywood collapse it will backfire on the government, because we have more than two million people working under this very industry, if they lose their jobs they would be a liability to the government, but if government help and invest the beneficiaries will double to about five million people employed. And I am sure in Kano state government there is no any organisation that is paying tax 100% apart from Kannywood. And lastly I would like to call the attention of government to reconsider this piracy law in this time of constitution amendments, because piracy can even drag the economy backward. We have about 150 million viewers, if 50 people would use one CD plate a lot of copies would be sold but this piracy hindered our selling’s, we have more quality movies but, are not profitable as expected.
KS- Now that people believed you are the best director in Kannywood what do you want to achieve after that in the future?
Aminu Saira – if to say I am among the best directors I will agree with you. In terms of directing I think I had achieved my dream, my dream is fulfilled, and that is to have a sizeable audience that are following me, markets to be waiting for my movies and whenever people see me they can identify me, you see through this way one can instil whatever kind of message he wants to these people. But if you ask me what is my dream on Kannywood or what I want Kannywood to become in the future? That is my biggest dream in the world. And that dream is as how Bollywood dominates Asia, Hollywood dominates Europe and America, I want Kannywood to dominate Africa. I don’t have any dream better than this. That is why I am calling on everybody who got talent to please come and join us. Government, elites, scholars should please help us.
If you look at the world now the reigning aspect of life currently is entertainment. Like football, movies and music. To compare them all you will see that football has no any meaningful message in it, music has it message for a certain time but if you take a movie you will see that the viewers would sometimes cry because of it connection with the people, it sometimes co-incide with the story of a person if it’s bad he will understand the consequences and he might change and begin to feel guilty of his wrong doings or he will feel safe and be encourage about his good deeds. With all these you can see movie making is above all other forms of entertainment. If a lot of effort would be vested on film making a lot of success would be recorded for the society.
There is a movie I did recently, though is not yet out the title of the movie is ASHABUL KHAFI we conducted a kind of festival that has to do with old religion, the people we invited for the festival were far in isolated region, they’ve no contacts with NGOs or Preachers but to my surprise they knew almost all the film makers including people like me (directors). In fact someone talked to me, he called my name, when I asked him how did he knew that I am Aminu Saira? He said he watched my movies so he knew me through my work as a director. You see these are the kind of people that can stay for hours stairing at Ali Nihu, Sani Danja, Nafisa Abdullahi or any other actor. You see through film making if we like we can advocate our religion more than you can ever imagine. Therefore I call on all our Islamic scholars to give us a helping hand in promoting our religion before other people hijack it from us, let us purify it and make it presentable, we alone cannot do it but with you (Islamic Scholars) we can make it. My fear is, there would come a time when this very industry (Kannywood) will grow bigger than you can ever imagine, that time if we are not careful other foreigners would be in control and at the end of the day they would destroy our cultural values and religion. Therefore, is our greatest challenge to stand up and work together for a better future.
KS: what advise can you give to aspiring film makers?
Aminu saira: My only advice is no matter what and no matter how, have ambitions, be focus toward your dream. If you don’t have ambition you will not go anywhere in life. We GTOP as a case study, we struggle, fluctuated and face a lot of challenges before reaching where we are now. The reason for our success is we have the same goals, we invented GTOP multimedia therefore all the success behind it is as a result of these common goals we have. We go with the best idea especially when we disagree. Our major concern is the industry to be source of moral discipline not decadence. Also to make sure all the films produced are of good standard, relevant to our societal issues. And to u coming artist all i want them to know is ever one was born alone and will surely die alone and buried alone. All you did here will reflects hereafter. Therefore we both shall fear Allah. Prophet PBUH said whoever planted something good he will benefit from it even after his death. With this I will say in your movie if you teach how to pray and someone learns from it you will surely have the reward likewise if you teach otherwise.
KS: why is it that your movies even if it’s ordinary you always make it extra ordinary and exciting at the same time, what is the secret behind it?
Aminu Saira: You know everyone has his own unique gift, I encountered this kind of question severally,. There was a movie I directed FISABILILLAHI one of our producer watched it and said it is a challenge to him because it’s a simple idea but when the script turned in to screen the viewers were satisfied. One thing with me is if I go through a script and not satisfied with the story or the screenplay, i don’t work on it, period. So all these kind of things has to do with being strong and believing what you want not what actors want, be the director not actor. Whatever you want the actor to do, don’t let them go without doing what you want. My next movie is Daga Ni Sai Ke, I have been talking to the actors of the movies about what I want them to do, I put a lot of logics and zeal in their mindset just to let them be familiar with their roles in the movie. You see before even the movie starts all of them are familiar with the script/story. As in FISABILILLAHI we have discussed a lot with Ali Nuhu and Nafisa before they get the script, likewise in MALIKA.
KS: which of the actors or actress you enjoy working with the most?
Aminu Saira: actually I enjoy working with both the actors and actresses, be it young or of aged. If you hear anything about a particular actor casted for a particular movie but substituted with another one along the line, this has to do with time factor, may be the person has some unfinished work as a result we substituted him/her with someone who is free or less busy. Beside I don’t have problem with anyone. We respect each other, and sometimes we create competition among actors and actresses, for instance in Daga Ni Sai Ke I created competition between Sadiq Sani Sadiq, Sadiq Ahmad and Zahraddeen Sani. Everyone wants to beat the other and the crew too. There was a movie, after the post production, we watched it all together, at the end I said the script writer of the story did a better job than anyone, the producer became shocked and ask why? I said the sequential arrangement of the story is perfectly done, everything revolves around it, therefore the scriptwriter did his homework well, and that’s all. You see Ali Nuhu and I shared this same ideology, this is why you will see our crew and our artist are always competing, everyone is trying to give out the best out of him.
KS: Which of your movie do you like the most?
Aminu Saira: Uhmmm the movie I like most is WALIJAM and GA DUHU GA HASKE. Yes, WALIJAM the story spent five years in my possession before I gave it out for screenplay, while GA DUHU GA HASKE spent nine years too. That’s my early days in the industry, I invented the stories myself. These are the reasons why I always thank Allah Almighty because I faced a lot of challenges and discouragement from people around me, whenever I said I wanted to work on the above mentioned scripts, people appealed to me that I should hold on as the movies on religion are not marketable bla-bla-bla. And because of the message involved in both the two scripts I want everybody to watch especially the targeted audience. If you look at WALIJAM it is more or less a domestic/local issues, this has to do with our immediate environment or society, the rich doesn’t help the needy or in enlightening the people over current issues be it of diseases or technological development. While, if you look at GA DUHU GA HASKE is a global issue. The world link terrorism with Islam, how do you enlighten non-Muslims about Islam? Things like that. There is a movie titled MARYAM DIYANA I did it long ago but it was not marketable, I recorded lost, so it arose fear in me. This is why I kept stories like this aside. Like DAN MARAYAN ZAKI also spent nine years or so with me. I was discouraged on movies that advocate religion or culture, people like love stories. When I watched one of the movies that advocated religion, I realized that there are some fault, fault in the sense that the entertainment in it is less, or none at all and if you want people to watch your movies you must create something that would keep them glued to their screen. For instance if you give me a movie and I realized that it’s full of Hadith and verses from the Qur’an, I would feel like why not find a greatest sheik like Sheik Ja’afar or Sheik Tahir Bauchi and listen to their Tafseer or Ta’aleemat. But, since you want to pass a mesaage to people, therefore you have to build it on entertainment. Starting with love you know, along the line something different to be inserted, all your perception would be change as a result of the new insertion; you see this is how we do it.
I can remember vividly, someone called me long ago and said he watched GA DUHU GA HASKE at his friend’s house, when he got home he asked his family ‘which month the first revelation of The Qur’an took place?’ none of them answer, he rushed and bought the movie and let them watched it. Then later on his kids said; “Ohh Daddy is that the reason why you asked us? Again someone called me from Abuja just to informed me that his colleague, (a lady) accepted Islam after she watched GA DUHU GA HASKE. A lot of people called me from Katsina, Zaria and many more asserting that some Jumaat mosques pray for us as someone watched GA DUHU GA HASKE and accepted Islam. In fact these are the reasons why I still love those movies among others.
KS: Which of you movies would you consider as the most challenging one?
Aminu Saira: Actually the most challenging movie I ever recorded is DAN MARAYAN ZAKI because it came with some natural challenges which we’ve never encountered before. We spent the longest time ever shooting the movie. We spent a month for the interior shoots alone, and we went on break for seventy days, then later on we moved to Niger Republic and Daura as well for some scenes. Again we constructed a lot of houses and sketches for the movie. You see it is not easy, yet again the final DVD production was made in China, and we spent a lot of time waiting for it to be finalized. They protected it with some security passwords, if you are not using original DVD player it won’t work and most of the DVD players we use here in Nigeria are sub-standard, some people felt as if we cheated on them. People put a lot of pressure on us because they want to watch it. Thank God at the end of the day people appreciated it and we were happy too as the movie reached its possible target.
KS: What can you finally say to your fans and world wishers?
Aminu Saira: Smiles…. I am highly grateful, I thank you so much my fans! If one would have world wishers and fans just because of something he’s doing and they are appreciating it by loving him, I must say it’s a great achievement to me. I thank you so much and I wish you Allah’s guidance and protection in all what you are doing. I am urging you, don’t let your love for me to blindfolded your eyes from seeing my mistakes, we are humans, we are not above mistakes, no one is perfect. If you see my mistake or anything that is not right please let me know, we’ll listen to you and we’ll accept corrections.
I want to use this medium to call on the attention of all kannywood fans and followers that we received all your messages, all your social media messages too, but it’s not that we don’t care about you, we do! Just that our schedules are too tied. Therefore I urge you to send all your questions, comments, observation, corrections as well as recommendations to @kannywoodscene insha Allah we’ll get back to you with responds when we are less busy. What I am trying to say is let Kannywoodscene be a kind of link between us. Thank you for your love once again. I love you too, bye!