Maryam Yahaya

She may or may not remember the date, but the day and the name Mansoor are hard to be forgotten. Maryam Yahaya’s first major role as an actress was in the movie titled Mansoor, from an FKD production. It was on the 19th of December 2016 when an actress, Balkisu Shema, who was supposed to play the lead role didn’t show up on time for an unknown reason; therefore, the man in charge – Ali Nuhu – decided to go ahead as planned. Without wasting much time, Maryam Yahaya was auditioned and got the lead role. It wasn’t as easy as I just said it, for many things had happened before Maryam’s status completely changed from an ordinary back-up artist to a superstar.

As usual, like all other Kannywood movies’ sets, it began with an opening prayer from one of the assistant directors, Alfazazee Muhammad. Right before that, I noticed how everyone else came to the set, using different mobilities from different locations within and outside Kano. People like Alfazazee, Umar M. Sharrif, and co came from Kaduna; myself came all the way from Gombe, a night before. This showed the sagacity of commitment, at least from many of us, knowing that we had something to do. The actual shooting began with scene eight, first shot. If I would forget something that day, it won’t be from what I just mentioned.

Before the first scene, I noticed some strange moves from the producer, Naziru Dan Hajiya. He made several phone calls, all with his face in despair. Within a short-time, side talk began, then few questions about the logistics, accommodations, transportations and welfare of the casts and crew, and so on. Finally, Ali Nuhu decided to drop Balkisu Shema for no call, no show offence. He summoned all the actress and picked only two out of 15 or so; he gave them some lines to practice, timed them as well. After a short while, he called on whoever was ready among the two; they were all silent for a moment, then one of them came out looking so nervous, but braver than the other I guess. 

Maryam first from left and the other girl auditioning for the role

Ali Nuhu and Yunusa Mu’azu practiced one of the lines just to give her (Maryam) an idea of how the scene should look like. She walked down with the co-leading actor, Umar M Sharrif. It was so captivating as a mixture of improvisation and a little mimicry blended with self-esteem. That’s exactly what Nuhu was looking for. Ali Nuhu quickly said: Ke kinci kawai (you got it). I couldn’t believe it myself – it was breathtaking! 

Maryam’s status changed right there; she’s came in as a back-up artist and walked-out with a mixed feeling of a dream-like on one side, and a star-like on the other. Not too long after the first scene, the set continued with subsequent scenes though not in an orderly fashion. After several scenes, Shema decided to show-up. Was she late? Was she right on time? Or was she just cost herself a huge chance, maybe an only chance to feature in FKD’s film? These might be the questions pondering in her chest right from the time she stepped into Yan Dutse, a private school opposite Kano Capital School.

Maryam practicing her lines after she was chosen as the lead actress

The long story short, Shema faced Ali Nuhu, and apologized for the inconveniences she might have caused. Nobody, of course, was happy with what she did. But who cares? ‘Maryam is delivering the exact service needed, I’m satisfied.’ That’s how I interpreted Ali Nuhu’s mind at that very moment. In another interpretation, ‘I am the boss here, I don’t give a damn.’ But Ali Nuhu was soft on Shema. He said it’s okay; I am not holding you for what just happened and our relationship remains the same. However, we have already gone far enough to the point of no return (not exactly his words). 

It wasn’t an easy feeling for Shema, considering the fact that many actors were longing so hard to feature in an FKD movie. Here was someone given the chance, but blew it away just like that. Believe it or not, Shema had no reasonable excuse to be late, for her accommodation, transportation and meals were all settled prior to the beginning of her contract. I would have interviewed Shema, but for a moment I hesitated, given her unwelcoming face at the time of the shock. So, instead, I went for Maryam.

Maryam and Umar M Shariff

Maryam Yahaya was born in Goron Dutse, Kano. She did her Primary school in Yelwa, and moved to Bokabo Barracks where she obtained a High School Certificate. Her ambition for acting started right from childhood. As a child, Maryam was inspired and fascinated by most of the Kannywood movies she watched. Like many other Muslim girls from northern Nigeria, her parents are very strict and conformist when it comes to moral upbringings, but she was able to convince them to let her try a career in acting. Unlike many other Kannywood’s actresses, Maryam made her way into the industry independently. Her first film was Gidan Abinci, followed by Barauniya, and Tabo. She only played minor roles in all the three movies mentioned. Her role in Mansoor was a game changer. Maryam is a young teenage actress. She is just nineteen-year-old, but she looks younger than her age.

On the set

Perhaps it would have been a different story maybe if Shema had shown – up on time. Had it been that the other girl was auditioned before Maryam, I would be writing a different piece. All the two actresses (Shema & the other girl) are way taller and older than Maryam. Compared to Maryam, Shema & the other girl are brighter in complexion, which would have been a perfect match for Umar M. Sharrif, himself been fair in complexion. However, one thing that sets Maryam apart from the other actresses is perhaps her sang-froid.

 She so much composed herself and danced to the new tunes. The more she faced the camera, the better she became. She pulled herself all together and juiced out the new character in her throughout the set of Mansoor. Maryam became so acquainted with the people and the atmosphere. She was in the beginning too nervous probably because of the people around. She couldn’t resist or keep a straight look at the caliber of people like Ali Nuhu or Bashir Nayaya without bending down her head. Also, it was hard for her to get away with the usual unannounced solidarity visits of famous Kannywood names like Kamal Alkali, Nazifi Asnanic, Nuhu Abdullahi, Usman Mu’azu and many more.

Following the set of Mansoor, Maryam has been hired to feature in a number of upcoming blockbuster movies. She climbed a new ladder of life, shuttling from one city to another, shooting more films in a bigger role than just back-up actress. She’s all over social media posting pictures or short clips of herself while on set. Sometimes connecting with her fans on a live video chat while lying down in a doubled bed or a sofa from an interior space of her room in a three-star hotel.

By: Nura Abubakar 

Twitter: @Noorer 

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