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How Kunle Afolayan gave me my major movie earning after over 40 years of acting – Aderupoko

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Comic actor, Kayode Olaiya,
popularly known as Aderupoko, started his acting career 50 years ago. He
shares some of his life experiences with The pathfinder

How come you have so many aliases?

My real name is Kayode Olaiya, but I’m
popularly known as Aderupoko. Some people started calling me Baba Jenifa
after my role as Jenifa’s father in Funke Akindele’s comedy series,
Jenifa’s Diary. Also, in the movie, October 1 by Kunle Afolayan, I
played the role of Sgt. Afonja and since then; some people have taken to
that name as well.

When did you decide to become an actor?

My acting career started when I was
invited to be the anchor of a storytelling programme on the Western
Nigerian Television/Western Nigerian Broadcasting Service in 1966.
During that period, every programme aired on the television was live and
there was nothing like a recorded programme.

One day, my friends and I went to the
Government House to fetch firewood and also pluck some mangoes. On our
way back, someone working for the television station called out to us
but we ran away because we thought the person wanted to flog us for
plucking mangoes without permission. As we were running away, the man
shouted that he was not interested in beating us. He said he wanted us
to come on air to tell African folklore since we were pupils.

Immediately, I went to meet him and told him that we were interested in
the proposal since it was something we did for fun, especially at twilight. I was then tasked with inviting some of my schoolmates to the programme, but we had to sneak into the television station because of our parents, who were unaware of the gig.

Didn’t your parents see you on TV while presenting the programme?

Although we appeared on air, only a few
people had television sets back then and our parents did not have TVs.
Whenever we wanted to watch television, we had to go to a neighbour’s
house.

What actually enticed us to be part of
the programme were the soft drinks they gave to us, which were a luxury
we only afforded during festive seasons. And even then, we had to share a
bottle of soft drink among ourselves.
We were instructed to wear traditional
attire while coming on the show and as the host; I was told to wear a
cap since I was the one telling the tales.

That was how I began my career and from
there, I began to learn about stage play as well. Before the programme
was aired in the evening, we had to have rehearsals with our producers
in the morning. In the afternoon, we had camera rehearsal and by 4 pm,
they would transmit the live programme.

All this time, I was still in
primary school but I was able to anchor the programme for about three
years. And during this period, I met some other great actors like the
late Hubert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo, Oyin Adejobi, at the television
station. I noticed that their plays were different from the storytelling
programme which I did. Theirs were more like the school play we had and
this made me develop an interest in joining them but they were not
based in Ibadan. When I got into secondary school, I continued with
drama and later joined the Edunkunle Travelling Theatre. We (the group)
toured various schools to entertain pupils. I stayed with Edunkunle for
about three years before Ola Omonitan (popularly known as Ajimajasan)
spotted me at one of our rehearsals and was fascinated by my drumming
skills. He asked Edunkunle to allow me to join his group for one
performance and he agreed. That was how I joined Omonitan because I
never went back to Edunkunle .

When I was with Omonitan, I was tasked
with designing costumes because, after my secondary school education, I
learnt fashion designing. I had a shop and about eight apprentices
working for me. I combined both theatre and fashion designing but it got
to a point when I had to close my shop because the theatre was taking
too much of my time. There were times when we travelled and didn’t
return home for over two months.

I lost my father when I was quite young
so it was my mother who sponsored my education till I finished secondary
school. So, she was quite upset that I closed down my shop. I would
have continued my education but there was no money, so I had to learn
fashion designing. My mother was not angry that I was in the theatre
because I was earning enough money to give her and also feed my younger
ones. This made her believe that I had a bright future in the field.

Some people actually believe your real name is Aderupoko, how did you get that stage name?

In the early stage of my career, when I
was still with Omonitan, I was called Araga on stage. The name Araga was
derived from a character that acted like a dummy. Aside from being an
actor, I was also the stage manager and whenever we embarked on tours
around the country, I arranged our costumes in the truck.

When we started our profession, we used
lorries to convey our costumes and props but as time went on, lorries
were no longer in vogue so, we advanced and bought a bus, which was more
modern. Although it was more attractive than the lorry, it was not as
rugged as the lorry. Whenever we got to a steep road, the vehicle
laboured up the road. Most times, I was the designated driver so
whenever that happened, my group members accused me of overloading the
bus. They claimed that I wanted to ‘kill’ the bus. So whenever we got to
the venue of our performance and they needed to call me; instead of
using the stage name, Araga, they opted for Aderupoko, which means ‘one
who wants to kill the vehicle with excess luggage’. Initially, I did not
like it and I was always angry whenever I was called by the name. And
when they noticed that I did not like, they continued to call me by the
name. But after a while, I just stopped getting angry. That was how the
name stuck.

How did your father’s death affect your life?

I have never known the value of a father
in my life because I was very young when my father died. I don’t think I
can even remember his face, so I don’t even know the role of a father
in a child’s life. That is why I love my mother a lot.

How did you meet Papalolo (Ayo Ogunsina) and Jacob (Tajudeen Gbadamosi)? The three of you were popular as a group.

We met at Omonitan’s theatre group.
Jacob joined the group about three months before I did so he was my
senior. Then after about two years, Papalolo joined us. That was where
we started comedy. Prior to joining the group, I was involved in only
serious drama.

Back then, Baba Sala (Moses Olaiya) was
the only one that did comic plays, especially on TV and whenever he went
on tour, there would not be any comedy plays on TV for that period. So,
the station decided to have an audition for theatre groups to show
their comic side. Omonitan’s theatre group emerged first in the audition
and what stood us out was the fact that Baba Sala’s comedy revolved
around his character alone. His character was the only funny person in
his play, whereas, in ours, every one of us was funny. Our storyline
also had a message. That was how we started comedy . After years of
being with Omonitan’s theatre group, Jacob, Papalolo and I formed our
own theatre group, called, ‘Jesters International.’

How would you describe your relationship with them?

They were my co-workers but Jacob is
dead now. We understood ourselves very well. We started the group in
1980 but in 1987, Jacob died. We travelled everywhere together. Two
years after his death, Papalolo decided to quit acting but returned many
years after trying out other ventures. We all work independently now
but if there is a need to have a joint project, we do it together.

How did Jacob’s death affect the group?

There is every possibility that the
group would have still been together if he had not died. I had never
been in a three-man business before working with them but after that, I
decided I would not engage in such again. His death was very painful
because normally, most groups split due to issues relating to money or
women; but in our case, it was death that split us. The audience was
used to seeing the three of us on stage, so after his death, our fan
base shrank because there were people that loved Jacob as a person and
were his fan because of that. If I had not developed my talents, I
probably would have been out of business by now. That is why I prefer a
one-man business.

How would you describe your relationship with King Sunny Ade?

He is my elder brother and friend. You
know, he started out as an actor with Baba Sala before he ventured into
music. It was while he was an actor that we were close friends. In 1976,
he travelled to London and saw as some actors entertained the audience
during the interlude of a singer’s performance while the singer was able
to use the few minutes to catch his breath and relax. When King Sunny
Ade returned to Nigeria, he asked us if we could do the same thing for
him but our boss was quite reluctant. However, he later agreed.

Meanwhile, we also used to record some comic songs at Yinka Esho
Recording Studio, which was the same place where Sunny Ade did most of
his recordings.

Sunny Ade was the one that introduced us
as his side attraction during his concerts. Whenever they paid Sunny
Ade to perform at a show, he would give our boss some money to allow us
to perform at the event. We felt that such a stage would not be ideal
for plays, so we decided to remake some of Sunny Ade’s song into comic
music. We made wooden instruments and formed a mock band. The audience
loved us a lot and even Sunny Ade was surprised by our creativity. It
was really fun. Even though it was our boss that he was paying to , we
did not mind because we enjoyed the job. And besides, we did not have
any serious responsibility. Before long, we began to gain recognition;
that was how we became close to Sunny Ade. He gave us access to the
elite class of the society and also permitted us to use his stage.

Are you still a tailor?

Yes, I am. I sew all my clothes. I also sew for my family and friends but I don’t sew for commercial purpose.

Do you have any regrets acting for over 50 years?

I don’t have any regrets. I would not
say that I am wealthy but I have peace of mind and that is very
important in the world we live in today. The love people show me does
not even leave room for regrets. If you see me driving a car, it is
someone who gave it to me and not the job that provided it for me. This
job is meant to be self-sufficient but the pirates have been cruel to
us. Sometimes, we take loans from a bank to shoot a movie but before the
movie is out, pirates would have released it and we end up running at a
loss. It is really affecting the creative mind. Our government should
please do something about this problem because we are living at the
mercy of our fans.

But your fame must have translated to fortune for you.

No, it has not. I am just popular, but
there is no money. Even the musicians are luckier than actors. They sell
their records and equally have the opportunity of performing for a fee.
When musicians go for shows, they can easily tip street urchins who ask
them for money because they must have been sprayed some money during
their performance. But the same cannot be said about us because we don’t
make money, no thanks to pirates. Even when you give these boys some
money, they get angry and say it is too little.

Is it true that you completed your house with the money you got from Kunle Afolayan’s movie, October 1?

I had finished my house before I
featured in the movie. However, Kunle Afolayan is a good person. He is a
very straightforward person. His movie was very demanding and I had to
keep my hair for more than a year without having a haircut to fit the
role of a police officer from the colonial era. All through the period
that I kept my hair, he was always paying for its treatment and urged me
not to cut it. It was not convenient for me but it was worth it.
We
were on the movie location for about two months and he treated us very
well. He is the one that has paid me the highest amount of money I have
ever received in my career which means that my major movie earning came
after over 40 years of acting.


Source: The pathfinder

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