Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bald Hair Day

I think I’m finally going bald – good week everyone. I know some people will be wondering why it’s just hit me like an epiphany but I usually don’t believe things people say until I see it myself. Anyway dat na anoda tory. This reality was brutally brought to the fore when I slapped at a mosquito that was just as brutally sipping at a bloody mary off of the top of my head. Off of the top of my head I repeat in emphasis, because to my rude dismay I realised that my large (hee hee!) palm covered both “land” and the “sea” with the shoreline dividing both combatants somewhere in its middle on top of my head! My forehead grows bigger by the, day?. How to combat this desertification process I don’t know. Plant trees? Reduce my aggressive testosterone levels? God forbid! I already told my God I want to keep blazing my guns till I’m past ninety. So what then does this mean?

I had my first hint of the impending – I refuse to use the word so feel free to fill the blanks – when I did a project where my character played a recording of himself that was done twenty years earlier. The make up artist, to achieve a much younger look, simply brought my hairline closer to my eyebrows by an inch and a half, I think. Then she did a most ingenious thing. Instead of my characteristic “W” shaped hairline, she made it a straight horizontal line – the adhesive being petroleum jelly to hold down the tufts of hair to my scalp. The result was astounding. I thought I was twenty one looking at myself in the mirror! Everyone exclaimed how young I looked so much it became a little uncomfortable. I took solace in the fact that I had a more mature and austere look and my encroaching ba------ was merely an intellectual high forehead.

All this aside, a much bigger challenge looms in front of me now. I have always had issues with my hair from when I was young, mostly to do with my father when he was alive. I cried and begged him to let me grow my hair long to be like the afro styles of the then Kool and the Gang or Earth Wind and Fire. I was refused. I was not allowed the Shalamar or the “BJ”, the Brothers’ Johnson hairstyles either. Matter of fact my father could not for the life of him see what the barber could do for me that he couldn’t except take his hard earned money or keep me from my books thirty full minutes longer than necessary. I was subjected to preliminarily having my hair combed, accompanied by my howls of pain – I hated to comb my hair; it was always getting matted especially the one at the nape of my neck. Oh God it hurt! Then he would begin shearing – the best word I can use for it; he preferred scissors, holding my little head in the vice like grip of his strong hands, tears welling up in my eyes as I thought of my brothers enjoying the Muppet show that I couldn’t even crane my neck to watch. You can imagine my surprise when in the nineties, when it was the ‘skin’ cut that was in vogue, a concerned father called me to his study to ask me why I felt the need to cut off all my wonderful hair I was blessed with and go about looking like a convict headed for the gallows. I should grow some hair so I wouldn’t be mistaken for a thief when I went to the market was my admonition.

Facing me now as I sit here typing are all the things I have longed to do but haven’t been able to till date. I haven’t grown dreadlocks yet. I wonder what I would look like when I do. I would probably grow a full beard as well and wear long white flowing robes and dark glasses. To complete that revered philosophical look I’d carry some rosary beads on one hand and a hibiscus flower on the other, sniffing and murmuring intermittently as I bob my head to the elementals in the universe. Alas, I have been prevented from this luxury because of the nature of my work where growing dreadlocks with limit my range as an actor. Tattoos I’m still thinking about. Hm, I think I’ll add these two to my hair bucket list before its demise.

Well that’s my missive on my bad hair day. Can’t believe I’m actually whingeing about my hair. Kalu, you have sunk to the lowest depths! Are there toupees for black men I wonder? At least I’ll take comfort in the scientific hypothesis that bald men are typically more virile than their full haired competitors. I’ll take comfort in my intellectual high foreheadedness while it lasts before I proceed to being baldilocks; I know I have a good shape of head. Plus, I get to have it caressed. Those of us fortunate enough to have experienced the loving hands of a good woman caress our bald heads during love making know what I mean. My resolve? To baldly go where others have gone before me. Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Berries of the Dark Kind

Guten week to everyone in the house. How is everyone? First, I want to wish my very dear friend Sara a very happy birthday today, and a belated birthday to my troublesome friend Nse whose birthday it was two days ago. I’m down with a cold – the hazards of walking about on cold floors with bare feet. I thought about (and did) complaining about it on facebook and then I remembered worse things people suffer from all over the world and I held my piece. On second thoughts though, I think I am allowed to whinge about it a little. After all, my people say that a little snake one sees alone in the bush becomes a python when he recounts his encounter with it to his neighbours when he sees them. So yes, I have a cold and it’s killed my appetite, one of the few places in my life I do not tolerate interference. It prevented me from going for the bush meat pepper soup I craved for last night as I am wont to every time I finish a project, especially the gruelling one I finished last week. No worries, the tick will fall off soon as it has drunk its fill.

The project, quite an interesting one; I played a character that spoke with a very heavy Igbo accent. The Igbos, of whom I am one, are an interesting people. We believe in getting our point across even if it means not giving much consideration to how we put it. That is not to say we are not poetic, quite the contrary if I may say. We like to pepper our words with proverbs to make our audience think, anticipate what we want to say, hide what we want to say or break terrible news gently. You may refer to my earlier proverb as an example. Anyway, enough talk. Now to more talk!
There is quite a lot to talk about but, being the blabber mouth that I am, I have been prevented from saying ninety percent of what is in my head to say by the mighty Nkem so I’ll just go with the ten percent. I feel like I’m the last to catch up with any kind of new technology – the latest to confront me being the ubiquitous blackberry which I am soon in the danger of acquiring. My friends, Yolanda and Uche Jombo, had already begun educating me on the virtues of this “wonderful” contraption – its phenomenal networking abilities, updates on twitter and facebook and its dexterity in gossip related matters – a fundamental asset to have in our “show” business. Like I said in previous posts, I’m still trying to get my head round this modern technology. One thing is for certain though; the world seems to have moved on from the traditional physical structures and property to the virtual kind – one that is based on perception, publicity and transient popularity. Pretty much like gold and money that was at the turn of the Victorian period, gold being the actual value and paper money, a ‘mere’ promissory note that has come to dominate the world economy for the past near two hundred years.

My worry now, apart from worrying about the mastery of those complex social networks, is how I’ll manage to type on those tiny buttons with my huge thumbs. Then again, every journey begins with a step. I’ll embark on this one today and wait for another accursed technology to raise its head from around the corner. I did not get to have my beloved pepper soup today but, as I’ve begun to hawk and spit, from the thickening of my phlegm, it shouldn’t be too far away. A few more lemon teas should speed up the progress. Awaiting your tips on what hidden treasures lie hidden in my new toy. Have a great week everyone.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dem don gba me!

A gooooood week to everyone and may all our troubles be put behind us or flushed down the toilet! It is so good to be jaunty again. I have my cousin visiting me for the week and he is eating the house down. He just graduated from university and is serving out his paramilitary cum volunteering service to the nation also known as youth corps in Yobe state, and arid semi desert area in the northern part of the country. He came in gaunt and went straight to bed – for two days! Now he’s eating like a caterpillar, except he is not getting any fatter! God I miss those days you eat, eat and eat and it just doesn’t show on your body. Anyway I’ll just let him run riot and then sadistically release him to sandstorm city! Heh, heh, heh!

Seriously, thanks everyone for your support in the past few weeks; it meant a lot to me. I observed some interesting comments on my posts though, especially the last one. May I reiterate that this was a singular experience with a particular production company so let’s please not paint other production outfits or any country with the same brush. It is easy for this to degenerate to a level we have no business going so let’s put things in perspective. Thanks! Now for this week: I’ve been stung by a bee. That was last week on my way to work when I was taken (gba) by a fuel pump attendant.

I had stopped at a busy petrol station on busy highway quite close to the domestic airport in Lagos and decided to top up my fuel tank so I’d have enough fuel for a few days, actually two; Betty’s so thirsty. One of the attendants, a lady, beckoned me over and so I parked at her pump. She was filling someone else’s car on the other side of the pump so I waited patiently. When she finished, she brought that pump on the other side, they usually have long hoses, over to my side and inserted the nozzle in my tank and asked how fuel I wanted. I told her to put two thousand Naira’s worth. Obviously I couldn’t see the metre from where I was being on the other side. I think she saw the questioning look in my eyes because she asked if I’d like to come round and check that the correct amount of fuel I requested for was being pumped. She looked at me coolly, a small smile playing on her lips as she waited. I looked at her, studying her. She was plump, not particularly groomed and so apparently not too bothered about her looks. I surmised that she probably had kids and so was a responsible person. Plus, it was drizzling and I didn’t want to get wet. I took a chance and asked her to go right on and looked hard at her while she pumped away. There was an intermittent gasp, or so I thought.

She finished pumping, closed the tank and I paid her and went on my merry way. As I was driving I kept my eye on the fuel needle to watch it climb like I always do. It kept climbing until it stopped – well short of the place it should have rested! Oh! I smiled. Lagos don gba me! And worse still I was already joined another highway and couldn’t turn back. Not that I could if I wanted to anyway because I was going to work; I had little time to waste. I’m going back there again. I don’t know what I’ll do, but I’m going back there again. Well at least it’s given me something for us all to laugh about.

Got to go guys; my producer’s on my neck to come on set so please do have a great week everyone and, please get out of your cars to check your metres! Ciao!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Production pt. 2

.......The new hotel we moved into was large and spacious and I was checked into it at about eleven pm by the production manager and the producer who did not speak to me throughout the journey and remained in the vehicle while I was being checked in. I supposed she was busied by her thoughts. I was to find out later that she had had a disagreement with the director’s wife over his wife’s rejection of some dingy rooms she tried to lodge us in.

A good week to everyone and many many thanks for the wonderful support you’ve shown me in my good, bad and funny times. You are truly a remarkable bunch! I liked the room; it was spacious and had enough room to practice my new found love; martial taekwondo kicks. I had a good night’s rest and the next morning after my stretches, I sauntered outside to see what the neighbourhood was like and to my pleasant surprise I met one of my colleagues I’d worked with before in Nigeria and another man I did not know on their way back to the hotel I was lodged. After exchanging pleasantries I asked them what they were doing in Ghana and they told me they were in the middle of a movie production (the other man was the producer of the project) and were just coming back form the police station. Curious, I asked them what had happened and Victor, the producer said, they had gone to report an armed robbery incident in his hotel room the night before – the very hotel I was checked into the night before! Shocked, I asked him what had happened. He narrated the story of how the night before at about 2am, he woke suddenly to see two armed men in his room bending over him. They were armed with a machete and an axe and in hushed tones ordered him to bring his suitcase which he did. They rifled through it and took all the tapes he had with him, his passport and little else, then ordered him to get into the bathroom, locked him in and made off into the darkness. Fortunately for him, he said, he had kept the tapes of the scenes he had shot on the production in a different place and only had the master tapes of old projects on him at the time of the robbery. I didn’t know what to think. What I did know was that I did not feel safe in that hotel and I told my producer as such. We, the director and I, were soon moved to another hotel in the Dzorwulu district of Accra which was much nearer the locations that had been earmarked for shooting in.

We still did not start production until Sunday the 10th of July and when we did, the pace was slow. We did not begin recording until about 11am daily even though some of us were ready for work by 8am. Most of the challenges were due to poor logistics and costuming problems. The director was very particular about his shots – he was very meticulous about his work - and went to great lengths to rehearse and put the actors through their blockings. We managed a range of two to seven scenes a day. I had told the director I would be starting another job on Monday the 19th of July and would be leaving for Nigeria on Friday the 16th. If I couldn’t finish my scenes before I left, I could still come back to finish them when I was done with Nigeria. He said no problem and we worked on. On Monday I called the
producer and told her I would be leaving on Friday and would appreciate it if the scenes I had to do were given priority so I’d have less time to spend on set were I to have to come back to complete and she told me she’d see to it.

Wednesday came and at the end of production for the day I was called to a meeting with the producer, the production manager and my friend the director. They told me that after checking the schedule and the amount of work I had left, it was clear that my leaving on Friday would be detrimental to their production. You know that agape feeling you get when you are being blamed for your mother’s (don’t mean to be crude but I’m trying to look for the most monstrous illogic) loss of her virginity? They honestly had to be absolutely mad to brazenly make that request! After two weeks of indolence, and giving them an additional three days? Abeg abeg! Make I no jus vex for here as I just de think am! I politely told them where to jump into; my set date was fixed and there was no turning back. My friend the director told me he would see to it that I did not leave till I finished his shoot and that I would do well to comply because I would have my good image tarnished in Ghana and he would bring in the bigwigs from either of the two countries to compel me to do my duty. I told him his threats would fall flat in his face and left before I said or did anything I would regret. The producer and the production ran to my room begging me to give them a few more days and I told them I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to give them an answer but that we could talk at the end of production the next day.

The next day being Thursday, at the end of production at about 1am, the producer came to my room again with her production manager to implore me to give them an extra four days on set. She asked me to think of her situation and think of my own mother and take pity on her. I told her I had obligations as well and would have to pay the other production I was scheduled to work with their money if I didn’t turn up for theirs. She said she didn’t have any money left and it was back to square one. After prevailing on me for quite a while I agreed to give them three extra days from Friday where I would return Monday’s first flight to Nigeria on the condition that they would buy me a ticket for the first flight to Nigeria on Monday the 19th of July, and that I would have the ticket in my possession by 10am that Friday. They readily agreed thanked me and we called it a night.

In the morning on Friday I went on set with the director and other members of the crew and waited for the other actors to turn up. We waited till about 11am and still they hadn’t showed up – and neither had my ticket. I called the producer and asked her what was going on. She told me she had purchased the ticket and invited the lady at the travel agency she had booked to confirm it to me. She did and I relaxed. 2pm came and still none of the other actors I was to work with had turned up. With quite some irritation and some unease, I called the airline my flight was supposed to be on and asked to confirm my flight. I was told that my flight had indeed been booked but had not been paid for. I saw red. Here I was on set with a view to finish as many scenes as I could as agreed and the production manager had not even ensured his production was running smoothly by getting all his actors to work on time and worse still, the production did not seem interested in fulfilling its own end of the bargain. I picked my bag and headed for the road and hailed a passing taxi. I got in, told the driver to take me to my hotel but before he could move the production manager and some of the crew members prevented the driver from moving off. Not many pretty words escaped my mouth that afternoon and I did utter some expletives my mother would be shocked at hearing from me. It seemed someone had alerted the producer on what was going on because a short while later someone came to me and told me the ticket had been paid for. I called the airline again and this they did confirm that the ticket for the flight had been paid. I went back to work but it was not until 5.30pm that the other actors showed up. We could only do two scenes that day.

I got back to the hotel at 12.30am and immediately went to bed, only to be woken up from my sleep a while later by a knock on my door. I checked the time on my watch; it was 1.30am. I went to the door and asked who it was and heard the voice of the producer saying it was she. I opened the door to see the producer and three fierce looking men I had not seen before. I asked her what she wanted and she told me she wanted to give me my ticket. When I asked her who the men with her where and why they were with her, she told me they were her brothers and they were there to have a talk with me. I was compelled to go downstairs with them to the poolside.

As soon as we got there they brandished a document they called a contract and told me I was going to sign the contract and state that I was going to stay on the producer’s set until I finished the job. I told them I would not sign the contract at that time of the night with people I did not know. They told me if I did not sign it, they (two of them were soldiers) would drag me to their barracks and deal with me mercilessly there. I explained to them that it would be foolish of me to sign something I didn’t know about without any witness on my side. The younger of the two soldiers( they were in plain clothes) lost his patience. He pushed his chair back, stood up and barked out to his colleagues to allow him bundle me into a waiting SUV that was parked nearby. I kept my cool, appearing unruffled but inside I was quaking in my sweaty boots. Here I was in the middle of the night, no one to see what was going on, nobody to call, in a country I knew nobody. I could be taken to anywhere and anything could be done to me. My family didn’t even know where I was! I remembered I had God who was everywhere with me and the fear melted away. I sat resolute. Exasperated they called my director friend to come downstairs and talk some sense into his stupid Nigerian brother.

When he came down, they told me I now had a friend I could rely on my side and so I had just found a reliable witness; I should sign. I refused and my friend the director asked for their permission to speak with me in private. We went to a corner and he told me I could be taken anywhere and whatever happened to me, it would be their word against mine – and I would lose because I wasn’t an indigene. Furthermore, they could tarnish my hard earned name I had worked so hard for in a beat. I was to reconsider my position, sign the contract and let everyone go in peace. It kind of smacked of a ‘good cop’, ‘bad cop’ game to me – my very own director friend who was purported to be on the lookout for me selling me down the river to my face! I chose not to do so and was forced to get into the backseat of the waiting car, a man seated on either side of me. I asked them where they were taking me but they refused to answer me, telling me I would find out soon enough. We drove for what seemed like ten minutes before we parked in front of a police station. We went in and the producer began to narrate her version of the story to two desk officers in charge. She told them of how I was trying to abandon her job after only six days of work when I was contracted to stay on for sixteen days. My friend the director came to the same station moments later and corroborated her story. I told the police it was not true, that I had given twenty one days of my time, and was still in the middle of production when I was abducted from my hotel in the middle of the night and forced to sign a document I did not know about.

The police told them that according to the Ghanaian law, I could not be compelled to sign a document against my will and the fact that I had begun working with them and had not refused to work with them, I could not be held. They did insist though, that the time I had spent prior to the commencement of shoot was of no significance and I was to complete the ten remaining days. I objected to this and we were told we’d have to wait at the station until the senior officer in charge of the station arrived at 9am. We waited. As we waited I noticed the producer having some surreptitious conversation in the darkness behind some trees with a uniformed man whose rank I would later recognise to be that of an inspector. In self preservation I called the director and told him I was willing to sign the documents on the condition that the producer would let me board my flight for Monday to do my one shoot with Tinsel after which I would come back on Thursday for a four day shoot with them. He told them and they readily agreed. We sat down and I signed the papers; it was 6am. I went to bed at 7am and got up at 11am and went to work. We did quite some work that Saturday but had to strike set early on Sunday – 6pm- because some locations had not been confirmed.

Monday morning came without a hitch. I got to the airport, boarded my plane and got home without any ado. This post wasn’t created to exacerbate the silly (as far as I'm concerned) feud between Nollywood vs Gollywood, Most of my therapy has come from writing about my experience. There’s something very exorcising about writing about trauma. Everything good or bad is forced to be put in perspective. My relationship with Frieda was sorely tested through this incident, and I have resolved to review the way I do business in future, to be watchful in my dealings with people to weigh their words with their actions. I must at this point iterate that this was a unique incident borne out of lack of communication, lack of planning and rash decision making on the part of the producer instigated by my friend, the director (who happens to be Nigerian). I say unique because this in no way affects the goodwill I bear towards my beloved Ghanaians with whom I have had benevolent dealings for the past fifteen years and have proved to be exceptional hosts to me in my time in Ghana. I still haven’t abandoned the project but have prudently stayed my hand until we (the production company and my management team) both conclude on the legal matters that will ensure we both work in harmony. I want to especially thank those of you who have made it this far. I promise you that missives like this will not come often. Let’s pray my next post will be on a much lighter note than this hairy, dreary drudgery. Have a great week everyone!