Actor, Ibrahim Chatta, speaks with OLUSHOLA RICKETTS about his acting career and marriage among other issues
What is the secret of your youthful look despite being 48?
I think the secret of my ageless look is God; I have never visited the gym before. However, I am always conscious of myself and the things I eat. I drink a lot of water too. I always drink hot water every morning before saying my prayers. I believe water is very good for the body. I have the same stature as my late father, though my younger sister is big-boned.
Did you have a good relationship with your father before his passing?
We were very close, though he died when I was very young. As a kid, I was very stubborn. My father wanted me to go to school and become successful in life but I was not interested in education at a time. I fell in love with acting at a very tender age; I was always running out of school. I didn’t finish my secondary education but I have decided to go back to school now. I am in a polytechnic in Ibadan, Oyo State. I plan to read more now. Who knows, I could become a professor before I die.
Why did you go back to school after dropping out many years ago?
Apart from knowing God, the most important thing in life is education. Since I didn’t have a good educational foundation, I had to teach myself many things by reading lots of books. Though I dropped out of school, I have always loved to read since I was a little boy. I have grown and know better now. If anyone comes to meet me today that he or she wants to be an actor, I will tell the person to get good education before pursuing a career in acting. The truth is that it will get to a level in life that people without education will be forgotten or cut-off.
How come you speak good English even though you are a dropout?
Like I said earlier, I taught myself many things. If you pay attention to me well, I pick my words carefully and I am always conscious of what I say. Even if I am communicating with you in Yoruba, I am always careful so that I will not use wrong words. We should not be careful of speaking bad English alone; we should pay attention to speaking good Yoruba too. While acting, since I have mastered my lines, I don’t necessarily pick my words.
Don’t you feel inferior while acting with well-educated actors?
Acting has nothing to do with language; it is about the talent given by God. I don’t need to understand a language before I can interpret any role given to me. I don’t feel inferior before any man and I don’t have complex issues. But if I meet an actor who I admire a lot, I show them respect.
How do you ensure that your cry is real in a movie?
I don’t do anything, I just follow the script. Unlike most people, I don’t need to think of anything bad to cry. I am aware that they tell people to think of different experiences to act the role well. They tell them to think of when they lost their virginity or the day their parents died. You just have to ensure you feel the pain of the character to play a believable role. There are tears of joy and sorrow; the two are different. I always tell people that I am not the person they see on screen; it is a character that I am asked to play. I could be asked to beat a woman or cheat but that is not my reality. When people see me on the streets, they relate with me as the person they always see on screen.
Are you an emotional person?
I am very emotional and passionate about my work. If you allow people to stereotype you, you can easily become what or who you act. If you are always playing the role of an “area boy” in movies, it will affect the way you walk in real life. I have been able to manage things well because I have been acting on stage and screen professionally since I was 15-year-old.
How did you develop interest in acting?
Those days in Bacita, Kwara State, where I was born, we had the largest sugar manufacturing company in West Africa. The company known as Nigerian Sugar Company was owned by the government. As a result of that, we were able to attend the same school with Indian children and children from other cultures. Actors were always visiting the place too and I had the opportunity to see veterans on stage in the village. But then, I didn’t know that I could make money from acting. As kids, whenever we saw plays in the afternoon, we would try to replicate them by using our mothers’ wrappers as pieces of cotton. I have always loved the profession since I was I was a little boy and I have never doubted my passion for it. I plan to retire once I am 50-year-old as I have sacrificed all my life for acting. But my colleagues and friends are not happy about this development. They feel I am too young to say goodbye to the world of make-believe.
Do you think you’ve done enough to retire at 50?
I don’t plan to quit the movie industry totally. I will still be grooming the younger ones and I will be making films as well. As an actor, it becomes very hard to do other things but you can be a producer and still do other things. I still wish to go to a film school, take music classes and visit the gym. I recently saw a 95-year-old man who had biceps on TV and I wished I could be like him when I’m 95. There are things I like to do but acting does not give you much space to do many things. As I speak to you, I don’t have a social life because of acting. I don’t drink too. People have been telling me that 70 is the perfect age to retire but if I go at that time, I believe I will not have the energy to do other things I like to do.
Have you ever beaten any woman?
I am not a wife beater. It was reported on different occasions that I beat a woman but no one came out with proof. When one beats a woman, don’t you think the women will come up with photos of injuries sustained during the beating? During an interview, a journalist asked me if I had hit a woman before, I said once but she slapped me first and they twisted my words and used it against me. When we die, we should not think it is over because God will like to know how we spent our lives. When I married Salamat, the daughter of a senator, there was no trust in the union. I begged and did everything to make the marriage work because I feared what the fans would think about me. I didn’t want the public to think I could not keep a happy home or see me in a bad light because I know I am a role model. But she said she had stopped loving me since 2012 when we did our Nikkah. According to her, she was only pretending all the while. Even though my mind was no longer in the relationship too, I still wanted her and was willing to put things in order.
When couples fight, I don’t know why people always put the blame on men. If you are an entertainer, it becomes worse as there is a general insinuation that entertainers are promiscuous and irresponsible. I heard different stories when Salamat left me. They also said she left my house because I didn’t have a good home. But I had four bedrooms, two sitting rooms and I accommodated people too. I love having people around me, which also became a problem. But she saw all these before marriage. They also said I beat her like I did to my baby mama. What kind of money do I have that would make me beat a politician’s daughter? Are people so gullible to believe those lies? When people make accusations, they should come out with proof apart from word of mouth.
Are you still married?
Yes, I am married and my wife stays with me. I have only married two women in my life. After my failed marriage to Salamat, I took another wife. I was never married to the mother of my first child, Olayinka Solomon. I believe God brought us together for a reason and I wish her well. She is still my friend and we talk well.
How do you react to claims that you are a womaniser?
I am not a womaniser. When you are into entertainment, women will come after you. It has always been the norm even before the advent of social media.
How do you feel when you read negative things about you?
I feel bad whenever I see negative things about me but I know that God will judge everyone someday. I am different from the person the media has made me look like to the public and my colleagues can testify to this. For instance, on my birthday, the goodwill messages I get are always overwhelming. The industry practitioners know that I always look out for the younger ones and I am good to the elderly too. I don’t want to praise myself because it is not appropriate. On my last birthday, as I was reading what people wrote about me, I didn’t know when tears dropped from my eyes. I don’t understand why people have the misconception that I am a terrible person or a wife beater.