Leading actor, Rich Oganiru, has dazzled movie-buffs in more than 120 movies since he joined Nollywood. Instead of being a happy man in view of this rare and intimidating record, the ex- naval officer from Owerri says that he’s far from being fulfilled as his bank account is yet to read the six digits. He is not financially comfortable either.
How did you come into the industry as an actor?
Well, those who knew me right from the begining knew that I’ve been in entertainment for a very long time. I started as a musician. Sometime in the past, I won the best gospel artiste award in this country at the Nigerian Song Festival (NISOFES) 1997.
Do you have any album that has been released?
We’ve released a few albums as a group but I’ve not recorded a solo album. However, I am now in the studio working on a solo album.
You said you’ve been into showbiz since you were 13, when did you join Nollywood, precisely?
It was in 1994 and the first movie I took part in was Shattered Dreams. Later, I did Venom of Justice which I sponsored. That was the first film Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde did and I starred in it. It was a failure because, do I say I was a novice in the business then. But I’ve been able to learn.
Before then, what were you doing?
I was formerly a naval officer.
Lets keep off that. Going by Bongos Ikwue’s song that goes thus :What’s gonna be gonna be. I’ve been in the showbiz right from when I was in the Navy, so acting has been part of me. Even in the Navy, I was in the music department.
How many years did you spend with the Navy?
I don’t want to go into that. I don’t want to talk about my career in the Navy, and it’s not necessary.
Since you came into the movie industry in 1994, how has it been?
It’s been growing; it’s been quite an experience. I’ve experienced more of the ups than the downs in the industry. If you’re asked to mention the stars to be reckoned with in the industry today, you would mention Rich Oganiru. I have been able to star in, at least, 120 films.
One hundred and twenty films! Has that made you a millionaire?
It hasn’t eventually. It’s quite terrible. We joined the industry when acting was almost done for free and our people were being owed. Being owed was the normal thing. We were able to clean up what these younger ones: Jim Iyke, Genevieve and others are enjoying.
Sometimes, do you feel that you’ve not reaped enough from fruit of your labour in the industry?
I don’t want to jump into hasty conclusions. If I feel sad, I’ll be jumping the gun, which I think is not the right thing. The Bible says: In all things, give thanks to God. Everybody has a process and time. When your time comes, nothing will stop you. So far, so good, I am not doing badly but we are hoping to do better.
Talking about movies, which of your movies actually made you a household name?
From inception, I would say Rituals by Keneath Nnebue. Since that time, I can hardly name any film that is not in that class that I have featured in. Even the marketers and producers are very careful when they invite me. They don’t call me for anyhow role. Even the most recent one is spinning the globe now. It’s called Queen of Aso Rock, there are quite a lot of them.
It seems in most of your films, you are stereotyped, it’s either you are playing a rich husband or a rich man, don’t you see yourself as a stereotyped actor?
That is one of the things I had to de-emphasize. I felt that I have been under-utilized and that was one of the reasons that made me to leave Lagos. Recently, I have been able to do some films in which I acted roles that are different from what I’ve been doing. I’ve done films in which I was a clown like in Woman. In Broken Engagement, I was living abroad and I was a kingpin coordinator. So far, I am about the only actor, if I am not mistaken, who can fit into any kind of language, call it Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo. I’ll be able to pick the accent, give the delivery with the reflexes that is expected.
You said you are also a musician, what kind of music do you play?
I play secular music. I play country music, and I play reggae. Because of my long stay in music, I can say I play all kinds of musical instruments; I play the sax, guitar and I am more of a song writer.
When is your first album coming out?
We are looking at August this year by God’s grace. We have not given the album a title for now because we are trying to be exact with developments. Last year, we were supposed to go on tour of Europe. We are facilitating efforts to complete work on the album, I am going into joint ventures with some partners.
How many tracks do you have in this album?
There are eight tracks in the album.
Your name used to be Rich Azu, it’s now Rich Oganiru why the transformation?
Rich Odichinma Azu is my full name. I couldn’t understand it wasn’t just me. I’ve been having a rethink about the name until two men of God told me, ‘look, God asked you to change your name.” I am telling you that as soon as I changed my name, everything about me changed entirely. It was so wonderful.
Tell us more about yourself
I am from Owerri in Imo State. I am in my late forties. I got married in 1994 and I have two boys
How does she feel when you play husband to lovely actresses in movies?
It’s the usual thing with human beings, especially in Africa where people react to instincts and get jealous. I would not say yes or no to whether she gets jealous or not. But sometimes, every woman would like to mark you by telling you not to do this or that.
Has she ever asked you to stop playing such roles?
Sometimes she does. The issue is for you as a husband to tell your wife this is it, tell your wife this is how the job is. For now, she has understood the job and we are not talking about that now because it’s no longer a problem.
I have seen you in movies holding and caressing beautiful women, actresses, most times did you get hard on while playing these roles?
Its quite unprofessional for you to start getting hard on, when I smooch and do that thing, I’m just living a life that is not mine, I’m playing the role. Most times like Omotola and others with whom I have played such roles, we’re not the best of friends. I found out I don’t feel nothing about it. We can kiss, smooch but that is for that moment. Immediately after that, I’ve never stood one day to have a chat with Omotola.
In Nollywood today, you are among the most handsome married actor, so you are in the public eyes, how do you cope with ladies, do they harass or disturb you or want to get friendly with you intimately?
I would not say no. Ordinarily, before the movie industry, a lot of people and sometimes-even guys try to get close to me. But the one that pains me most is the fact that I receive calls from gays looking for my anus. What I do is that I look for opportunities to get them closed up so that I can deal with them. I get lot of calls from people that I don’t know telling me that they love me but I have ways of approaching such issues.
Your dream as an actor and for Nollywood?
My dream as an actor is that I want to build an empire of perfection; an empire where I can produce films that can be respected all over the world. I want to produce films that can stand as a legacy for all generations. My dream is to be a mouthpiece for this nation in the international community through the work of art. My dream is that God should help me so that my life will not only revolve around acting but be a blessing to people who watch my films. My dream is that apart from acting, my music should heal the sick and raise the dead, deliver people from subjugation, make people who don’t know Christ to know him as their Lord and personal Saviour.
Filmography:Queen of Hasso Rock, Wasted Effort, Pay Day, Lacrima, Stoneface in Love, Givers Never Lack, His Majesty, Yellow Fever, My Destiny, Battle Of The Rich, Political Control, Touching Love, Total Control, Last Confession