Her near-perfect interpretation of the character of a prostitute and armed robber in her first film earned her the name, Tolani Osirin. During an encounter with Adeola Balogun, the actress, whose real name is Biodun Okeowo, talks about her life
About five years ago, the actress known as Tolani Osinrin made a grand entry into the Yoruba movie industry in a confident manner. While so many movie stars came into reckoning after countless false starts, the pretty movie star dazzled in her debut appearance and has refused to fade away since then.
Though a few of her fans know that the real name of their screen diva is Biodun Okeowo, she is more popular as Tolani Osinrin after acting as the lead character in the movie with the same title. After her brilliant interpretation of the role of the character, Tolani Osinrin, she got stuck with the name. Okeowo acted as an attractive prostitute and a very smart armed robber in Tolani Osinrin. In Yoruba language, osinrin actually means a spinster who takes into prostitution.
“I am so amused when people who have watched me in other movies always refer to me as Tolani Osinrin,” she tells Saturday Punch. “It was a stage name that has stuck with me and despite other roles that I have played in movies, none has toppled Tolani Osinrin. It is not unusual to hear people say they watched Tolani Osinrin in so, so movie; I honestly find it interesting.”
Okeowo, a graduate of Communication Arts from the Lagos State University, Ojo, actually wanted to train as a broadcast journalist, but along the line, her love for acting became so overwhelming and she wasted no time in taking it seriously. And as someone who wanted to be well armed, she put herself under the tutelage of the legendary movie star, Ray Eyiwunmi and became very polished even before she took her first shot as an actress.
“I always tell people that I am one of the luckiest in the industry,” she tells Saturday Punch. “Usually, when you are new in the movie industry, you are expected to play some minor roles called ‘waka pass’ before you perfect your trade. I never did that. In fact, just a month after my entry into the industry, I earned a major role in a movie. That is why training under an experienced craftsman is very important, particularly for an actor or actress.
“Within five years, I have not only earned so many leading roles in movies, I have also produced five of my own, all written by me. Apart from Tolani Osinrin, others I have done are Okanjuwa, Oke Irapada, Asise Nla and Edidi Igbeyawo. I am so happy that I caught the attention of people with my first self-produced movie, Tolani Osinrin and in fact being called the name of the leading character in it.”
On set, Okeowo says she can act any role as a professional. She believes that any artiste that is capable should be able to convince her audience and make her role as real as possible. She describes her role as a prostitute and an armed robber in Tolani Osinrin as very challenging, but says it was something she had to do with all her heart to prove her mettle.
“Once I am on set, I don’t hold anything back from my audience. I dress to suit my role. As a policy, I don’t kiss tongue-to-tongue; there is no point doing that. But I don’t spare anything when it comes to dressing in movies. I can wear a skimpy dress because I see myself in the character I am playing, not as Biodun Okeowo when I am acting,” she says.
But Okeowo will not forget in a hurry the battles she fought in her quest to pursue her chosen career. While her father would not bother much when she indicated her interest to take to acting, she had to contend with her mother, who insisted that her only daughter would not take to a trade with an uncertain future.
“As the only daughter in the family, all my brothers supported my mother against me. They would not understand why I wanted to go into acting after earning a university degree. In our family, those who act were referred to as never-do- wells. My mother did everything to persuade me to change my mind. It was even worse when my brothers kicked against it, but I thank God that I was lucky to hit it instantly when I started. Today, not only is my mother very happy with me, my brothers are very proud to tell their friends that I am their sister,” says Okeowo.
Okeowo strongly believes that destiny has been responsible for the dramas in her life. No doubt, she is so much endowed with good looks, which might be considered as a qualification for being an actress, but as the only daughter in the family, she was closely guided in the home. And being a daughter of a prophet, all she knew, apart from going to school as a child, was church. Apart from her mother who was her guardian, all her brothers kept watch over her all the time. After secondary school, everyone in the family had looked forward to seeing their promising daughter and sister make a success of her education and a fairy bride in a superlative wedding. But at 21, the inevitable happened. Their pretty jewel became pregnant even under their nose. It was a shattering piece of news in the family.
“Even I did not know I was pregnant,” the mother of two tells SATURDAY PUNCH. “I was so naive, I didn’t know what to be pregnant was. The guy and I met in the church because my father is a prophet, but I was ignorant of the result of our affair. It was my mother that called my attention to it one day when she was examining my body as she always did. The day she told me, ‘Biodun you are pregnant,’ I said, ‘Never.’ I quoted to her the date I last menstruated, but she was not satisfied until she took me to the hospital for a test. Nothing has ever shocked me more than the day the doctor who conducted the pregnancy test pronounced that I was six months gone. I preferred death that day and throughout the period of the pregnancy. It was a trauma for the entire family and because of the way I was devastated; they were afraid for my life. My mother was so worried that I might eat poison to kill myself.”
But despite the setback, Okeowo still went ahead to earn a degree. Apart from her immediate family, Okeowo says she received support from an unusual quarter, the young father of her child then.
“Because of the ‘heat’ he received from members of my family, especially my brothers, the father of my child felt guilty for dashing the hopes of my family, particularly in terms of my education. He encouraged me to revive my dream of a good education. I had thought the pregnancy was the end, but it later became the tonic that I needed to achieve my dream,” she recalls.
Though Okeowo ended up having a second child for the same man, the union did not end up in a marriage. The beautiful actress would not say why.
“He is a great guy,” she says, “he is the father of my children and in the circumstance, that is good enough.”