Foremost filmmaker and cinematographer, Tunde Kelani, is a colossus in the Nigerian entertainment industry. Having produced well over 20 movies, Kelani remains one of the most skilled veteran film producers Nigeria has ever produced.
A native of Abeokuta, Ogun State, Kelani was born in Lagos, but his achievements and passion for entertainment have catapulted him to the pinnacle of success.
Raised without the proverbial golden spoon, the now successful director of Mainframe Production, an internationally recognised film production outfit, has carved a niche for himself.
A 1978 graduate of the London Film School, Tunde has produced numerous award-winning films, among which are Ti Oluwa ni Ile, Thunderbolt, SaworoIde, O Le ku, Campus Queen and Arugba, among others. Kelani had worked with past great Nigerian artists such as Ulli Beier and film producers like the late doyen of Nigerian theatre, Hubert Ogunde.
However, despite successes recorded in his career, not many people knew that TK, as he is fondly called, threatened to abandon the profession that brought him fame, three years ago.
His frustration stemmed from the release of Arugba, which was produced three years back. There were high expectations that the film would bring him huge revenue, but that was not to be, as pirates feasted on it, throwing him into debt, which ran into millions of naira.
Lamented Kelani, “I had thought of calling it quits with the profession because of the issue of piracy. We were 22 people that started Mainframe Productions but now, only three of us are left. Others left because of what pirates are doing to the industry. When you produce films, pirates will not allow you to make money. We spent about N20 million to produce Arugba but because of piracy, we lost all the money. We did not make any profit on it. They (pirates) really dealt with us.”
As a Yoruba man, Kelani’s passion for Yoruba language is evident in most of his films, many were always in Yoruba language. This made him more acceptable in the Yoruba genre of the movie industry.
While growing up, he trained as a photographer. With experience garnered over the years, he has successfully produced high quality technical films. Meanwhile, his attempt to venture into the English language movies with the production of Thunderbolt, Campus Queen and , has not yielded much positive result because of what he called, ‘sabotage’ by the film marketers.
Kelani said: “We have been working on a new film, Ma’ami since August, 2010. We tried to have a turn-around time but due to finances, it was not possible to release it in time. In the next two weeks, we will round off the production. It will be premiered in Nigeria and so far, we have spent N25 million, with the support of the Lagos State government.
We lost money on Arugba, to piracy. We lost about N20 million. They really dealt with us. It was even pirated in London. Previously, our films have always been pirated, but it had never been as bad as Arugba. I had thought of calling it quits because of this but because of the passion I have for the job, I have been able to continue. To make sure that the new film is not like Arugba, we have decided not to release it into the market. It will be shown only at the cinemas.
Ma’ami is the true-to-life story of a hard-struggling, hard-surviving single parent who sees sacred responsibility in raising her only child, Kashimawo. Like every responsible Yoruba mother, Ma’ami would stretch herself to educate her only child. She runs a small stall that takes the mystery out of the myth of the middle-class. Her low class status naturally makes things extremely difficult and, at times, it can be very hard to fend for the child.
Kashimawo, however, rises from obscurity to become a twinkling star, revered by his fellow countrymen, especially since plying his trade as a professional footballer at Arsenal one of the most popular club in the United Kingdom. The story revolves around Kashimawo, who in the period leading to the 2010 World Cup, reminisces on his hardscrabble childhood in the southern Nigerian town of Abeokuta. The film features Funke Akindele, as lead character.