Buzz by Olumide Iyanda
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Being Mrs Elliot, the first movie written and directed by award-winning actress, Omoni Oboli, was premiered in Lagos on Saturday, August 30. It will begin a cinema run in Nigeria on September 5. The production has already made a statement at the Nollywood Week in France earlier in the year where it was screened to critical acclaim. President Goodluck Jonathan also had good things to say about it when it was screened at the State House on August 14.
Having watched Omoni closely in the last five years, I have no doubt that she is on to a winner. If I were a betting man, I will wager a king’s ransom that the film will be a huge success at the box office.
My first close encounter with Omoni was in 2009 on the set of The Figurine in Ada, Osun State. I was there on the invitation of Kunle Afolayan, who directed and also starred in the film. It was late into the night and everybody was practically falling off their feet after a tiring day’s shoot. While a particular spoilt supporting actress held up production because she did not show up on location on time, Mrs. Oboli was one of the first and last to leave the set every day. The Figurine has gone on to become one of the best movies ever produced in Nigeria with Omoni and others putting up a stellar performance.
As editor of Saturday Independent, I sold the idea of writing a weekly column called ‘Working Actress’ in the paper to Omoni in 2011. It was her first experience as a newspaper columnist but she took to it like a fish to water. She kicked off with so much enthusiasm but many critics and naysayers said she would soon tire of writing. In an industry crawling with publicity junkies, not a few were quick to dismiss her as another attention seeking actress pretending to be a writer. Truth be told, many ‘Nollywooders’ have taken a shot at writing only to drop their pen after a few editions. Omoni, however, is cut from a different cloth. Week after week, she kept her articles coming. Without earning a dime from Independent Newspapers, she wrote as if her life depended on it.
Did I have fun working with Omoni on ‘Working Actress’? Yes I did. She wrote eloquently about everything from sport to religion, acting to raising children. Unlike others, she was not afraid to celebrate others. One of her best piece was a piece titled ‘Omotola the Trailblazer’. How many actresses will write this about their colleague? “Omotola waltzed into the movie industry before it was nicknamed Nollywood and took her place at the top of the industry as a leading lady like she actually owned the place. She fits into it easily like one who knew that she was born to do this. Her consistency at the top is evidence of her prowess at delivering every role consistently from when she stole our hearts in the movie Mortal Inheritance…At such a young age when many didn’t know their left from right she understood the responsibility that came with being the leading lady. We saw her cry, laugh, rejoice, explore and display other emotions and adventures that Nollywood has been consistently propelling us actors through in the last 21 years of its existence so that we have come to believe that we know her personally.”
Omoni began her formal movie career with a role in Bitter Encounter where she played a secretary. Her next movie was Shame. She then went on to play the lead female character in three major movies: Not My Will, Destined to Die and Another Campus Tale. After enjoying a brief but fulfilling career, Omoni left the industry in 1996 to complete her university education. She studied Foreign Languages (majoring in French) at the University of Benin between 1995 and 1999, graduating with honours (2nd Class Upper division). She got married to Nnamdi Oboli, an optometrist, in 2000 and returned to the industry with a big bang thereafter.
Since her return, Omoni, with the support of Nnamdi, has risen to the top, playing a number of lead and supporting roles in major movies. Her impressive filmography includes Unfinished Business, Fatal Imagination, War Against Women, Yahoo Millionaire, The Rivals, Caught in the Middle, When the Heart Lies, Sweet Tomorrow, Behind a Smile, Guilty Pleasures, Through the fire and Entanglement. Others are The Figurine (Araromire), Jungle Ride, Bent Arrows, Haunting, Bursting Out , Kidnap, Anchor Baby, Blue Flames, Brother’s Keeper, Deep Inside, Render to Caesar and Dining With a Long Spoon.
The dignity and professionalism she brings on board has earned her awards at home and abroad. They include: Best Actress – Harlem International Film Festival New York 2010 for Anchor Baby; Best Actress of the Year – City People Award of Excellence 2010 for The Figurine; Best Actress – Los Angeles Movie Awards 2010, Los Angeles for Anchor Baby; Best Actress in a Leading Role – Best of Nollywood Awards 2010 for The Figurine; Best Actress in a Leading Role – Nigerian Entertainment Award (NEA) 2011 for Anchor Baby; Best Actress in a Leading Role – Best Of Nollywood Awards 2013 for Brother’s Keeper; Jury Mention, Best Actress – African International Film Festival 2013 for Brother’s Keeper, and Best Actress – ZUMA International Film Festival 2014 for Brother’s Keeper.
None of the foregoing awards however comes close to that of Super Mum to “four boys” – Tobe, Gozi, Chizi and, ehm, Nnamdi. Of course, Omoni is quick to tell anybody that a big part of the secret of her success is that her husband, Nnamdi Oboli, has been very supportive of her career. So have their three sons.
Omoni may not be the biggest actress to have come out of Nigeria but she has earned a place in the pantheon of stars through hard work, dedication, faith and being at the right place at the right time. Having made a success of other people’s production, it is only natural that the stars will align for her and Being Mrs Elliot. That is not rocket science. It is simply something I am willing to take to the bank.