Born in Yakasai, Masallacin-jalli ward in Kano municipality, Ishaq Sidi Ishaq 'Dan Kwalisa’, began his film career during his secondary school days. He started featuring in the TV soap, Echo In The Dark, where he won the hearts of television viewers in the state. Ishaq was one of the pioneers of the Kannywood comic group, Rabiu Musa Ibro's cluster. He worked with the group for a while, after which he ventured into filmmaking in a directorial capacity. The first home video he directed was ‘Kamilu’. Whenever you ask Sidi about his passion for show business, Kannywood's most adorable director would simply smile and say, "I love entertainment." He attended Government College, Wudil, Kano State. 'Dan Kwalisa’ is now a student at the prestigious National Film Institute (NFI), Jos, where he is studying for a degree in Filmmaking. In this interview with INSIDE KANNYWOOD, ISHAQ SIDI ISHAQ lay bare his mind on his sudden disappearance from the industry to where he is now securing for himself an academic foundation of the game. He also revealed the craziest thing he’s ever done in his life and much more. Excerpts:
Published in INSIDE KANNYWOOD Column (Leadership) September 19, 2009
You are a famous movie director in Kannywood for a very long time, you have been silent. What has been happening to your career and what is responsible for all the silence?
I went back to school. I'm now a student of Film at NFI, Jos. It's not that I've been silent or out of business, but since I have always believed in quality, rather than quantity, I chose to suspend all film activities for a particular period of time.
What are you studying and how are you coping with the change of environment?
I am studying filmmaking. The change of enviroment is exciting. It has virtually changed almost everything about me. My life style has changed. Before now, I had been busy scheduling shootings, i.e one film after the other, having at least a month or more between them. But now, from Mondays through Fridays, I am always busy with my lectures. Another exciting thing is that most of the practicals are purely field works. What we normally do on location is that we produce short films as well as explore some trends in the motion picture world. With this contrast, and as a practising filmmaker who has been shooting films in drama format, it is surely a plus for me.
I remember the day, a colleague approached me and said, ‘Ishaq, I'm going to start shooting my project very soon and I'm directing it. Please what role would you like to take in in the crew?’ And I told him that I appreciate his invitation and would be there as an observer to advice adequately. When I went to location, I found myself carrying the extension cables, fixing the lights and other minor things that ordinarily I would have employed my boys (gaffers) to do. But then, I love what I am doing.
What should we expect from you at the end of your course?
Obviously, there would be a great change. I've attended several trainings and workshops, especially intensive filmmaking trainings in various fields. I also attended a training programme, that was organised by the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) where experienced filmmakers trained participants on certain issues concerning filmmaking. I have been a regular student of such workshops. Despite all these, I felt it was not enough. I felt I lacked the academic background, or let me say the indepth theoretical aspect of filmmaking which I'm proudly getting now.
How would you rate the Nigeria motion picture industry, the Hausa genre in particular?
It is progressing with the trainings and re-training session of the practitioners and stakeholders. I believe it will get better by the day. Thanks to the Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), especially the men behind it.
Do you think Kannywood is catching up with trends in the motion picture world?
Every industry has its peculiarities; its culture, morals, economic and social values that go with it. To some extent, yes. But it is not yet uhuru, there are quite a lot of things that need to be done.
How do you joggle between your job as a film- maker and the homefront?
I have not been on set for some time now. Recently, when I concluded El-Mustapha 2, I refused to go on set until I get fully settled with my studies, which I am doing now. Very soon I hope to see what the experience would look like when I go on set.
Would you say there is a difference with what you are doing now as a student and what it was before?
Of course, there is quite a difference, a very big one. In school you maintain the professional ethics and aesthetics of filmmaking. Everything has to be done the way it should be from the idea conception, script to screen.
I guess the audience are the to judge or answer this question. Some say it’s because of my style of directing, while some others attribute it to my experience as one of the pioneers of the Hausa film industry. Everybody has his own opinion about what qualifies Mr. A to be what he should be.
What do you think helped your career blossom as much as it has? Do you think you have a rival?
A couple of reasons: I have never compromised quality no matter what. I also refused to be misused. I see a lot of movies to analyse the styles as well as read books, either on the internet or elsewhere. Secondly, if I had a rival, he would have come to school as well as. Therefore, I don't have any rival.
With your success and highflying career in the industry, how do you intend to consolidate on this for the betterment of your future on the job?
I haven't had enough and that's why I'm back to school.
When you are not on set, what is your day like?
I hang out with friends. Sometimes, visit my relatives whom i may not have seen in a long while, due to the nature or my work.
What is the craziest thing you ever did as a filmmaker?
I did a film and sold it.
From what we are witnessing, a lot of film stars are riding in expensive cars and live in high ranks. It seems the industry is now lucrative.
Having strived so long and made your mark over the years, how wealthy would you say you are?
I am content with what I have, Alhamdulillah.
You have done a thousand and one movies, which one do you think projected you most?
The movie that projected me most and added a feather to my cap is Wasila, I've done quite a number of blockbusters that drew the attention of producers in Kannywood, yet Wasila is my box office.
Artistes pocket so much money now as fees, how much do you charge as a director?
I am just a student now. However, I've been behind the camera for a while, but I don't discuss my allowances in public.
It is generally believed that filmmakers or movie producers flirt with the actresses. Do you do that too?
I do not do that. However, in every profession, you have the good, the bad and the ugly. A professional remains a professional, while quacks remain quacks. The boys are always separate from the men, those who know what they are doing and, don't engage themselves in such nasty acts.
Although in the North, the industry is bound by some Shari'ah laws, have you ever had an experience where an actress tried to seduce you to get roles?
Whatever happens, the wiser ones know the implications, morally and religiously. I have never had any experience like that before.
But have you at one time or the other had an encounter with an actress who was ready to offer you sex for roles?
I have said it repeatedly that I don't have the experience. Those category of actresses always know the kind of persons they approach with such offers. I don't give them the face to tempt me. They say I'm strong-headed.
You mean if a beautiful lady winks at you, you won't respond?
(Laughter) Never! It is not in my character.
Artistes or film-makers are usually associated with a lot of scandals. As a movie director, have you ever been involved in such indignities?
I'm one of the guys that set the ball rolling and I have tried to conduct myself positively, to date, and I believe God has been, and still, behind me. This is evident in the kind of movies I make. Had I gotten myself involved in such indignities, I would have probably ‘gone with the wind’
How did you manage to overcome them (the scandals)?
Stay out of trouble; do the right thing at the right time.
You are still single. Can we say Ishaq is searching?