50 bright stars for actor’s actor, Saheed Balogun
It is becoming something of an all year-long celebration for notable screen actor and producer, Saheed Balogun, who turned 50 in February. The anniversary party has continued for Saheed, in spite of the fact that the Kwara State-born talented entertainer hit the golden age on February 5.
To mark the attainment of the landmark age, the humble, amiable and personable actor had travelled to Mecca in February to, as he quipped, “thank Baba God for making me hit 50 in good health.”
Soon as the father of two, who has an estranged relationship with notable actress, Fathia Williams, returned from Mecca, he held a small get-together to round off the celebration.
But to some of his close friends and colleagues, that was not good enough. The general feeling, as one of them revealed, was that an accomplished entertainer like Saidi deserves more than a “small get together.”
A date was fixed for a grand ball in the month of May, but the death of three notable practitioners, Olumide Bakare, Prince Adesina Adesanya and Moji Olaiya, and their burial ceremonies stalled the plan.
Last week, Saheed pulled his friends, colleagues and business associates out to a facility in Lagos in furtherance of the birthday anniversary. Dubbed, ‘an Evening With Saheed Balogun,’ the event attracted several entertainment personalities, including the diva, Omotola Jalaide Ekeinde; president of the Director Guild of Nigeria (DGN), Fred Amata; actor and politician, Desmond Elliot; Mercy Aigbe; and popular musician, Shina Peters.
Speeches, in commendation of the actor, flowed freely at the event that climbed with the scintillating performance by Peters and Queen Salawa Abeni. Fred described Saidi as a committed and passionate theatre spirit, while Omotola described him as a jolly good fellow and colleague, who has a natural calling for acting.
An actor of vast credit, Saheed had a grand sense of mission that he was going to be an entertainer. As a child, all he wanted as a career was to be an all-rounder in the field of entertainment.
He explained that he grew up wanting to become one who could sing, act, dance and do things that were connected with entertainment. He also revealed that the encouragement he got from his teachers at the Army Children School, Obalende, Lagos and Bishop Smith Memorial College, Ilorin, Kwara State, propelled him to step full throttle into entertainment, even as a student.
Saheed also revealed that his interest peaked after a stint at the Kwara Polytechnic, from where he got a chance to do some professional work at the Kwara State Council for Arts and Culture, where he was involved in a number of theatrical activities.
“I had the opportunity to pass through and receive training in all areas of the theatre. I sang, danced and acted. “That was where I actually cut my teeth. It was from there that I came into Lagos in search of more challenges,” he recalled.
Saheed’s first real encounter with screen acting was on television and it was on the rested television soap, Winds of Destiny. Though a less than supporting role, Saheed, through his delightful delivery, turned the role of ‘Mallam,’ a clownish marabout in that soap that ran for so many years on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) into a supporting role.
Not only was he a delight to watch, the role earned him an alias as the ‘youngest living Mallam.’ Soon, as the television soap was rested, the home movie circuit beckoned, and Saheed stepped up there too in search of what he described as “greater challenges.”
And since stepping in there a little near two decades ago, he has steered his talent into the uncharted acting waters. With his high wire act, he has forced millions of the home movie crowd, particularly those in the Yoruba movie divide, to stay at home every now and then watching movies.
Today, playing the shelvy shenanigans in most of his movie offerings have earned him so many aliases. Some of the sobriquets are derived from the title role of his previous movie offerings.
To some of the huge fans he has pulled for himself, Saidi’s other name is ‘Walata.’ Others have re-christened him ‘Omo Alhaja,’ while a good number of them prefer to leave it at just ‘Omo Britiko.’
“I have a lot of stage names, but the ones that are popular are ‘Walata’ and ‘Omo Alhaja.’ It came through a movie I did sometime back, titled, Ologbo Dudu. “But my real name is Saheed Balogun. It has not changed and it would never change, popularity or no popularity,” he stated.
Indeed, to say Saheed is popular amongst most movie buffs would be stating the obvious. He has undoubtedly become influential amongst the folks in that divide and is gradually etching himself, with the few jobs he has done, into the consciousness of the movie crowd, who subscribe to movies produced in English and mostly in Yoruba.
Hailed, even though conceitedly by some critics as the ‘Ramsey Noah of the Yoruba movie circuit,’ because of the many love roles he has interpreted in Yoruba language movies, Saheed would avoid any question that would make him review the events that led to his separation from Fathia.
He would also not want to talk about plans to mend fences or to move on with his life. He wants what is “private to remain private.” But asked of his career ambition and whether he has any regrets, Saheed snapped: “I want to get to the top of my career and so far, there is no regret at all. “I am like a soldier who gets to the battlefield either to win the battle or lose. But I am happy with my job. I am happy with the progress I have so far recorded and I am still looking at getting to the summit of the profession.”