•Reveals Why They Gave Him The Name ANTAR
When Antar Laniyan walked into City People Magazine office last week the whole office went up in jubilation. This is because a lot of staff like this handsome, tall and ebony-complexioned super actor who has been in Nollywood for decades.
Antar Laniyan is a veteran actor, producer and film director. He is best known for directing the popular Super Story series. He is an iconic Nollywood celebrity. Antar was born in Lagos on the 26th of May. He was born as Antar Babatunde Laniyan and he hails from Osogbo, Osun State. The origin of his first name, Antar can be traced to the Iguana also known as Aworiwon, or, Antar in Yoruba.
He overstayed in his mother’s womb, and his parents afraid that they were going to lose him, sought help from a herbalist, who requested for an Iguana as one of the sacrificial items to be used to prepare a concoction that his mother would take to be able to get into labour. It was after his mother took this concoction that he was born and this led to his mother naming him after the animal.
He began acting in high school. His father nicknamed him ‘Antar D Sango’ after he showed his father a picture of him playing the thunder god in a stage play. During his early years, he lived in the barracks because his mother was the Leader at the Mammy Market and his time at the barrack almost influenced him to join the military.
He attended Baptist Secondary School in Lagos State before proceeding to the University of Ibadan where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts.
Prior to his university education, he was already fully involved in acting but he was advised by his mentor, Ben Tomoloju to earn a university education as well.
Ben was a culture journalist, activist, essayist, poet, singer and former deputy editor of The Guardian. Young Antar was able to gain admission easily as he had been well-prepared by Ben. During his time at the university, Antar was able to perfect his acting skills with the help of mentors like the late Prof Dapo Adelugba, Dr. Femi Fatoba and Dr. Bayo Oduneye. He took part in a number of memorable productions during his time at the University which include the likes of Moremi, The Man Who Never Died and Murder in the Cathedral.
His journey into acting was inspired by a performance he watched during the 1977 Festival of Black Arts and Civilisation (FESTAC 77). His journey as a performer and actor began in 1976 when he was in secondary school. He began his acting career in 1981. At that time, he was under the mentorship of Ben Tomoloju.
He met Ben during one of the school’s drama competition that was held amongst schools in Lagos. He was part of the judges and was also in charge of the drama group from Saka Tinubu Memorial High School. Ben was able to persuade him to join the drama group, Kaakaki Arts. He was trained with the likes of Jahman Anikulapo and Tunji Sotimirin and it was not long after that he started performing and becoming popular.
His first major role as an actor was the role of a Major General in a film titled, ‘Everybody Wants To Know.’ This was during his days at the Kakaki Art Squad. He also featured in several films including Sango, a film scripted by Wale Ogunyemi and produced by Obafemi Lasode.
He was the director ofthe first episode of Super Story, the award-winning Nigerian soap opera produced by Wale Adenuga in year 2000. He also directed Oh Father, Oh Daughter and This Life also produced by Wale Adenuga. He says his desire as an actor and director is to train and groom people to become difference makers in the movie industry. He further stated that he currently trains and has been training people on speech, acting and directing and his long-term objective is to formalise the process but lack of funding has been delaying the project.
He is a strict person, especially at movie location. Antar Laniyan is married with two boys. His children are entertainment-inclined. He says his wife is one of his harshest critics especially when it comes to playing romantic roles. In fact, she is usually one of the first people to point out his flaws when he doesn’t play the romantic scene well. Below is the first part of his 2 part interview.
You are always looking nice and young sir, what is the secret?
I think is the dos that I don’t do (laughs). It’s not as if it’s a big deal, but there are so many things I don’t do. I don’t smoke; I don’t drink except bitter things. I didn’t say I’m a saint but I am a very disciplined person.
What explains that is it your upbringing?
Lifestyle, let me just call it that way. There was a time I visited my Doctor and he said, “There are things that you eat just continue eating them, I don’t know what your nutritional regimen is but just continue” may be that contributes to that looking young and nice.
Did you have this lifestyle before you joined the industry?
From when I was young I didn’t see anybody that I will copy to do that, I didn’t have any mentor. I just felt the proper thing is to do what is right.
It’s very rare to find people who have achieved your kind of status and yet they do not have vices attached to them, how easy or difficult was it for you to still keep that lifestyle?
Let me just say discipline because I have friends who smoke. I have friends who drink; heavy smokers and drinkers but I’ve been influenced by what they do. They wonder too. They find it difficult to influence me to do bad things because they know I won’t do it. If you give me a bottle of Malt that will be the only one I will take because it’s too sweet, like I said I drink bitter things.
What would you say is that unique selling point that has kept you in that industry till now?
I will still say discipline again. You have to discipline yourself that I’m going to location to work and work it must be, I’m not going there to wine and dine or to play with girls. Not that we don’t play, but we play after recording. When we are working we are working and that’s what I’m known for. Like I used to say, when I’m going for it I feel like a soldier that is going to the war front and must fight and win, and the moment you meet me outside and says “ that was a nice show” then I’ve won, and I don’t allow that to get to my head because the same tongue can say otherwise.
We’ve seen you play different roles that have given us different images of who Antar Laniyan could be. Could you please share with us who Antar Laniyan is off set?
Personally I know 3 Antar Laniyans. One is that iron fisted disciplinarian on the job, probably as an actor, as a director or an instructor, I’m iron fisted because I don’t allow you toy with what I believe in. I feed; I send children to school with that thing that you call acting and you come around and think you want to joke with it, I won’t allow that. I prepare a good tomorrow today and if I find out you are doing what is wrong that means you are insulting my industry, you are not allowing me to prepare a good future for you the younger ones. That is one Antar Laniyan that I know, Iron fisted disciplinarian. Then the other Antar is a father at home. My 2 boys when I get home we become 3 children, playing, throwing pillows. We are 3 rascals in my home. The 3rd one is that gentle man on the road. If you say hello, I will wine down and greet you because that is the only way I can let you know who I am. I don’t feel too big. I don’t feel unapproachable. There is no big deal.
When you look back to the day you chose to go into acting, what act, what decisions gladdens your heart anytime you remember?
That I did not choose to be a soldier because that’s what I really wanted to be. Today I always thank God that I Antar Laniyan is not a military man, and probably they would have killed me because I don’t want wrong things done, or I may have been part of coup plotting and you know what they do to coup plotters. So when I look back I always thank God.
Can you tell us the story behind your name, Antar it doesn’t sound like a Yoruba name and everybody knows you are from Oshogbo?
The story behind it is that my mother told me I over stayed in her belly, that I stayed for 18 months. You know as at that time parents would be worried and had to do some consultations by going to church and the rest of them, and they found out that there was a woman behind that delay, that the woman was my father’s girlfriend who wanted to marry my dad but my mum was blocking her. They now had to look for the woman, they found the woman. My mother said when they got there the woman was crying that she didn’t intend to do it but she had to do it to punish my dad. She now told them what to do and it concern the animal, ‘guana’ Yoruba called it ‘Anta’. They made the concoction out of it and made my mother to eat it and they said 30mins after the story changed. My mother gave birth to me. To continue to remember that story my mother said she didn’t find anything wrong in calling me that animal’s name. When I got to Primary School people where changing the name, some even started calling me Anta, Fanta, Coca-Cola and all that, so I now added ‘R’ for effect. (Laughs)
And you didn’t bother to change it while growing up?
I love that name because there are no 2 Antars. It’s unique.
Where was growing up?
I grew up in Lagos, I was born in Lagos. The incident also happened in Lagos here but they had to travel down to Oshogbo. According to my dad he met the lady at Oduduwa Grammar School and there is a caveat that I must not see that lady, so they kept her away from me till date. I don’t even know her, I’m sure she would have been dead by now.
How did acting come in?
Don’t even know myself; I’m surprised too, but I would say it’s my passion. Because when I was a little boy I’ve always wanted to be a soldier. My mother was head of Mammie Market in Army Barrack, so I loved the uniform, the parade and everything and I said I must be a soldier by all means. All along my school principal, M.O Alake called me and said “Laniyan, what do you want to become?” I said I want to be a soldier and the man laughed and said “I don’t think you will make it as a soldier”. Already I have people around me that were telling me I would be good as an actor. Whenever we went for school competition, we are always winning. The baba now advised me that he’s sure he will hear much about me in future if I follow that path. I listened to him, I thought about it I and I agreed to give it a try and I took it one step at a time and it became my passion.