Actor Accuses To Be Paid Less Because Of His Black Color

Samuel started his acting career in 2013 and has appeared in Walt Disney's Desperate Housewives Africa. Meanwhile, A S Ajithkumar, a Dalit activist, and writer said that Samuel’s issue cannot be mixed up with discrimination in Malayalam film industry.

Actor Accuses To Be Paid Less Because Of His Black Color

Regimon Kuttappan

I am a victim of racism in Kerala and I was fooled because I am black, an African actor who acted in a Kerala movie said. Samuel Abiola Johnson, the African actor in the newly released comedy-drama movie, Sudani from Nigeria, told Firstpost that, he believes that he was a victim of racial discrimination while in Kerala.

"It was nothing violent or directly in my face but for my role in Sudani from Nigeria, the producers offered me far less money than Indian actors who are not half as popular, experienced or accomplished as I am would normally earn," he said adding that Keralites are good but producers victimized him.

The movie script follows a Nigerian football player who joins a club in Malappuram, Kerala, for the Sevens football match and Samuel acts along with Soubin Shahir. According to Samuel, his findings reveal that, on average a newcomer Indian actor gets paid between Rs20 lakh to 10 lakh. "While I will not reveal the exact amount i was paid, I will say that I was paid much less than Rs5 lakh. They had promised me that if the movie becomes a success, they will pay while I am back in Nigeria. However, unfortunately, they are dismissing my calls and messages, which has forced me to speak out openly," Samuel told Firstpost. He added that he couldn't find any reason other than racism for being fooled.

The movie is written and directed by Zakariya Mohammed with dialogues co-written by Muhsin Parari. Shyju Khalid was the cinematographer, who also produced the film with Sameer Thahir. Even though the Firstpost tried to get a comment from the producers and director, all the attempts went in vain.

According to Samuel's Facebook post, he only became better enlightened after meeting with several young actors and discussing payment with them. "I am of the opinion that this happened purely because of my skin color and the assumption that all Africans are poor and don't know the value of money," the Facebook post read.

"The director and writer Zakariya did his best to help but as he was not financing the movie himself, there was very little chance he could foster. Zakariya is a good guy with a good heart and a brilliant director. Promises were made to me by the producers while shooting to pay me more if the movie eventually becomes successful but no promise has been honoured," Samuel's FB post reads. Samuel is back in Nigeria and he believes the promises were simply tools of manipulation to get him committed for the five months of availability for movie work. "The movie is a huge commercial success now and I am grateful for all the love that the fans have shown me and I have been privileged to experience the warm culture of Kerala but I can no longer suffer in silence about this," Samuel's FB post reads.

He concluded to the post by urging everyone to say no to racial or caste discrimination. Samuel started his acting career in 2013 and has appeared in Walt Disney's Desperate Housewives Africa. Meanwhile, A S Ajithkumar, a Dalit activist, and writer said that Samuel's issue cannot be mixed up with discrimination in Malayalam film industry. However, the writer said that it is quite difficult for Dalit or minority actor or filmmaker to make success and be accepted by the public.

"The existing filmmakers and producers have a notion that Dalit actors can be given only roles like a drug addict and local goonda. They will never give a Dalit actor a role of an IAS officer or a successful businessman in the movie," Ajith said. According to Ajith, the Dalit of minority community filmmakers and actors those who don't hide their identity will be sidelined. "Long back, Sathyan Master, who belonged to a Latin Catholic family, was accepted as a lead actor in movies, even though he was black, because it was the time of black and white movies. In black and white movies, we cannot say whether the actor is black or white. If Sathyan was looking for a chance today, he won't succeed," he added.

Sathyan was respected for his natural style and versatility in acting. One of the major stars of Malayalam cinema, Sathyan won two Kerala State Film Awards for Best Actor, passed away in 1971. Referring to Sreenivasan, another short and black actor from backward community in Malayalam films, Ajith said that Sreenivasan became a lead actor only after he started to write for his own movies. "Till then, he was always sidekick for the upper caste lead actor," Ajith said.

According to Ajith, the current filmmakers overdo many things to portray a Dalit actor in a movie. "In Kammattipadam, a 2016 Malayalam action crime drama film directed by Rajeev Ravi, they added extra tooth for actor Manikandan to make him look more a Dalit," Ajith said adding that there are caste, color and religion-based discrimination in Malayalam film industry.

"Even if a black-Dalit comes to mainstream cinema, he will be sidelined soon," he added. Meanwhile, a Dalit activist Ajay Kumar said that, Samuel has clearly said that he has been subjected to racism and there is nothing to debate more on that. "This is India and us quite infamous for treating Dalits and black-skinned people in an indifferent way. So, there is no surprise element on what Samuel has alleged. We have hundreds on examples on how much racial are we against the black people," Ajay said adding that even in the movie he is being called as 'Sudu', which itself reveals a racist tone.