Nigerian actor Samuel Abiola Robinson, the lead in the March 23 release Sudani from Nigeria, took to Facebook on Saturday to allege that he has been racially discriminated against by the producers of his film.
Directed by Zakariya Mohammed, the Malayalam drama stars Robinson as Samuel, a football player who becomes part of a club in Kerala ahead of a seven-a-side football match. Soubin Shahir plays the role of Majeed, Samuel’s manager. Made on a low budget, the film has received glowing praise and has been faring well at the ticket counters, according to reports.
In his first Facebook post, Robinson claimed that he was underpaid for his role, which he attributed to racial discrimination.
“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,” Robinson wrote. “I 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 colour and the assumption that all Africans are poor and don’t know the value of money.”
Later, in a video uploaded on his Instagram profile, Robinson revealed that while his investigation showed that newcomers in Malayalam films are paid between Rs 10 and 20 lakhs, he had been paid “much, much less” than Rs five lakhs. Robinson did not reveal the exact amount of his salary.
Robinson also claimed that he had been promised more than his salary if Sudani from Nigeria was a success, but that he now believed that he had been lied to. He wrote that he was manipulated into committing five months to the project, including for promotional activities. However, he praised his director, Mohammed, adding that he could only do so much since he was not financing the movie himself.
Robinson’s Facebook post drew criticism from Indian Facebook users, who rejected the allegation of racial discrimination and pointed out that he had been adequately paid according to the scope of his role and the film’s budget.
In a second Facebook post, Robinson clarified his comments while reiterating that “even the least experienced Indian newcomer” in a Malayalam film would be paid more than him.
“I was paid far less than the Malayalam newcomers are normally paid, this is factual. I accepted this amount less than my usual quote in Nigeria because I was under the impression that it was a very small budget independent movie. Several citations off the internet confirm that this movie was, in fact, moderately budgeted. I have wholeheartedly supported the promotion of the movie in expectation of a positive financial compensation before returning to Nigeria as was promised. The movie has already nearly doubled its budget at the box office in just seven days due to the successful promotions. I do not think that Kerala people are racist as I experienced no such racist treatment from the general Kerala public. I very much enjoyed my stay in Kerala, the culture, the biryani and all.”— Samuel Abiola Robinson.
Robinson has acted in three films so far, including Sudani from Nigeria. He has been a part of African television productions such as Desperate Housewives Africa and MTV Shuga. In 2016, Robinson made news for alleging that the producers of his debut film, 8 Bars & A Clef, did not pay him for an extra day of work and then sidelined him from the promotions.