HIS has always been a household name, having won the hearts of many live show audiences and television viewers with his brilliant and natural acting skills. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing, Mr Benjamin Kojo Afandoh, popularly known as Agya Ntow.
Getting very close to 70 years and still going strong, Agya Ntow who has not looked back since he started acting in 1956 says he is still in the business because of his love for it and not what he gets in terms of remuneration. “That is woefully insufficient,” he says.
To think that he has made so many appearances on stage and on the screen, appearing in almost every other film that is released in recent times, one would have thought that the “oldman” is wealthy but that seems to be far from the truth.
The humorous, Fanti-speaking actor recollects the good old days when the Abibiman Concert Party, of which he was a member and leader, used to tour the country with plays. The group was affiliated to the Arts Centre and there were always programmes lined up for them. When Agya Ntow featured in Kofi Yirenkyi’s much acclaimed Sika Sunsum he was with Abibiman and that is one production that has a special place in his heart. “ Although I have appeared in many films, Sika Sunsum can easily pass for my best, I think my role came out very well and it is still fresh on people’s minds.” Indeed, it was from Sika Sunsum that the name Agya Ntow, the name of a character he played, came to stick. He was a member of the Workers Brigade Drama Group before moving on to join Abibiman, from which came Efirititi Concert Party with himself, Araba Stamp, Yaw Bortey and others thrilling concert party fans at the National Theatre. Currently Agya Ntow is a member of the Edinkanfo Concert Party formed four years ago, with David Dontoh as their director. What fans do not know about Agya Ntow is that he is a school teacher who put his chalk down way back in 1957, when the pull of the stage got the better part of him. He is not only an actor but a playwright and a composer as well. “ We compose the songs you hear us singing all the time ourselves (referring to his good friend and colleague Yaw Bortey (Apache).” Agya Ntow says he is blessed with a good voice which he often makes use of in productions. Mentioning Apache, he adds that the two who are almost seen together act as best friends not only on set, but they are very close in real life. They live very close to each other and have a lot of things in common. For Agya Ntow, acting comes to him naturally and he prides himself with the fact that not only has he done this for a long time but he is also versatile in the field. Guess what? Though Agya Ntow always renders his lines in Fanti, he is always given a script to study after which he does his own translations, of course with lots of liberal additions. The man who celebrated his last birthday on April 20th has starred in a lot of productions including I Told You So, Had I Known, Heritage Africa, Opinto, Kae Dabi, Kanana, Okukuseku to mention a few. In the world of acting, one person he admires most is his own paddy, Apache. He believes that the Ghanaian film industry will do better if some decent money is pumped into it so that costumes and other facilities can be provided. Agya Ntow however has a bone to pick with producers whom he says can make life better for actors. “They have to pay us better than they do. Some producers have still not paid me for working for them and that is not fair at all,” laments the oldman. “We need help.” The veteran actor comes from Ajumako Asasan in the Central Region, and loves football as a hobby. He says he can’t play now but loves watching it, that is surely understandable for a man of his age, yeah? For favourite food, Agya Ntow will settle for fufu or ampesi anytime as long as it comes with fish. Married and a father of seven, Agya Ntow believes that actors should be well catered for. Individuals and organisations should offer whatever kind of assistance they can to them and not wait to give huge donations when they die. He hinted to this reporter that his Sukara home got flooded recently and it was a pathetic situation for him. Dealing with his fans is one big problem for him, especially the children whom he says do not mind being all over him even when he is in a queue waiting for trotro. “It can be really embarrassing sometimes but one has to learn to live with it.” Agya Ntow’s final word is for his fellow actors. He thinks there are too many divisions. He says it was his hope that the formation of the Ghana Actors’ Guild will solve that problem but “no one knows what is happening to GAG. All actors must unite.”