By Hussein Kiganda
“Acting as Veronica and Michael, Nisha Kalema and Housen Mushema are engaged and ready to tie the knot. Unfortunately, she suffers from a strange disease.”
She gets many plaudits for her role, many predict that the only way for her is up.
Having featured in “Veronica’s Wish,” and many other movies, Nisha Kalema has risen to become one of the best film stars in the Ugandan film industry.
She won Best Ugandan Actress in 2015, 2016 and 2018. She has also won a multiple of awards at the international level, like Best Writer Awards in Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Netherlands and the U.S.A
Born in 1993 in Nakulabye and raised in Kawempe, she was the favorite child to her father, the late Lawrence Kalema. Her mother, Yudaya Nabisere, used to feel disappointed in her whenever she couldn’t perform to her best because she thought of her as a bright girl.
Growing up with 12 brothers and 5 sisters, the actress learnt the manners of boys
“I wasn’t humble at all. I was so stubborn and too tall for a girl of my age. I grew up with a gang of boys and behaved like them, I didn’t know how to be a girl. I would play football, racing, bullying and fighting…,”she reminisces.
When her tongue learnt to utter words, it also learnt to fabricate stories that she narrated to her schoolmates and made money. Being a day scholar, she would watch movies over the weekend and become a movie narrator at school.
“What I remember, I was a fantastic liar. I was good at narrating, so I would watch movies at home and then go to school, gather students tell them to pay sh100 each and then they would listen in to what I had watched. Sometimes, I wouldn’t watch any movies so I would cook up fake stories which they even believed…,” She says, laughing at herself.
According to Kalema, school life was not enjoyable because she was a perpetual school fees defaulter. It was the reason she attended many schools.
Some of the schools were, St. Charles Lwanga in Matugga, Oxford Muslim High, Kawempe Muslim Secondary School, East High, Old Kampala Secondary School and many more.
She became humble by default. She was caned to submission. Her stubborn streak ended and she was eventually groomed into a shiekhart(a female Muslim leader at school)
At the time, she was a fan of sports. Drama and acting were not anywhere close to her mind.
“I was very good at soccer. All my life, I thought I was going to become the female Messi.I tried drama at school but it was so terrible. I watched the video when I was on stage and I think it was the worst experience ever. I looked like I was lame on stage…,”she says.
Kalema’s mother wanted her to become a nurse and her father saw a budding lawyer in her. She chose journalism and attained a Bachelor’s degree at Buganda Royal University.
Kalema’s boldness took its shape when she decided to leave home after form six. She set up a snack stall at the busy Kikuubo market. As a tea girl, she interacted with multitudes in arcades strewn downtown. As the profits grew, so did her confidence. She could excel at anything, her mind told her.
How film came in
The actress joined film in 2014. According to her, the Ugandan film industry seemed like a joke and she didn’t want to be part of it. It was a friend who influenced her to join and her love towards challenges won her, her fast act.
“I had a friend of mine who was in film. When she told me about “Bina Ugandan”, I laughed because I thought it was a stupid idea. I kept on going with her for auditions and rehearsals. One day I tried it out (auditioning) and the rest are good memories,” she says.
The three times “Best Ugandan actress” decries less pay and discrimination based on colour in the movie industry.
“The most challenging part in the industry when one is starting up is underpayment and skin colour. Back then, all I gained was food and transport allowances. When I discovered my worth and set my rice, they started calling me expensive and some shunned me,” he narrates.
According to her, “Girls About Town” was her breakthrough film. In that movie, she acted as Clara, a role she thinks is her best in her entire career. Kalema loves her “Clara” role because it was her fast lead role.
Kalema hails the great times she has had in film. She boasts about sharing a red carpet with international film stars like Violet Davis, whom she greatly admires, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and many others. From film, she has built up a great financial stand and travelled to many countries.
The actress is currently training and mentoring a number of actors and actresses that she hopes will be great in future. She decries Covid 19, which has messed up her travels and international projects.
Relationships cause a panic
Issues of relationships are as scary as “jeepers creepers” to her. She doesn’t like talking about them. She hurriedly puts a big “NO” once they are brought into the conversation. She only opens up that she crashes on Michael Jordan. She thinks he is so cute.
She only talks about a hot slap she received from her father when he found out she had a boyfriend in her secondary school. He later counseled her on relationships.