It’s love at first sight for Raj and Didi. How could it be otherwise? They are the main characters in a production that is determined to spark off a union between two of the world’s biggest film industries: Bollywood and Nigeria’s Nollywood.
Namaste Wahala (Hello, Trouble) is among Netflix’s offerings for Valentine’s Day. The mutual attraction between the Indian Raj (Ruslaan Mumtaz) and the Nigerian Didi (Ini Dima-Okojie) is guaranteed, if not by the stars, than by the smart minds that decided to engineer this inter-racial romance and target two markets at the same time.
The English-language movie with bits of Igbo, Hindi and Pidgin has been directed by Hamisha Daryani Ahuja (she also has a key role) and written by Diche Enuwa and Temitope Bolade-Akinbode. Namaste Wahala is set amidst the one per cent in Lagos.
Smitten with each other, investment banker Raj and lawyer and social worker Didi have all but named their future children by the 22nd minute. Since we are closely following the beats of both Hindi and Nigerian cinema, they need a villain to wrench them apart.
We get two: Didi’s authoritarian father (Richard Mofe-Damijo), who wants her to marry his Nigerian employee, and Raj’s overbearing mother (Sujata Segal), who is appalled that her only child is taking his own decisions.
Leads Ruslaan Mumtaz and Ini Dima-Okojie work up a nice rhythm between their sketchy characters, but are ultimately eclipsed by their squabbling elders. The movie is too anodyne and shallow to allow the word “racism” to colour the inevitable culture clash between Raj’s mother and Didi’s parents.
When they do find a common ground, it is in their shared conservatism. Indian and Nigerian women haven’t lost their femininity or the ability to build perfect homes despite pursuing their careers, a character observes. Positioned halfway between Mumbai and Lagos, Namaste Wahala settles for La-La Land.