I wrote my first novel, The Abyssinian Boy, when I was 18 years old, and living in Delhi. The Abyssinian Boy tells the story of an Indian man married to a Nigerian Igbo woman. That book was what brought me close to the large Indian community in Nigeria.
I was 21 when it was published by DADA Books and I would be invited to the ashram in Palmgrove, parties at the Deputy High Commission of India, Indian family parties and to the Indian Language School in Ilupeju. Indians became a part of my life.
On the day Namaste Wahala was released on Netflix, I sat alone in my room and saw it.
I will not write about what people are saying: whether it is a potboiler or not. The process of filmmaking is tedious enough; a story is like the surface of water. You take what you want from it.
It is beautiful how the writers defined the narrative properly: a Nigerian family (Igbo father and Yoruba mother) and an Indian family (“Indian mothers are obsessed with their sons.”). It may sound cliche, but this is a well-structured story that is smooth and beautifully written. People may have their reservations about the dance sequence at the beach, but every film industry in every country, has their badge and style. A culture. A tradition.
It is not enough to pretend to be intellectually snobbish, but when Raj (Ruslaan Mumtaz) and Didi (Ini-Dima Okojie) are jogging along the beach from opposite ends in workout clothes and bump into each other, you know that this is Bollywood meets Nollywood. Like a critic said, the dramatic pause between them is the typically soapy boy-meets-girl origin story, from which romance quickly brews.
What else contributes to the beauty in the film? To showcase differences and similarities. In Igbo culture, the men pay bride-price to the family of the girl and in Hindu culture, the women pay dowry to the family of the man. Interestingly, not many know this but this is where this film becomes educational and also entertaining.
Directed by first-timer, Hamisha Daryani Ahuja, Namaste Wahala treats other issues. It questions domestic violence and violence against women. It is a smooth ride. If there is anything wrong with the film, it’s because it does not handle any issue with a chasmic energy, which would have reduced it to a work of sociology.
This film and my book share similar theme and are works of art that internalize racism and bigotry. Each time the characters meet, I think of the characters I created. But, we know that we all live our lives, without realising that we are not the only ones living that way.
The casting of Ini Dima-Okojie as Didi, a Nigerian lawyer, and Ruslaan Mumtaz as Raj, an Indian investment banker is superb. Then, you have Richard Mofe-Damijo as Ernest, Didi’s father and Joke Silva as the mother of Didi. The fantastic outing of Sujata Sehgal as Meera can’t be sliced out. Osas Ighodaro as Preemo. Imoh Eboh as Jane and Ibrahim Suleiman as Somto, which was a character I kept looking out for. Hamisha Daryani Ahuja as Leila as well, working as the director and executive producer. Broda Shaggi is impressive as the taxi driver. You will love it all!
For the joy Namaste Wahala brought as I laughed out loud, I think it is beautifully realized, stupendous and ginormous.