The hotly anticipated Nollywood Bollywood collaboration ‘Namaste Wahala’ was Netflix’s Valentines day gift to us. The title loosely translates as ‘Hello Trouble’ in Hindi & Pidgin, and there was trouble in more ways than one.
By now you probably know the gist. Two cultures collide (literally) when Didi, a Nigerian lawyer bumps into Raj, an Indian banker on a beach in Lagos. The ‘meet-cute’ happens in the first three minutes and although that may seem fast, Raj declares his intention to marry Didi within the first 20. This gives space for absolute chaos to fill the remaining 90 minutes of the movie.
Namaste Wahala focuses on the couple’s journey, from boy meets girl, to meet the parents, with your standard nemeses, a rogue assault case, and some excellent comedy in the mix too. Shoutout to Broda Shaggi for stealing the show – this scene shows how similar but different we are – vim on TAP!
On a top level Nigerian and Indian cultures are very similar.
- Big personalities
- Exceptional style
- Musical ability
- Prolific film industries dominated by ’when will you marry’ storylines, and including at least one over imposing mother
So what do you get when you bring two of the biggest and the most extravagant cultures together in one movie? When you only have 110 minutes you get some things but not others, hence there are two things we need.
More Bolly less Nolly
Bollywood’s influence and presence in Bollywood’s influence and presence in Nigeria is nothing new. Bollywood films have even been dubbed into local languages, particularly Yoruba (because our people love drama). Although it’s a practice associated with more traditional Nollywood than the flashy productions we see today, both industries have a tendency to create original music for their films. This practice certainly laid the foundation, and provided the production infrastructure for the Nigerian music industry we know and love today.
We got an original movie track – conveniently titled Namaste Wahala – but only ONE Bollywood number! It’s an ‘oonts oonts’ Bollywood bop, but we need more! For anyone complaining that the scene even existed, fall back. We said Bollywood. Song and dance is a necessity, but one is not nearly enough. I wanted to see RMD, Aunty Joke Silva and the entire crew dancing and prancing around with Nigerian vim. We got the drama and not the dancing, I hope to see more of this in Part 2 because the balance has not yet balanced.
Cultures Actually Colliding
Aside from the surface level objections to being ‘Indian’ or ‘not Indian’, we didn’t get the depictions of culture-clash that would have made for actual objections. Food is a huge area of cultural significance, and yet when Raj is being waited on like a king, his mother prepares an unnamed Indian dish, while Didi prepares Indomie noodles…is she not embarrassed?! Yes, Indomie is prolific in Nigeria, but even common Jollof would have been a better differentiator than that. What about the (likely) different religious backgrounds? More depth could have been given to their cultural differences, giving the couple pause to think about if their relationship would work out – beyond the fact that Raj was essentially spineless.
Only at the very end do we see the kind of culture-clash I would have expected. Dowry is done differently in Hindu culture. Raj’s mother expects to receive the dahej from Didi’s family, whereas Didi’s father expects to receive a bride price. Let’s not look past the fact that Didi is of Yoruba and Igbo heritage, a culture-clash in and of itself. Does one dowry cancel out the other? Discuss.
A note on the wedding: If there is one thing Nigerians and Indians have in common, it is their undying commitment to big blowout weddings. In this installment, we received an engagement complete with Jollof Biryani and Aloo Puff Puff. What we need next are geles, thrones, high-tables, profuse prostrations and beyond – and this is just on the Nigerian side. We need opulence, and neither family is strapped for cash.
More wahla please
A good movie makes you react. In Namaste Wahala, the humour surrounding the main storyline was refreshing (K10 we see you), and the sexism meted out by Didi’s father was suffocating (we still love you RMD). However, the misuse of certain characters as plot devices was confusing – do we like Somto or not?!
All in all, I can only commend Hamisah Daryani Ahuja on her directorial debut. Namaste Wahala got a lot of buzz because it’s a story we want to see told. It’s an A for effort. Now let’s get an A for execution – we need a sequel.