Julien Neaves, Editor
Remember the 1991 romance drama Mississippi Masala where Denzel Washington played a black American who fell in love with an Indian woman played by Sarita Choudhury. Now imagine if you took that concept, switched genders, changed the setting to Nigeria and added a heavy helping of comedy. Well what you’d probably end up with is a film like Namaste Wahala, which is Hindi for “hello trouble”.
The cross-cultural romance is the first major collaboration between the world’s two biggest film industries—Bollywood and Nollywood. You thought one of them would be Hollywood, didn’t you? While it is number one in terms of revenue, the other two beat it in terms of output. Anywho, Namaste Wahala follows the romance of Nigerian lawyer Didi (Ini Dima-Okojie) and Indian investment banker Raj (Ruslaan Mumtaz) after a chance encounter on the beach. But their courtship is stymied by Raj’s possessive mother Meera (Sujata Sehgal) and Didi’s exacting father Ernest (Richard Mofe-Damijo). It is directed by Hamisha Daryani Ahuja who also appears as Raj’s level-headed cousin Leila.
As a romcom Namaste Wahala actually does not spend that much time on the romancing aspect. The first three months of Didi and Raj’s relationship is shown in a montage set to Raj singing in Hindi, Bollywood-style. This is the only scene like this in the film, so if you were expecting a Bollywood-style musical then this ain’t it. The two of them are very sweet together and are attractive people, providing some eye candy for both the fellas and the ladies.
The presentation of the two cultures is another positive aspect of the film. I enjoyed the costuming, the traditions and the use of language. The film is primarily in English but the Nigerians also speak in Pidgin (an English-based creole language), Igbo and Yoruba, while the Indian characters speak in Hindi at times. As a cross-cultural film time and care is given to accurately reflect the two cultures, and I appreciated that, especially coming from a cultural melting pot like Trinidad and Tobago myself.
In terms of characters Didi was stronger than Raj, mostly because she had much more to do. There is a whole subplot with a legal case of a physically abused woman which brings a somber tone to the otherwise lighthearted film. Raj actually doesn’t have that much to do other than to be exasperated with his mother and struggle with his relationship with Didi.
My favourite character in the film is the above-mentioned mother Meera as I found her antics hilarious. Her introductory scene when she is quarrelling with a Nigerian taxi driver (played by Nigerian comedian Broda Shaggi) is easily the funniest of the entire film. Also delivering the laughs are Raj’s fast-talking Nigerian friend Emma (pronounced ee-mah) and Didi’s man-hungry best friend. There are two cameo appearances by Nigerian hip hop artist M.I but it is in scenes sans dialogue and I had no idea who he was. I presumed he was some type of celebrity but it took some digging to figure out. If they had said who he was this would have prevented confusion for audiences outside of Nigeria. #justsaying. The film also features a lot of product placement, especially of Coca Cola, which was distracting but then again these movies won’t fund themselves.
The film follows the typical romcom formula of the parents being initially against the relationship because of their strongly held traditional beliefs, but eventually being won over. And there is also the subplot of Didi and her father’s strained relationship being healed. There’s nothing novel here, but it is done competently.
So yeah, I enjoyed Namaste Wahala more than I expected. I loved the rich culture, the wacky humour and even the predictable romance stuff. It put a big smile on my face and I think it will do the same for you. And that catchy theme song? Fuhgeddaboutit!
Editor Jules’s Score: 7 out of 10
For another Netflix romcom you can check out my review of To All the Boys: Always and Forever by clicking here. Or for more Indian content you can check out Featured Writer Alice’s review of crime drama White Tiger here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.