CHENNAI: It is rare to find an Indian-Nigerian collaboration in cinema, and “Namaste Wahala,” now playing on Netflix, scores points for its novelty factor. But beyond this, the film has little to offer, and it is such a disappointment. The two countries have been in a neck-and-neck race, producing close to 2000 titles each year, and I expected some kind of quality, given their long experience in moviemaking. But director Hamisha Daryani Ahuja, a hotelier-turned-filmmaker living in Lagos, does not go beyond a cliched love story, and her passion for watching television serials (presumably Indian) leaves its mark all over the narrative. Ahuja falls back on lazy writing, and the result is a plot riddled with coincidences — a ploy adopted ever so often by Indian films to push the story forward.
In an early scene, we see Didi (Ini Dima-Okojie), a Nigerian NGO lawyer, brush past an Indian investment banker, Raj (Ruslaan Mumtaz), while she is out jogging on the beach. It is love at first sight for the two (cue the eyerolls). Didi’s dad (Richard Mofe-Damijo), a lawyer who runs a large firm, wants his daughter to follow in his footsteps and carry forward his legacy, as he never tires of repeating. Didi, however, has other plans: She works for victimized women and thinks this is far nobler than to be part of her father’s empire, in which everything goes.
Things get complicated with the arrival of Raj’s overly possessive mother (Sujata Sehgal), which is marked by an unbelievably ridiculous confrontation between her and the cabbie who drives her from the airport to her son’s home. She will not hear of her only child marrying a woman whose culture is at odds with Indian ways! Meanwhile, Didi’s old man hates Raj because the banker interrupts the plans he so carefully laid out for his daughter.
Must we say anything more about a collaborative effort that misfires from the word ‘go’? The songs, including a pop number, ‘I Don’t Wanna Let You Go,’ are terribly tacky. “Namaste Wahala” rolls on with scenes featuring the kind of drama that modern cinema has given up on — yes, even in notoriously melodramatic Bollywood. Ahuja weaves in a legal tussle between father and daughter over a rape victim, but this hardly uplifts a story whose characters are cartoonish, and the cultural divide provides more for laughter rather than any serious introspection.