By Nneka Chile
LAGOS, February 12 (Reuters) – Indo-Nigerian restaurant owner Hamisha Daryani Ahuja has abandoned her long-standing business to pursue her dream of making films.
Two years later, the 36-year-old will see her first feature film, the cross-cultural love story “Namaste Wahala”, debut on Valentine’s Day on Netflix (NASDAQ :).
The film, whose title translates into Hindi and Nigerian Pidgin as “Hello trouble”, tells the story of a Nigerian woman who falls in love with an Indian investment banker living in Lagos. The young couple face a series of challenges – including their families – in being together.
“I wanted to do something that will be more relatable, so it’s a full-fledged Nollywood movie, but I brought in Indian actors to make it a little more fun,” Daryani Ahuja, who directed, produced and starred in the film, told Reuters.
“What I tried to do is 90s Bollywood style … singing and dancing around the trees. We’ve got it all. It’s a very cheesy and mushy romantic drama.”
Born to Indian parents, Daryani Ahuja has lived most of her life in Nigeria.
“I lived in an Indian house, I know the Nigerian culture, the pidgin, the food and it’s so interesting how even though everyone thinks with ‘Namaste Wahala’ the cultures are different, we are actually so similar, ”she said.
“We’re actually all one, and that’s the whole theme of the movie.”
The 110-minute film stars Indian actor Ruslaan Mumtaz and Nigerian actress Ini Dima-Okojie in the lead roles.
“It’s very important to make movies like this when you’re showing cross-cultural love stories, because in every country … people just go their separate ways when it comes to religion,” Mumtaz said. “Especially in India, you cannot marry someone who is of a different religion or a different caste.”
Shot primarily in English, the film had a production crew of over 60 people across India and Nigeria. Production was over before the locks made it difficult to make the films; the original release date was April.
“What I love most are the underlying messages which are the beauty of embracing your similarities, the beauty of embracing love even though you come from different backgrounds,” Dima-Okojie said.
Releasing hundreds of movies and TV episodes per month, Nollywood is the second most prolific film industry in the world after Bollywood in India.
Nigeria has a growing Bollywood fan base, who watch its sitcoms with English subtitles, and “Namaste Wahala” is creating a buzz online.
Daryani Ahuja says she hopes to make a sequel in the coming months.