Movie Review: Namaste Wahala
So, it’s Valentine’s day in the middle of a resurging pandemic, and Netflix and chill offers Namaste Wahala, an Indo-Naija rom-com, as an alternative to going out to the cinema and possibly doing the tango with COVID-19.
A directorial debut by restaurateur turned writer/producer filmmaker, Hamisha Dariyani Ahuja, Namaste Wahala opens with a very impressive and colourful montage of aerial shots of Lagos set to the tune of its Indo-Naija-flavoured titular soundtrack.
In true rom-com style, we see shots of its protagonists prepping to go out for a jog on the beach, and are then treated to a predictably awkward accidental bump that sets off an even more awkward first encounter complete with the obligatory side-kick intervention that cues the inevitable eye roll from the viewer.
The Indian-half of this budding cross-cultural interracial love story is Raj (Ruslaan Mumtaz), an Investment Banker while the Nigerian half is Didi (Ini-Dima Okojie), a lawyer turned advocate against gender-based violence.
Don’t forget that this is an Indo-Naija rom-com, so cue next a stereotype montage of our love birds performing the Bollywood signature costumed song/dance flourish that elicits another eye roll from the viewer.
With the sitar of love strummed already to say namaste, the drumbeat of parental opposition is cued next to signal wahala for our budding love birds.
For this next act, Namaste Wahala borrows heavily from Nollywood’s signature cinematic tropes; from the contrived and overly hysterical to the incongruous and unfunny scene-filler attempt at comedy and right down to the pandering product placement garnishing and celebrity cameos spiced with colourful designer costumes and posh locations.
Not to forget; the continuity gaffe and apparent poor script research that has both Didi’s father, Ernest (Richard Mofe-Damijo), principal of a top law firm and his star lawyers, Somto (Ibrahim Suleiman) and Preemo (Osas Ighodaro) referring to their law firm as a company.
While its first half starts out as a rom–com, Namaste Wahala, in its second half oscillates between drama (when it labours to highlight Didi’s gender violence advocacy work that pits her against her father’s firm and client) and a poor attempt at comedy that quickly descends into actual farce (or more appropriately, fart) in the incongruous scene where Raj’s mum shares a bed with Didi.
Performance-wise, there was no stand-out worth mentioning. It was at best, safe and at worst, predictable. As the movie’s protagonists, Ini-Dima’s Didi started out stiff but progressively untangled to a slightly impressive even if safe performance but Ruslaan’s Raj made no attempt to progress beyond Indo-eye candy stiffness.
As Didi’s mother, Sola, Joke Silva delivered her signature thousand-watt mega smile performance while Mofe-Damijo (as with his Chief Onwuka in the Wedding Party franchise) with his poorly-spoken Igbo came across as more of his Tega Castle character from EbonyLife Television’s Castle & Castle and less of an actual Igbo character, a role which Kanayo O. Kanayo would clearly have been a better fit to play.
Thankfully, Namaste Wahala’s redemption as a rom-com came in its final scenes when it achieved the cheesy and feel-good campiness you would expect from a valentine’s day rom-com. Otherwise, the movie’s preceding scenes were sure to earn it nothing short of a nahin nahin kole work.4/10