Sunday, 14 February 2021

Namaste Wahala (Movie Review)

The Nigerian film industry, or Nollywood as it is more popularly referred to, produces more films on a yearly basis than the likes of Hollywood and China. It is in fact only bested by Bollywood, which produced just shy of 2,000 films in 2019 alone. Granted, most of those films were direct-to-video offerings made on a shoestring budget. But every now and then, we happen to get the occasional gem, or dare I say, guilty pleasure.

Now imagine what would happen if those two industries were to join forces. The answer, my friends, is Namaste Wahala, a cross-cultural romantic comedy debuting on Netflix this Valentine.

The movie stars Ini Dima-Okojie as Didi, a young lawyer who works at a family-owned law firm. Following a chance encounter with an attractive Indian man named Raj (Ruslaan Mumtaz), the two fall helplessly in love with one another. But in a classic case of forbidden love, Raj is rejected by Chidinma's parents when she brings him home to meet them, while Chidinma herself is given a similar treatment by Raj's mum. Now the two star-crossed lovers must find a way to convince their families they were meant to be together.

I'll confess that I am not the biggest fan of Bollywood movies, with the likes of Slumdog Millionaire and Lion being the closest I have gotten to enjoying the depiction of Indian culture in film. Same goes for Nollywood movies, many of which I find too insufferable to sit through. All that is to say that I was fairly skeptical heading into Namaste Wahala, despite all the social media buzz it has received in the lead up to its release.

So how exactly is the film then you ask? Well, not too bad. I could even go as far as saying I was pleasantly surprised by it. That it not to say that it was the best thing since sliced bread. And the film definitely had its fair share of problems, several of which I would touch upon now.

Those of you that read my Wedding Party review already know how I feel about Richard Mofe Damijo and his acting, and not much has changed since then, so the less said about his acting here the better. Other notable appearances include Broda Shaggi, who played a hot-tempered cabdriver, as well as M.I., who played himself.

Prior to the movie's release, we heard a lot of news about the Chocolate City rapper handling the soundtrack of the movie. And if all that translated into was the rapper's song playing over a montage while he makes a tacked-on cameo appearance, then color me disappointed. At least the scene didn't overstay its welcome, so that's a plus.

The strength of any good romantic comedy though rests upon the chemistry between its two leads. And while both Ruslaan and Ini were competent enough in their roles, I still had a hard time buying into their love for one another. This wasn't exactly help by the fact that the romance between the two had escalated so quickly that some suspension of disbelief was required in order to fully buy into the whole thing.

I mean, Raj himself had alluded to the fact that he had charmed his way into her heart. It would have been nice to see how exactly.

The film definitely follows most of the tropes you'd expect to find in a romantic comedy, like the the best friend who provides most of the comic relief. Sadly, it also had all the classic Nollywood trappings as well, from overacted melodramatic scenes, to cheesy lines of dialogue and deliveries that have you laughing for all the wrong reasons.

I also had issues with how the film had managed its runtime. There was a sexual assault subplot that took up a large chunk of the movie's 1 hour 46 minutes length, and I felt this could have been used to better develop the core story and characters, or trimmed out completely, as it didn't really tie into the overall plot in any meaningful way. It did at least give us some of the most comically bad line deliveries when it arrived at its climax though. You'll know it when you hear it, and I guess this could count as another plus.

Namaste Wahala works best when viewed as a homage to the films of Nollywood and Bollywood, zits and all. The cheese factor was definitely stronger than I would have liked, but therein lies most of the film's appeal. That the film also has a strong overall message about cultures coming together, and true love transcending cultural barriers, makes it easy for me to recommend to anyone that enjoys feel-good romances. It's definitely worth checking out on Netflix.

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