Hamisha Daryani Ahuja has donned many hats over the years–that of an entrepreneur, a motivational speaker, an author… But a decade ago, when she launched her restaurant Bistro 7 in Nigeria, might she even have dreamed that she would eventually make a Bollywood- style Nollywood film? Typically, filmmakers say no, but the dreamer that Hamisha always has been, she says yes. And now, this dream project, Namaste Wahala is streaming on Netflix.
Excerpts from a conversation…
Tell us about how you have turned filmmaker.
I have been an entrepreneur my whole life. We came to Nigeria and started a businesses here. After seven years of running my restaurant, Bistro 7, I decided it was time to do something new. I am a motivational speaker as well, and I spoke about ‘Dreaming Big’ sometime ago. When you speak about such topics, you begin embodying them. So, I decided to sell my stake in the restaurant and with the additional time I got, I decided it was time to go after the big dream: filmmaking.
What was the inspiration behind doing a cross-cultural film like Namaste Wahala?
Like many Nigerians, I am a major Bollywood buff. In fact, Nollywood (Nigerian film industry) has taken a lot of inspiration from Bollywood. So, I thought it would be interesting to make a film relevant for Nigerians but one that the global audience can also recognise. Namaste Wahala is like a 90s Bollywood film. It is a Nollywood film, but what truly makes it Bollywood is that there is a lot of dancing, Indian music, and so on...
How fun was shooting the film, considering that there’s a coming together of two cultures?
Very. Bollywood people were coming to Nigeria for the first time and it was also the first film they are shooting in English. It was a first for a lot of people—it was the first film for me, my DOP… This was Ruslaan Mumtaz’s first English film… This excitement rubbed off on all of us on the set.
Being a big fan of 90s Bollywood, does it seem to you that there is a dearth of romcoms generally?
Oh, 100 percent! I miss the cheesy movies I grew up on. I love modern Bollywood, but I do miss the old-fashioned romance, like in Kal Ho Na Ho. Namaste Wahala looks to address this. I think we need more feel-good films.
If you were to remake an old Bollywood movie, what would you choose?
My most favourite film is Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, followed by Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. I guess, some film that has Shah Rukh Khan in it. When you rewatch a film ten years later, you still feel what you did when you originally watched it. I would want to create that with the remake.
What challenges did you encounter, Namaste Wahala being your debut film?
Now that I have made the film, I feel like I have graduated from a film school. You only learn by doing. A bigger challenge was that I was also producing the film. The experiences from running my businesses helped, but there was always an internal clash between the director and the producer in me. Going forward, maybe, I will take up just one role.
What’s next for you?
With this film, I see the potential so many people have. I have launched my production company, Forever 7 Entertainment, and we will be handling TV shows, reality television, more films…
(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)