'Namaste Wahala' a cross-cultural love story with Bollywood touches: actor Ruslaan Mumtaz

Komal Panchamatia
·4-min read

New Delhi, Feb 16 (PTI) Actor Ruslaan Mumtaaz says he was surprised to know that his Nigerian co-actors from Netflix's cross-cultural romance 'Namaste Wahala', who are immensely popular in their native country, were fond of Bollywood and Indian film stars, especially Amitabh Bachchan.

The film is directed by Indian-Nigerian restaurant owner Hamisha Daryani Ahuja and features Mumtaz opposite Nigerian actor Ini Dima-Okojie, 30.

The love story revolves around a Nigerian lawyer and an Indian investment banker, who face resistance from their parents but finally manage to get the seal of approval.

The 38-year-old actor said he bagged the movie through costume designer Rahil Raja, who had forwarded his pictures to the director and she thought he was perfect for the part.

'She looked at my picture and said I look like a Bollywood actor. Then she asked for more videos, which Raja sent her... It was a month long shoot in Africa for African audiences with only two Indian actors, me and Sujata Sehgal, who plays my mother in the film.' 'Namaste Wahala' features Nigerian superstars Richard Mofe-Damijo and Joke Silva, both 59, as Dima-Okojie's on-screen parents. The word 'Wahala' translates as 'trouble'.

Raja, who also worked as the costume designer on the film, told Mumtaz that it was a big project and his co-actors are huge stars in Nigeria.

'He told me Mofe-Damijo and Silva are the equivalents of Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini in Nigeria. He shared pictures and profiles of everybody,' the actor, son of veteran artiste Anjana Mumtaz, said.

Mumtaz, known for his Bollywood projects 'Teree Sang: A Kidult Love Story', 'Dangerous Ishq' and 'Yeh Saali Aashiqui', said he was surprised that he did not have to explain anything about Bollywood to his co-stars.

'When I met Richard Mofe-Damijo, popularly known as RMD, I said, 'I am honoured to meet you'. He said, 'the honour is all mine. You are from India, you are from the land of Amitabh Bachchan'.

'Later he starts telling me a monologue of Amitabh Bachchan from ‘Khuda Gawah’. He said he is a big fan of Amitabh Bachchan. Bollywood clearly doesn't need an introduction,' the actor recalled.

Mumtaz said his brief for the role of Raj was to play the quintessential Bollywood hero -- a charmer, a good son, and a loyal lover.

'It is a typical love story that you watch, maybe in Bollywood, or anywhere about a boy and girl, who meet, fall in love, then there's the conflict and they get back. It is a very realistic film but it has a Bollywood touch to it.' For his preparation and understanding of Nigerian cinema, Mumtaz saw a couple of local movies, but the director told him to focus on playing a charmer.

'I was not only playing a character, but I was also representing certain personalities, which is of an Indian boy. I was told whoever watches this movie in Africa they have to think that Indian boys are charming and handsome. It was a unique experience.' 'Namaste Wahala' was shot like a Hollywood romantic comedy but the song and dance sequences had the imprint of a Bollywood movie.

Mumtaz's co-star Dima-Okojie initially had a tough time figuring out the dance moves, but the Indian actor sent her videos of Kareena Kapoor Khan and Alia Bhatt for reference.

'I told her, 'just watch them, you need not follow the choreography, look at the expression, look what they are doing in the song, dance with your face'. The next day, she enjoyed the shoot. They are not exposed to all this so she didn’t know how an actor performs in a dance.' The actor, who is looking forward to the release of the film on Netflix, said he is happy to be a part of a positive film.

'I took up the project for the experience. And a year later, we come to know that it has been bought by Netflix and they are also planning to make a part two or three... I am glad I had an opportunity to create something which would bring positivity into the world.' 'Namaste Wahala' is streaming on Netflix. PTI KKP BK SHD BK BK