By Olaitan Victor Olanrewaju
I was going through Twitter weeks ago when I stumbled upon a movie advertisement from Netflix titled “Namaste Wahala”. The mere title drew my attention.
Those two words forming the title were from different origins, different languages, and different cultures. With this collaboration, my expectations were high. I knew I had to watch that movie.
I watched the advert over and over. I was hooked. I became restless and I began to ask movie enthusiasts about the film. It turns out not many have heard of it. And those who have are yet to watch it.
I was thinking about the movie, I knew it was going to be a love story from the glimpse I had of the advert and of course, Indians are popular for their love stories. Majority of the films from Indian movie Industries have love as their central theme.
Looking at the meaning of the words that formed the title of the movie, “namaste” is a word of greeting in hindi that means “I bow to you” or as it is now commonly used, “hello”.
On the other hand, “wahala” is a Yoruba word commonly used in Nigeria that means “trouble” or “problem”. Literally speaking, that had to mean that “namaste wahala” mean “I bow to trouble” or “hello trouble” or even, “hello problem”.
Leaving the title aside, I began to ask myself some questions; What would the movie be like? Would they sing and dance like the Bollywood movies? How would they resolve the inter-ethnic strife that may arise from the relationship of those two lovers from different worlds? What of the cultural clash? Surely there will be a clash in the marriage culture…. My imaginations were on hyperdrive.
It seemed I didn’t have long to wait before I had the opportunity to see the movie. It was a fantastic love story, the writers were brilliant, they had done their research. The director was superb, it was sure interesting to watch. The actors were awesome, they’d justified their roles. Just to cut short the praises, I love the movie.
However, I have some misgivings which tainted my opinion of the movie. What the bible says is “To everything there is a reason”. There must have been a reason for that movie. In my opinion, I would say it is to encourage inter-ethnic marriage between different peoples from different backgrounds and different worlds.
Unlike the western world, love and marriage is not only played by the intending couple, it also involves acceptance from both families.
Indian and Nigerian culture is similar in such a way that it is considered cheating and disrespectful if a man and a woman marry each other without parental consent and family support. Such union will be filled with unhappiness and possibly, eventual breakup of the union if restitutions are not made to the parties involved.
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There is a cultural difference which I think the movie should have worked to resolve, and it failed dismally. In fact, the issue was not raised.
From what I know of Indian marriage culture, dowries are paid by the bride’s family to the groom’s family. But in Nigeria, in virtually all ethnic societies, the reverse is the case. The bride’s family receives the dowries or bride price as the case may be.
With this in mind, the movie begs the questions; who will pay the dowry? Where is the cultural problem? Where is the expected “wahala”? How did they arrive at an impasse?
The film has done well to resolve the problems in a love story, the differences in their backgrounds, the quirks and snags of love, family objections and so on. But where is the solution to the clash of marriage culture between India and Nigeria?
If such a case should truly come to be realistically, where can one draw lessons from to bring about a resolution to what should otherwise be a problem in a beautiful love story?
The end of the film shows where the couple got together Indian-style traditional wedding (or engagement as it was later tagged). The film is set in Nigeria, so why is the traditional wedding not done Nigerian style? Didi’s parents were from different ethnic groups in Nigeria too.
The traditional wedding could have been done Yoruba style since Didi’s mother is a Yoruba. Or it could have been done according to the Igbo tradition since her Father is an Igbo man. Let’s see Raj clad in the Nigerian traditional attire just as Didi was in the Indian attire.
A lesson however for those who usually stop a movie once the film has ended and the names of the cast and crew are being broadcast; there was a very brief scene where Didi’s father and Raj’s mother sat in conference to talk about dowry and bride after the engagement. This should have actually been the “wahala”. I believe this was brought in to show the second part is coming.
But if the reverse is the case, then the movie has lost its entire purpose.
In Nigeria, the dowry or bride price is paid during the engagement. Engagement might be delayed, or even canceled if the bride price is not properly paid or completed. This is much more common among the Igbos.
Also in the Indian culture (unless I am wrong), I believe the dowry is discussed and agreed between the two families before any ties can be made. Why should the reverse be the case in the movie?
I think this is a lapse on the part of the writer, director and producer of the movie which is brought up either through incomplete research, omission, lack of respect for both cultural views of marriage or limited imagination (no offense).