Actor Ruslaan Mumtaz is thrilled with the release of his latest project, a multi-racial love affair called Namaste Wahala. The film, starring Nigerian actor Ini Dima-Okojie in the lead role, will premiere on Netflix on February 14.
Ruslaan plays Raj’s Indian investment bank in this Bollywood international film. He falls in love with Nigerian lawyer Didi (Ini Dima-Okojie) and the couple has to overcome cultural barriers before they can find happiness. Adding to their concerns are their parents, who only make love stories difficult for them.
In an exclusive interview with indianxpress.com, Ruslaan Mumtaz talks about filming crossover, his experience working with an African band and why Namaste Wahala will be the perfect Valentine’s Day watch.
Quotes from the conversation…
How Did Namaste Wahala happen ?
Director Hamisha Ahuja wanted an Indian actor and liked my face so much because he thought I looked exactly like a Bollywood hero. The film was made by African actors and should have been released only in Africa. I remember the style of the film told me that it was a big job but it would not help me in my work, because it would not be released in India. I took it with that mindset and said yes only with experience. When did I ever get the chance to date an African girl or make a crossover film like this? And look, now, one year later, it is Netflix’s first and the whole world will see the film.
From the trailer, it looks like a typical Bollywood film. Called Rajj, there is a conflict of love and even a certain sequence of song and dance.
Technically, Namaste Wahala is a Bollywood film from the soul. To the best of my knowledge Nigerians love Bollywood and to them Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan are like God. Hamisha wanted to make a similar film for the local audience. He wanted to make a concept film with every drama, so that they could get a taste of Bollywood in their films. Also, the culture of both countries is very similar. From agitated parents to divided marriages to modern-day girls being judged, the whole situation worsens at the same time.
Tell us something about your filming experience?
The best part is that they all worked hard on the script, and there was not much I could add. Honestly, it is a very simple and real film. Debates are like real-life conversations. The previous production did very well as they followed many parameters before going down. With the reset, everything went smoothly.
The team knew what they were doing, the gun was pre-arranged, so it was a free and easy time for me. The characters are so passionate and dedicated that I was terrified of their hard work. I once thought that no one who knew me would watch this movie, so I was left out. And now I’m worried because the whole world will see my performance (laughs). I hope everyone will like it.
The trailer has your character, “If it is meant to be, it is meant to be”. He even proposed marriage at the first meeting. Do you believe in this concept of love?
Not just love, I feel like it’s a lesson in life. Destiny is what leads us into it all. I firmly believe that if something has to happen to you, it will happen and if not, no matter how hard you try, it will not work. Watch the film, which came out of nowhere, should not have been released in India and is now the largest platform in the world.
Also, should you have ‘lovedly entered’ the heart of your wife’s parents Nirali Mehta again, as your character on screen?
I certainly did that. Also, in response to your previous question about my health, Nirali and I met when we were a child in Shaimak Davar’s dance studio. I loved her but I never thought we would end up together. It was Shaimak, who had told me he was going to marry her one day, and I had been laughing at his silly words. We are very different people, and they come from different cultures and religions.
So her parents had their doubts and once said no when she first told them about me. A year later, I met them and told them how much I loved them. I also assured them that neither my job nor my religion would prevent her from being happy. They understood that and that one meeting changed everything for us.
Why do you think Namaste Wahala should be the perfect Valentine’s Day watch?
First of all, it is a very popular film, perfect for Valentine’s Day. I wouldn’t say it’s a very different story but yes, this couple is very different and so are their ways. I am sure you will all enjoy watching it.
What did you take back in the film?
That ‘if it was intended to be so, it should have been so’. The end is above all. Also, I have to add the credit name to the director who made this happen. Harmisha has been saying it will be a big job from day one. She really encouraged me with her dedication and her faith. You have a small child, but you managed to produce a film so well. I think women today are just amazing. When they take something they see it so it can come out.