“Namaste Wahala to me means oneness, it means uniting not because of our differences but through it” Ini Dima-Okojie
Earmarked as the biggest cross-cultural movie in Nigeria, Namaste Wahala brings together two of the biggest movie industries worldwide: Bollywood and Nollywood. Namaste Wahala marks a revolutionary shift in the Nollywood industry, paving the way for what we hope to be the birth of more cross-cultural films.
Namaste Wahala resembles a typical love story featuring the challenges faced by couples in intercultural relationships. Access24 had a chat with the prominent Nollywood actress Ini Dima-Okojie and the female lead character in Namaste Wahala. We talked to her about her role as “Didi” in the film, challenges she faced while filming, and other exclusive details about Namaste Wahala.
- Namaste wahala has been described as the biggest cross-cultural romantic movie in Nigeria. How does it feel to be playing the lead role in this breakthrough movie that has linked the world’s two biggest movie industries?
Woo! I remember getting the script, or even before then, I remember seeing the sign, and I already knew it was going to be a cross-culture film. And I knew it was special, Uhm, so I felt so honoured to be playing it, and I knew it was going to be such an adventure.
But I did not expect, the whirlwind and all of the love that I have received from all over, from places, you know, countries that I didn’t even know about. Countries I plan on or dream of visiting. The ample love and how much people relate to the story has been beyond anything I could have imagined. So, it feels very special to be in this spot right now, and I don’t take it for granted.
2. In a few words, tell us what Namaste Wahala means to you?
Namaste Wahala, to me, means oneness; it means uniting, not in spite of our differences but through them. And it definitely also means love, that love that cuts beyond boundaries and cuts beyond cultures, and it just represents how I think we as human beings should live every day.
3. As one of the main characters in this blockbuster, what challenges did you experience trying to portray “Didi”, and how alike are you guys in real life?
Woo! Playing the lead female, I mean, that was a lot because apart from the fact that she was such a strong character, there was this whole aspect which was the Bollywood aspect that I had never done before. I had watched them as a kid because I would watch a lot of Bollywood movies, but you know the fact that I had to perform.
The director and the lead male, they kept saying this thing, that you need to find your “Nakrah”, you need to find your “Nakrah”. And I am like, “what is Nakrah?@ So I had to do so much research, and you know just that confidence, it was a mix of being like sultry but also just vibing. Uhm! And that was such an exciting experience; I was so nervous about that aspect, but when I think of all the fun moments, that is the first thing I picture.
The similarities between me and my character, I think the one or even two similarities we have is she is such a compassionate person, and I am such a compassionate person. I have so much empathy, and then also, I fight very hard for what I believe in. If I believe in something, I am very quick to speak up about it and to voice it out and fight for it.
4. Walk us through the auditioning, casting and production process of the movie? Getting the role and receiving the script must have been exciting; what was your first reaction to this news?
So the audition process was quite funny because I actually got the side to read for Angie, the friend. So I went in to read, and then someone from production came out and handed me a different side for Didi and said that I would be auditioning for parts. So you know, on the spot I had to quickly, because I had three days to prepare for Angie, so on the spot, I had to prepare for Didi.
So I go in, audition for Didi, and they tell me not to audition for Angie anymore, so I’m like, ok, and then I got a callback. The whole process was quite a long process; I had to send in dance videos, singing videos and all that jazz.
And I remember it was probably like a month or a month and some, and then I finally got the call that I had been cast as the lead female in Namaste Wahala. And I (laughs) I was so excited because for me it was such a fresh idea, I had never done anything like that before, and I was really really excited.
5. Was working on Namaste Wahala any different from working with an all Nigerian cast? Tell us a little about your set chemistry with lead actor and Didi’s love interest Ruslaan Mumtaz?
Uhm, I mean, obviously, there was the anticipation of meeting the actors and crew members that were coming from Bollywood. But what we noticed is immediately we met, we hit it off instantly. I met Ruslaan; first, we just started gisting like we’d known each other forever. I was worried at first because we only had a day to sort of bond and we were filming the next day, so I was a bit worried. I’m like, omigosh, we don’t have enough time to connect, and you know, build on that chemistry, but then we hit off instantly.
And he is such a good friend to me even now we still chat, so yeah, that was amazing. Working with him was a breeze; he is such a decent guy.
You can watch the full interview video HERE
6. Namaste Wahala was widely anticipated; however, due to COVID-19, its launch had to be postponed. How did you react to the news of its postponement? What do you think about the viewers’ acceptance since its premiere on Netflix?
The pandemic hit everyone so hard; 2020 was a year that we all did not expect. I remember I had another film that had just come out in March, and we were doing cinema rounds, and I could tell how it affected the film.
Obviously, nobody was going out because everyone was so scared. The news of the pandemic was so fresh, and Namaste Wahala was supposed to be premiering in April, April 2020. I remember Hamisha (the director) calling me and telling me she was thinking of postponing it, you know. And I’m like yeah, to be honest, I thought it was the best call; it just made sense.
It was sad that it was going to happen that way, but it just made sense. But look at the time and chance and that line we say in the movie, “if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be”, because now we even had such a platform that put us in front of a global audience. I cannot explain how intense it has all been, the overpour of love has been crazy from the world, and so many people relate to it.
So many testimonies; people could just see themselves in it. So many people from cross-cultural relationships, you know the love has just been intense and overwhelming. And I am just so excited; it couldn’t have come out in a better way.
7. Do you believe in love at first sight? What are your views on intercultural marriages?
Do I believe in love at first sight? I think I believe in having a strong connection; at first sight, I’ve literally seen that happen. I don’t know if I believe in love Love immediately, but I believe in strong connection at first sight.
About crosscultural relationships, I’m all for it. I don’t believe love should be held back just because of where we are from. I believe that Love should exist beyond borders. I believe love should exist beyond cultures. So yeah! Definitely for it.
8. Many people have described Nollywood today as “Newschool Nollywood,” do you think this description is right? And what are your thoughts on the strides the Nollywood movie industry has made so far?
Uhm! To me, Nollywood is Nollywood, that’s it, and we’ve come so far. I loved to watch Nollywood back in the day, I grew up on it, and you know, to see the things that we are capable of with the little we really have at our disposal. We do our best to make magic, and I can only imagine the bright future we have and how much more we would improve. Thank God the world is just opening up to all of the beauty that this industry has to offer.
I am very glad I am here to see it and be part of it.
9. After a long day on set shooting, what do you do to relax?
I love my wine, so I would pop open a bottle of Mello or Chardonnay; it could be white, it could be red, and yeah, that’s how I unwind. Sit back; I love reality shows, so pop one reality show, series my glass of fine and it’s heaven.