Actress Ruslaan Mumtaz is excited to release his latest project, an intergenerational romance called Namaste Wahala. The film, starring Nigerian actress Ini Dima-Okojie, will first appear on Netflix on February 14th.
Ruslaan stars Indian investment banker Raj in this all-Bollywood international film. He falls in love at first sight with Nigerian lawyer Didi (Ini Dima-Okojie) and the couple has to overcome cultural obstacles before they can find them happily afterwards. In addition to their worries are their parents, who just make love matters harder for them.
In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Ruslaan Mumtaz talks about bagging this crossover film, his experience working with an African team and why Namaste Wahala is going to be a true Day watch Valentine.
Extracts from the conversation…
How did Namaste Wahala happen?
Director Hamisha Ahuja was looking for an Indian actress and I really liked her because she thought I looked just like a Bollywood hero. The film was made by an African team and was supposed to be released in Africa only. I remember the stylist of the film telling me that it is a very good project but it will not help me in my career, as it will not be released in India. I lifted that mindset and said it was for the experience alone. When would I ever have had the opportunity to make an African girl romance or even a crossover movie like this? And see, now, a year later, it’s originally Netflix and the whole world gets to see the movie.
From the trailer, it looks like a typical Bollywood movie. You are known as Raj, there is a love conflict and even some song and dance sequences.
Technically, Namaste Wahala is a Bollywood film from the soul. From what I have come to know people in Nigeria they love Bollywood and for them Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan are like God. Hamisha wanted to make a similar film for the audience there. She wanted to make a concept film with all the drama, so that they could get a taste of Bollywood in their own films. Also, the cultures of the two countries are very similar. From parents complaining about inter-caste marriage to today’s girls being judged, the whole situation boils down to the same thing.
Tell us something about your shooting experience for the movie?
The best part is that they had all worked so hard on the script, and there wasn’t much for me to add. Honestly, it’s a pretty simple and real movie. The conversations are also like real conversations. The pre-production was done well because they followed a lot of parameters before they went on the floor. On set too, everything was so smooth. The team knew what they were doing, the pictures were pre-planned, so it was a very quiet and easy time for me. The actors there are so passionate and enthusiastic, that I was amazed at their hard work. I was somewhere thinking that someone I know wouldn’t be watching the movie, so I was chilled. And now I worry because the whole world will see my accomplishment (laughter). Hope you all enjoy it.
Your character at the trailer says, “If it’s supposed to be, it should be”. He even recommends getting married at the first meeting. Do you believe in this love theory too?
Not just love, I feel like this is the theory of my life. It is Destiny that leads us to everything. I truly believe that if something has to come to you, it will work and if it does not, how much you try, it will not work out. Check out this movie, it came out of nowhere, it was not supposed to release in India and now it is on the biggest platform for the world to see.
Also, did you have to ‘charm your way’ into the heart of Nirali Mehta’s wife’s parents as well, just like your on-screen character?
Of course I did. And also, answering a previous question about my life, Nirali and I met when we were kids at Shaimak Davar’s dance studio. I enjoyed it but I never thought we would be together. It was Shaimak, who had told me that you would marry her sometime, and I had lamented his unconventional idea. We are very different people, and come from different cultures and religions. So her parents were skeptical and hadn’t even said it when she first told them about me. A year later, I met them, I told them how much I love her. I also assured them that my career or faith would never come as a way to her happiness. They understood that and one meeting changed everything for us.
Why do you think Namaste Wahala should be a real Valentine’s Day watch?
First of all, it’s a very romantic movie, perfect for Valentine’s Day. I wouldn’t say it’s a very different story but yes, this couple is very special and so are their ways. I’m sure you’ll all enjoy seeing it.
What brought you back from the movie?
That is ‘if it is supposed to be, it is intended to be’. Destiny is above all else. Also, I have to add a word of credit for the director who made this happen. Harmisha has been saying it will be a big project from day one. She has really inspired me with her commitment and credibility. She also has a young child, but nonetheless she could film it so beautifully. I think women today are just amazing. If they bring up something they can see through what might come.
You started with movies, then you did TV, and now you are also on the web. What medium will you focus on in the coming days?
Sometime back I realized that there is no form or formula to success. You have to keep working without worrying about what would click or grow big. For that reason, I don’t care about the manufacturers, medium or which country it would release. All I want to do is do some good duties. And I love acting, so I’d rather spend my time on set than waiting at home thinking what I’d done.
You recently became a father, so did the lock come as a blessing to you since you got to spend so much time with your son?
Yes, it was beautiful to see it grow. He was anxious when he was born during the lockout. We didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, so we hadn’t bought any clothes. And then the whole country was locked up when he was born. My poor baby was just in his napkins most of the time. Some good souls contacted us on Facebook and offered their children clothes and toys, which we humbly accepted. It was a surreal time.
What’s in it for you?
I have made a web presentation for the Digiflex platform called The Perfect Script. He is also the star of Rajneish Duggal and Rahul Dev.
Also featuring Richard Mofe-Damijo and Sujata Sehgal in key roles, Namaste Wahala will start streaming from February 14th.