Is Namaste Wahala Helping to Normalise Interracial Relationships?
Namaste Wahala is a 2020 Bollywood-Nollywood crossover that tells the story of lovestruck Raj and Didi who try to break free of their families’ cultural biases and fall in love. The two face barriers on both sides, as both parents adamantly disagree with the match and actively try to pull them apart. As the movie progresses Raj and Didi, as well as their respective families, learn to accept and love their new culturally blended family.
Romantic comedies, until recently, have not delved into the complexities and nuances of interracial relationships. While it is not entirely unusual to see an interracial relationship between a white person and a person of colour, we have only recently begun to see the inclusion of South Asians as viable love interests in this genre of film. What makes Namaste Wahala particularly unique however, is the relationship dynamic between a South Asian man and a Black woman. The South Asian community has a history with anti-blackness and although interracial relationships as a whole are still not as common, relationships between South Asians and the Black community are even less common. The movie does not go particularly in depth into the cultural nuances between the two communities, like Mississippi Masala for example, however the elaborate dance moves and songs make the movie fantastically fun and allow you to let go of cultural complexities for an hour and 45 minutes. It’s bright and colourful, and makes you swoon at their ‘love at first sight’.
However, Namaste Wahala is not a perfect movie. It is fun and entertaining, but it lacks the finesse of Bollywood movies and misses the opportunity to discuss cultural differences. Instead, the families on either side simply just emphasise their preference for a daughter/son-in-law within their cultural boundaries. There were ample opportunities for the movie to not only discuss anti-blackness within the South Asian community, but the added interesting dynamic of bias towards South Asian immigrants in Africa. Aside from cultural complexities, the movie barely discussed the overt misogyny of Didi’s father pressuring his daughter to get married so that he would have someone to leave his firm to – without the consideration that his own daughter was capable of it on her own. Although this was attempted by having Raj’s mother pointing it out, this conversation near the end of the movie came off as more rushed and tying up loose ends than anything else. As an audience member, you’re left wondering – ‘If Didi was headstrong enough to fight for her relationship with Raj, why did she never fight for herself?’.
Despite its faults, this is why movies like this are so important. South Asians are very rarely represented as viable romantic leads in films, with many of us delegated to the best friend or the weird comic relief. Even further, celebrating culturally blended families on screen, allows us to normalise and celebrate these relationships in real life. Overall, Namaste Wahala is a feel-good movie at the end of the day. It has its dramatics, without delving in too deep into the politics of it, gives us some pretty decent dance numbers and celebrates cross-cultural love.
‘Namaste Wahala’ is available to watch on Netflix.