#KetchupTalks: Hamisha Daryani Ahuja's brand of filmmaking is mixing Nigerian drama with Indian masala!

Sakshi Sharma
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Hamisha Daryani Ahuja

Hamisha Daryani Ahuja

Hamisha Daryani Ahuja of Namaste Wahala tells us about her new project, Postcards, and her journey as an Indian auteur filmmaker in Nollywood. 

The love for Bollywood is ever-growing around the world! Recently, we saw a whole wave of Kareena's make-up from Asoka going viral on TikTok, with many foreigners trying to recreate the look while lip-syncing to the San Sanana song. After more than twenty years, the film is finding a new place on social media and an audience for it. Similarly, we can see the impact of Bollywood on other film industries as well and hence it's not hard to imagine a Nollywood and Bollywood combination, which is exactly what Hamisha Daryani Ahuja, a Nigerian-born businesswoman-turned-filmmaker of Indian descent, is doing! She has found a powerful connection between the two industries and married them together to give us something new and exciting. Her recent project, Postcards on Netflix, follows four Nigerians navigating love and self-discovery in India. But before that, her debut film, Namaste Wahala, also on Netflix, followed a Nigerian-Indian couple's journey towards convincing their respective parents who disapprove of their relationship. 

Also Read: The Janta has mixed feelings about Sharan Sharma's Mr and Mrs Mahi!

Hamisha shifted to filmmaking after being a motivational speaker who delivered shows on the pursuit of happiness, women empowerment and the law of attraction. She's also a successful entrepreneur who founded Bistro 7, a chain of restaurants in Lagos in 2012. Today, she talks to us about her journey, finding a connection between Nollywood and Bollywood, what Indian audiences can gain through this connection, why cross-cultural themes are important to her, and how different roles have helped her grow as a person. 

Here's what she had to say!

How has your journey been from a restaurant founder and motivational speaker to a filmmaker? What caused the shift? 

It has been a beautiful journey. I ran restaurants for 7 years; I have an Honours Commerce Degree from Canada and then a Postgrad in Hospitality from Switzerland. Hence, opening a restaurant was always part of the plan. However, the big childhood dream was films! I conduct self-development workshops for companies and organizations, and during these workshops, I realized that the big dream had not gone away. After my restaurant chain was successfully acquired, I was freed up to jump wholeheartedly into the career of my dreams. Little did I know what I had in store ahead. 

How did you find a connection between Nollywood and Bollywood with your debut film, Namaste Wahala, and now with Postcards? 

Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. Bollywood was a huge impact on our society. Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini were household names. Zee and Sony's shows were shown on every TV. I always wondered why no one had combined the two industries given that it was so popular here. This is how ‘Namaste Wahala’ was born, to have the Nigerian drama mixed with the masala of India. With Postcards, I took it a step further and, this time flew Nollywood to India with a more modern, slice-of-life drama story.

Hamisha on set

What are some of the cultural challenges that you face when you blend in Nollywood with Bollywood? 

I wouldn’t call it challenges as much as opportunities to grow and learn. Both industries are similar in nature regarding their growth trajectory but on different timelines. However, what is matched is talent, vigor, and discipline. This, to me, is the recipe for success when bringing two superpowers together. In regards to differences, of course, there were some, and these come as a function of economics, infrastructure, and economies of scale, but I feel the gap is getting bridged quite quickly. Culturally, we are very similar. Our love for family, fashion, food, morals, and entertainment greatly overlap!

Is cross-cultural love, as a theme, important for you?  

Cross-cultural love is very important to me because it is so prevalent in the world today. It was one of the main feedback remarks I received after ‘Namaste Wahala.’ People would DM saying they felt seen! Additionally, I am a huge fan of love stories and rom-coms in general. I really do love ‘love’ and will continue to show love, be it in different avatars. 

Has stepping into different roles as a woman - daughter, wife, mother, and being a film producer, director, and even actor changed you and how? 

In this journey, I feel I have grown a lot and, yes, changed a lot. Wearing different hats is a privilege I do not take for granted. I feel it is the greatest honor and experience to have a balanced life with all these roles. How we address these roles is important. "The more you do, the more you can do’’! I love and follow this ethos. Balance is an interesting word, it depends what you prioritise and how you dispel and protect your energy, time, and focus. In regards to complementing each other. I genuinely feel I could not have one without the other. My entrepreneurial side helps with the business side of filmmaking as it is a business, and the more impact, reach, and ROI you have, the more future business can be attained. From a creative perspective, the better the stories, the more well-received they will be; hence, since the story/production is the product we are selling, this needs to be top-notch. Finally, motivational speaking and the spiritual side of my work help me stay grounded. It also helps with handling people and, in fact, picking the right team to work with both in front and behind the cameras. Having some calm on set doesn’t hurt either. 

Hamisha behind the scenes

What can the Indian audience take away from your style of storytelling? How do you navigate the Nigerian industry space as an Indian woman producer?

The Indian audience can relate to my storytelling style as there is a huge Indian component in there. However, there is also the novelty of bringing a new culture into the domain. In ‘Postcards,’ one can relate to the human emotion, drive, and connections the characters experience during their journeys. It does not matter the nationality or culture but more the human emotion and drive. I am an Indian woman living in Nigeria. Nigeria is my home! It has been the place I have grown up and all though I lived abroad for schooling and work, Nigeria is my heart and home and hence navigating the industry space is quite natural for me given I have already run businesses here before.

Did you like what she had to say? You can follow her here.

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