CEO sees opportunity in rapprochement between Nollywood and Bollywood

by MMC
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Interview with Hamisha Daryani Ahuja

Lives in: Lagos, Nigeria

Hamisha Daryani Ahuja, executive producer and director of the Netflix hit “Namaste Wahala,” sat down for an interview with Ibrahim Sagna, chairman of Silverbacks Holdings, who is also an investor in his company. During their conversation, the businesswoman-turned-filmmaker spoke about her previous hotel venture, her foray into the film industry and the prospects of creating entertainment content that resonates with Nigerian and Indian audiences. Watch the full interview above.

Nollywood and Bollywood are the two largest film industries in the world in terms of production volume. Indo-Nigerian Hamisha Daryani Ahuja, CEO of Nigeria-based Forever 7 Entertainment, sees the potential in the merger of the two.

His first film, “Namaste Wahala”, was released on Netflix in 2021 and was in the top ten for over a month. Nigeria. It tells the story of an Indian-origin investment banker in Lagos and a Nigerian lawyer whose budding romance faces obstacles due to their families’ cultural opposition. “A lot of people were very excited to see a Nigerian and an Indian together – it’s not a very normal or common thing,” says Hamisha, who spent most of her life in an Indian home in Nigeria.

She points out that Bollywood films were already popular in Nigeria. “I really wanted to make an Indo-Nigerian film, because…Nigeria has grown thanks to Indian content. All my Nigerian friends know Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan – Bollywood has such a big impact, how come no one has tried to merge the two?

“What I tried to do with ‘Namaste Wahala’ is to bring authentic Nigerian culture as well as authentic Indian culture and put them together. So you have your pidgin (Nigerian), you have the mother-in-law who speaks Hindi. But everyone speaks English and everything is sort of mixed up,” says Hamisha.

She adds that the film was also popular among Indians living in Nigeria. “It’s my biggest fan club right now. I meet people all the time. They ask themselves: “When is the next one coming out?” Because you could understand all this as an expat living in Lagos.

Hamisha’s next project, a mini-series titled ‘Postcards’, is also a Nollywood-Bollywood collaboration. The production, filmed mainly in Mumbai with segments in Lagos, used some of Nollywood’s leading actors, who were flown to Mumbai for filming. The series follows the stories of several characters whose lives intersect in a series of life-changing events.

Previous companies

Ever since she was a child, Hamisha has aspired to be involved in the film industry. However, she initially chose to focus on business. She pursued business studies during her undergraduate studies and later completed a postgraduate diploma in hospitality.

This led her to establish Bistro 7, a restaurant chain in Lagos, in 2012. After running it for about seven years, she sold the business to Chocolate City Group, a Nigerian company, then headed by the superstar MI music.

Moreover, she runs a speaking and coaching company. She has hosted workshops titled The Pursuit of Happiness from her restaurant Bistro 7. In this area, she has also collaborated with leading organizations and even coached Big Brother Naija housemates on live television.

Watch the full interview at the top of this article.

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