Nigeria: CEO spots opportunity in bridging Nollywood and Bollywood

Interview with Hamisha Daryani Ahuja

Lives in: Lagos, Nigeria

Hamisha Daryani Ahuja, the executive producer and director of the Netflix hit ‘Namaste Wahala’, sat down for an interview with Ibrahim Sagna, chairman of Silverbacks Holdings, which is also an investor in her company. In their conversation, the businesswoman-turned-filmmaker delved into her previous hospitality venture, her foray into the film industry, and the prospects for crafting entertainment content that resonates with both Nigerian and Indian audiences. Watch the full interview above.

Nollywood and Bollywood are the world’s two largest film industries by production volume. Indian-Nigerian Hamisha Daryani Ahuja, CEO of Nigeria-based Forever 7 Entertainment, sees potential in fusing the two.

Her debut film, ‘Namaste Wahala’, was released on Netflix in 2021 and trended in the top ten for over a month in Nigeria. It narrates the story of an Indian-born investment banker in Lagos and a Nigerian lawyer whose budding romance faces hurdles due to cultural opposition from their families. “A lot of people were very excited to see a Nigerian and an Indian together – it is not a very normal or common thing you see,” says Hamisha, who has spent most of her life in an Indian household in Nigeria.

She points out that Bollywood films were already popular in Nigeria. “I really wanted to do an Indian-Nigerian movie, because … Nigeria has grown up on Indian content. All my Nigerian friends know Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan – Bollywood is such a big impact, how come no one’s tried to merge the two together?”

“What I tried to do with ‘Namaste Wahala’ is bring some authentic Nigerian culture as well as authentic Indian culture and put it together. So you have your [Nigerian] Pidgin, you have the mother in law speaking Hindi. But everybody is speaking English and it’s all sort of mixed together,” Hamisha explains.

She adds that the movie was also popular among Indians living in Nigeria. “That’s my biggest fan club at the moment. I bump into people all the time. They are like, ‘When’s the next one coming out?’ Because you could relate so much as an expat living in Lagos.”

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

Earlier ventures

Since she was a child, Hamisha has aspired to be involved in the movie industry. Yet, she opted to initially take the business path. She pursued commerce in her undergraduate studies and later completed a postgraduate degree in hospitality.

This led her to establish Bistro 7, a restaurant chain in Lagos, in 2012. After managing it for about seven years, she sold the enterprise to Chocolate City Group, a Nigerian company, which was then under the leadership of music superstar M.I.

In addition, she runs a speaking and coaching business. She conducted workshops called The Pursuit of Happiness from her Bistro 7 restaurant. In this realm, she has also collaborated with prominent organisations and even coached the Big Brother Naija housemates on live television.

Watch the full interview at the top of this article.