“Postcards” Review: Twice As Bold Yet A Second-time Letdown

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In 2021, Nigeria-born businesswoman of Indian descent, Hamisha Daryani Ahuja, made a bold New Nollywood attempt at merging Nigerian and Indian cultural worlds in her Netflix production debut, Namaste Wahala. Though set in Lagos, Nigeria, with conversations rendered predominantly in English, the Valentine’s Day romcom release brings together a cast of both Nollywood and Bollywood actors, showcasing a blend of different cultural values as much as highlighting the conflict of both worlds in its thematic thrust. With love used as a tool to foster relationships and breach racism, the film touches on aspects of culture such as marriage, language and food. It also navigates sensitive issues like domestic violence and women empowerment, appealing to the feminist audience. Hamisha Daryani succeeds in creating palpable cross-cultural and inter-continental bonds, but the storyline and acting suffers.

On Postcards, a six-part Netflix series, Hamisha Daryani returns as producer and director. Sola Sobowale plays the lead role of Aunty Bunmi, a gregarious yet unhappy and lonely woman. Ailing, Aunty Bunmi visits India for medical treatment, where she meets and creates a special bond with an Indian doctor, Dr. Siddharth (Rajnesh Duggal), married to a Nigerian woman, Zainab (Rahama Sadau). Unknown to Aunty Bunmi, her rebellious son, Yemi (Tobi Bakre), has left school and is also headed for India to pursue his creative passion. Her rich Indian-based brother, Olumide (Richard Mofe-Damijo), is so emotionally downcast and traumatized over an estranged affair with an Indian woman that he gives less attention to the hospitalized Aunty Bunmi who is on the verge of undergoing a surgery. After the successful operation and in a twist of events, the family reunite over a birthday celebration where they bury the hatchet and forge a new bond. 

Hamisha Daryani’s sophomore feature film, just like her first, has a cast and crew of Nigerians and Indians. But unlike Namaste Wahala, Postcards is more adventurous as it is shot in both India and Nigeria, with scenes set in cosmopolitan Mumbai. The storyline, which presents characters of intersecting lives, has less of the racial tensions that accompany Daryani’s debut. Indians mix better with Nigerians in this new filmic world of resplendent interracial relationships. There’s Kabir (Rio Kapadia), a close friend and associate of Olumide, who helps him get over his obsession with his love interest, Rekha, overcome his depression and re-align with a purposeful existence. Dr. Siddharth and Zainab make a loving and durable pair though their marriage is momentarily tested. The filmmaker empowers Zainab enough to embrace her cross-cultural reality—she lives in India, easily gets along with her husband’s family and speaks some Hindi in conversations with her husband and his family. Also, Aunty Bunmi gains the trust of Dr Siddharth, confiding with the young man who offers her comfort at a critical time that she feels neglected by her family. Through their philia love, the filmmaker emphasizes the importance of prioritizing humanity above cultural and ideological differences. Yemi, too, forges a genuine friendship with Aarti (Gurleen Grewal) and gets along with other dance classmates, except Ronny the bully (Chirag Bajaj). 

But Postcards comes with its own excesses and letdowns. While Daryani’s series chronicles individuals, picturing them in their own separate worlds before bringing them in  proximity with one another and having their lives and affairs intertwined, some characters  are poor in construct and clothed in the meagrely dressed plot. Early scenes of Aunty Bunmi snobbing a friend, Iya Kofo (Tina Mba), and then grudgingly purchasing from another friend a clothing material create a contradictory and duplicitous impression of the character. You expect an interesting sense of discipline from someone who claims to be a no-nonsense person. But then, the character disappoints when she cannot hold her ground and refuse buying an item she isn’t motivated about. No further scenes explore the disciplined, unyielding part of her character, so the narrator fails to convince us of her self-assessment in the film’s exposition.

The film alludes to the importance of childbirth and motherhood in Nigerian and Indian cultures. It raises the sentiment that marital life is incomplete without children, subjecting the value of  a woman to her biological productivity. While Zainab appears concerned how pregnancy might negatively affect her career and marriage, the film does not shed light on her profession and explore fully the motivation behind her choice. Whereas Nancy Isime embodies the lovable and energetic character of Isioma, Zainab’s visiting friend from Nigeria, this character gets lost in the unfolding events, becoming needless and dispensable to the plot. Also, flashbacks could have been used to recall special moments between Olumide and Rekya so as to concretize his present state of despondency for veritable audience satisfaction.

Postcards is steps ahead of  Daryani’s filmmaking debut in style. It’s audacious and offers a refreshing perspective on the similarities of Indian and Nigerian cultures, both societies appearing to prioritize family and marital values. But, in execution, and with focus on structure,  the story is more suited for a film than the series it is, as it just feels too basic in plot and character development.