Brahman Naman review: Netflix’s 1st Indian film is a perverted American Pie
Cast : Shashank Arora, Tanmay Dhanania, Chaitanya Varad
There comes a point in Brahman Naman, when director Q’s lecherous camera turns to a young woman passing by our trio of protagonists. They salivate longingly – as young men in Q’s films do. But then, you notice that behind the young woman of their dreams, there is a schoolgirl - in uniform. And that, in essence, is the deranged perversion of the pretentiously named Q.
The film that earned him notoreity is one of underground legend. It was passed, like contraband, among cinephiles half-a-decade ago, invariably accompanied with whispers of its shocking nature. I’m not entirely sure if I can even write its name here. All right, I’m going to go for it – it is called Gandu. It is a testament to that film’s provocative lunacy, that this one (I refused to watch Tasher Desh) begins with our hero Naman humping an ‘80s Kelvinator, and yet, earning the dubious distinction of being Q’s most accessible film.
On the surface, Brahman Naman is very familiar. It follows the same unwritten principles explored by films like Animal House, American Pie and Superbad. It is a puerile sex comedy, featuring the most insufferable set of young men this side of a public service advert about eve teasing. The only difference is that those films had heart.
It is set ‘sometime in the ‘80s’ in Bangalore. Naman and his friends are quizzers, which, in this movie means that they speak like pompous Wikipedia articles. Indeed, if this movie were set in the present day, it’s people like Naman and his cronies who’d probably have written a majority of the Wikipedia entries of the world.
But in all honestly, the film totally nails the lonely, deeply surreal boys club that is the quizzing subculture. It is a world I am unfortunately familiar with, and the film captures everything from the dingy, self-serious nature of the participants to the grizzled, way-past-their-prime vibe of the quizmasters.
But none of this pointless knowledge can help Naman and his pals in getting with girls, which, I should point out, is the real obsession of this movie, and not, as you might have believed, quizzing.
It is structured a lot like those American sex comedies, complete with nerds and jocks, one of whom is played, in an appearance that took me completely off guard, by Sid Mallya. Yes, him of the iffy parentage. And Mallya isn’t the only pleasant cameo this deeply unpleasant film can boast of. If you look closely, you’ll notice that a particularly creepy man is played by none other than Biswa Kalyan Rath. And I can’t wait till he reviews it in his own pretentious way.
Shashank Arora, at just two films old, has already shown range most actors can’t through decade-long careers. In Brahman Naman, he is as far removed from Titli as is mathematically possible. He makes the really odd choice to play his character like that posh monkey from the Madagascar movies, which just adds to the weirdness, especially when he breaks out into a song that sounds like one of Bappi Lahiri’s compositions that even he shook his head at.
For better or for worse, this film is like the characters it depicts. It’s like The Inbetweeners that way – crude, crass, foul, sweaty, occasionally funny and relentlessly perverted. It’s like that childhood friend of yours that kept giving you the most disgusting dares in a round of truth or dare, mocking you for not having the courage to follow through, a shameless grin on his face. And you know you did them all. You did all those despicable things. And then, you bowed your head in shame, just like you will when you’re done with this movie.