Brahman Naman


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Chaitanya Varad, Shashank Arora, Tanmay Dhanania and Vaiswath Shankar in Brahman Naman - when Bangalore University’s misfit quiz team manages to get into the national championships, they make an alcohol-fuelled, cross-country journey to the competition, determined to defeat their arch-rivals from Calcutta while all desperately trying to lose their virginity.
"Cements Shashank Arora - so good in gritty drama Titli and demonstrating sharp comic timing here - as an up-and-coming Indian star to look out for." | Photo: Tiziana Puleio

This 80s-set coming-of-age comedy gives an Indian twist to the American Pie genre and was one of six titles bought by Netflix at Sundance this year. Almost two decades after the Weitz brothers' film, it's interesting to note that this one is prefaced by a quote - a disclaimer if you will - that: "All said and done, the young male, anywhere in the world, is a rather ugly and pointless evolutionary experiment." It's the equivalent of saying: "Look out ladies, there maybe sexism ahead, but you know it's all our fault, right?"

Thankfully, the heart of this film by Q (Qaushiq Mukherjee to his mum) and written by Naman Ramachandran is in the right place, taking on the tried and tested formula of college kids who want to lose their virginity and giving it added pep by showing the influence of India's caste system (Brahman is the highest order of the four varnas) on their lustful urges. It also cements Shashank Arora - so good in gritty drama Titli and demonstrating sharp comic timing here - as an up-and-coming Indian star to look out for.

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He plays Naman, the quiz king of his high school. Able to quote Shakespeare at the drop of a hat, he is less interested in the language of love than its mechanics, coming up with inventive masturbation techniques involving household white goods. His friends Ajay (Tanmay Dhanania) and Ramu (Chaitanya Varad) are similarly obsessed with the twin urges of getting drunk and getting laid. The token female member of his quiz team Ash (Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy) dotes on Naman yet is spurned at every turn while he makes doe eyes at Rita (Subholina Sen), even though she is "not a Brahman, not even a servant class".

The main plot driver is a quiz competition in Calcutta, which, having ditched Ash for a third male member of the team Randy (Vaiswath Shankar), the boys head to by train under the less-than-watchful eye of their teacher (Denzil Smith). Along the way they meet a team of girl geeks, headed by the feisty Naina (Anula Navlekar), who is more than a match for Naman, and learn a handful of life lessons, although the humiliation of one character and extensive voyeurism in certain scenes leave a bad taste that is not fully ameliorated by the boys' commeuppance.

Still, if not everything works here quite a bit does and what it lacks in characterisation Q makes up for in style, using 80s-influenced animated sequences and music cues including Jethro Tull's Locomotive Breath and The Doors' Alabama Song to keep the energy levels high. If that isn't enough, he also includes title cards with quiz questions throughout the film and patient audiences (or those who fast-forward the Netflix credits) are rewarded with the answers at the end.

The film launches on July 7, exclusively on Netflix.

Reviewed on: 28 Jun 2016
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A quiz team aim for glory, while targeting the loss of their virginity.

Director: Qaushiq Mukherjee

Writer: Naman Ramachandran

Starring: Shashank Arora, Denzil Smith, Tanmay Dhanania, Sid Mallya, Shataf Figar, Anula Navlekar, Subhojit Sen, Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy, Vaishwath Shankar, Chaitanya Varad

Year: 2016

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, India

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