World Cinema Wednesday: Brahman Naman (2016)
Promoted earlier this year as an Indian riff on American Pie, Brahman Naman is more similar in tone to the darker The Last American Virgin (itself a remake, of course, of Lemon Popsicle AKA Eskimo Limon). It has some laughs here and there, and you get the crude set-pieces, but it’s surprisingly bleak, even during the scenes that are supposed to be lighter.
Shashank Arora plays Naman, a nerdy young man who thinks almost non-stop about winning a national quiz with his team mates, and having sex with a lovely partner, and not necessarily in that order. He also spends a lot of his time trying to improve his masturbatory experiences, with the help of appliances like a fridge, a ceiling fan, and even (in the most graphic scene) an aquarium. Which all sounds like it could be funny, yet really isn’t.
Writer Naman Ramachandran litters the script with clever lines, cultural references, and the expected hormonal troubles, which makes this a film with a strong set of bones upon which to hang all the visuals. Unfortunately, director Quashiq Mukherjee doesn’t help with an approach that is too blunt and crude to wring the most laughs from the potential comedy. Comedy, much like horror, can be a lot more effective when you see less, especially when dealing with teen lust, but Mukherjee hasn’t been told that. What could have been a fun sexual quest set in India instead feels like a wallow in a mass of ugly personalities and body fluids.
Arora is okay as Naman, but he struggles to keep viewers on his side as his behaviour becomes easier and easier to dislike. Tanmay Dhanania fares better in the main supporting role, while Chaitanya Varad and Vaishwath Shankar don’t make much of an impression. Subholina Sen and Anula Navlekar both do very well as two main female characters who represent different things to Naman, with both bagging themselves moments that make up for the stupidity of the males trying to act worthy of, or even superior to, them.
Despite my own particular dislike of this film, although I didn’t absolutely hate it, there’s quite a lot to recommend it. Some may find humour in the set-pieces that didn’t really work for me. Others may take more enjoyment from the cultural context of the comedy. It may be an Indian film but those averse to subtitles (you know who you are) can give it a go with the knowledge that the dialogue is spoken in English, making this a nice way to dip your toe into some strange new waters. Personally, I would recommend a dozen, more traditional, Indian movies ahead of this one, but at least this tries to serve as a gateway to people who may not usually show much interest in world cinema.
DIRECTOR: QUASHIQ MUKHERJEE
WRITER: NAMAN RAMACHANDRAN
STARS: SHASHANK ARORA, TANMAY DHANANIA, CHAITANYA VARAD, VAISHWATH SHANKAR, SUBHOLINA SEN, ANULA NAVLEKAR
RUNTIME: 95 MINS APPROX