Brahman Naman (2016) Movie Review: Quizzical Days

Directors like Q in India are a rarity. While his brand of cinema is not exactly what would be considered palatable by the movie-going public, if one chooses to partake of that experience, it is quite an illuminating experience. After his controversial debut feature “Gandu” and the psychedelic “Tasher Desh”, when it was announced that his next feature would be a take on the quizzing subculture set in 80s Bangalore, it created some excitement among the Indie film fandom and the trailers that showed up just added to the excitement. The question here is, would this be as huge a shock to the system as Gandu? Or would this be the most accessible of all his works till date.

Brahman Naman PosterNaman (Shashank Arora) is the arrogant leader of Bangalore University’s best quiz team, who along with his cohorts Ajay (Tanmay Dhanania), Ramu (Chaithanya Varad) and newbie Randy (Vaishwath Shankar) spend their days and nights lost in a haze of porn, cigars, trivia and alcohol, while fending off the unwanted advances of the sweet, yet doormat like Ash (Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy), trying to get one up on the campus heartthrob and cricket captain Ronnie (Siddharth Mallya) and also grab the attention of the attractive Rita D’Souza (Subholina Sen) . When Naman’s team qualifies for the finals of an inter-university quizzing tournament, the boys accompanied by a cynical wisecracking chaperone Bernie (Denzil Smith) head to Calcutta, with the journey and its aftermath having rather strange consequences on everybody involved.

Director Q and writer Naman Ramachandran (who borrows from his own life experiences) come up with a raunchy, irreverent and yet thought-provoking take on sexual frustration, caste supremacy and intellectual superiority in the Doordarshan era. The detailing is absolutely immaculate, and takes you back in time to the pre-IT boom Bangalore, when it was still a pensioner’s paradise (Although the movie was actually shot in Mysore to get that 80s feel). The writing here is absolutely crackling, and the energy shows, especially in the rapid fire exchanges between the characters coupled with some absolutely memorable dialogues. The cinematography by Siddhartha Nuni and the editing by Manas Mittal are top-notch and you don’t feel restless for even a minute.

Brahman Naman Still 2Shashank Arora as the pompous Naman is in fine nick here for the most, except for a slightly questionable accent. Tanmay Dhanania and Chaithanya Varad are absolutely brilliant; especially Tanmay who gets some of the movie’s best lines and absolutely owns them with his deadpan delivery. Denzil Smith ends up stealing the show here as the sardonic chaperone with sarcasm and drunken charm hiding his innate bigotry. Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy is heartbreakingly adorable as the sprightly, smitten Ash. A mention has to be made of Anula Navlekar who makes a hell of an impact as the straight talking sharp cookie Madras team captain, Naina. Fans of Kannada cinema will be pleasantly surprised to see Ashok Mandanna (Accident) as Naman’s conservative father. Keep your eyes open for extended cameos by Sid Mallya as the obnoxious cricket team captain, and stand-up comic Biswa Kalyan Rath as their even more obnoxious classmate.

Brahman Naman is a sex comedy all right. But it has a heart, and more importantly, a mind. However be warned, as it gets a little too politically incorrect for comfort.

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