BRAHMAN NAMAN Review
Director: Qaushiq Mukherjee
In the subset of sex-crazed bro-comedies, 2016 has been most critically receptive of Richard Linklater’s EVERYBODY WANTS SOME. However, if filmmakers are to take Netflix’s latest exclusive acquisition, BRAHMAN NAMAN, more seriously, the subgenre could be making significant strides in rebranding itself. Where Linklater’s film was a carefully staged, charismatic ensemble piece that lacked any further depth other than bare-bones nostalgia and shamelessly fraternal behavior, BRAHMAN NAMAN is a wholly unique exploration of sexual frustrations amongst Indian nerds in 1980s Bangalore. If that hasn’t already piqued your interest, then I don’t know what will.
The rules of the game are simple here: BRAHMAN NAMAN is a deceptive deviation off from being an AMERICAN PIE clone, toying with the conventions of our nerdy protagonists, turning them into detestable, self-entitled quiz nerds that hold themselves at a high regard thanks to their Brahman caste. What works so seamlessly here is that this isn’t a story of boys whose social incompetence makes for a hard time with the ladies. On the contrary, this is a film about an arrogant jerk who projects values on women despite his own glaring flaws. As such, BRAHMAN NAMAN is not only delightfully funny, but at times disturbing and notoriously relevant for India’s contemporary climate of sexual abuses.
The faces of lust
While it might bear similarities to EVERYBODY WANTS SOME in narrative and period, BRAHMAN NAMAN is a whole other beast in form. Filmed entirely with intrusive wide lenses, director Qaushiq Mukherjee (or Q) renders the film into a foggy, delusional state that perfectly captures a combination of Naman’s awe (played with an almost Jerry Lewis-esque knack for gestures by Shashank Arora) for the female form and his belligerent alcoholism. The use of brief animated sequences and trivia questions to bridge narrative beats makes for a spastic visual experience that brilliantly mimics the lead’s manic, sexual desperation.
While not every narrative beat feels particularly original here, it’s the grand scheme of the character work that really pays off. Our ensemble naturally find themselves at the center of an important quiz tournament by the end of the second act, and the film’s development toward this sequence is admittedly clichéd in its planting of information. But the character interactions are so consistently left-field, raunchy, and mean-spirited, that Mukherjee holds onto his audience purely by making it difficult to root for his protagonist. And although lessons are learned and apologies are made, it never really appears that Naman changes as a person in the process, making for a comedy that reminds me more of the postmodern stylings of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA than the classic setup of an early 2000s rom-com.
Led by a charming ensemble, what really drives BRAHMAN NAMAN home is that it boasts intention. What might at first glance appear to be a superficial sexual comedy is in fact a rowdy escapade into the mind of someone who — despite their knack for rote trivia memorization — has no understanding of what makes someone a good person. Where Linklater had all the visual polish and “cool” factor, BRAHMAN NAMAN dares to explore a milieu that viewers rarely get a glimpse into, and for that, it’s all the more interesting.