Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sundance ’16: Brahman Naman

As a Brahmin, Naman is at the top of India’s caste system. However, cute girls still consider him untouchable—make that pretty much all girls. Naman will obsess over losing his virginity, but his own caste prejudices will undermine his efforts in Q’s Brahman Naman (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Naman is the captain of his College Bowl-esque Quiz team, a Brahmin-dominated competition if ever there was one. It is no coincidence how that works. Naman has packed the team with three of his horndog Brahmin cronies rather than recruit the best potential “quizzers,” like their loyal supporter Ash. She obviously carries a torch for Naman, but he treats her with caste-based disdain. Nevertheless, he awkwardly pursues the sexy lower-caste Rita for reasons of lust.

Since this is the 1980s, the city hosting the Quizzer championship is still called Calcutta. While in transit from Bangalore, Naman’s team meets up with the girl’s team from Madras, led by Naina, a Brahmin bombshell. Naman falls for her hard and fast. Somehow, he manages to forge a connection with her, but circumstances and his own immaturity conspire against him.

Brahman Naman is the Porky’s-style 80’s teen sex comedy we never knew Q (a.k.a. Qaushiq Mukherjee) had in him. The gags are unabashedly raunchy and surprisingly graphic (remember, this came from India). Let’s just say the horny Naman takes matters into his own hands quite a lot. He also uses the seal on the refrigerator door. Despite their lofty status, dinner with Naman’s family is not an appetizing proposition. Regardless, the gross-out comedy is pretty funny stuff.

The real problem with the film is the irredeemable jerkiness of the four lads. It gets to the point where we want them to suffer from eternal blue balls. Yet, it is all a function of their caste snobbery, which is the whole point for Q. Naman will indeed miss out on some potentially good things, because of sheer arrogance.

Frankly, Shashank Arora’s Naman is a bit short in the charisma department. The persona he creates is too small to put a stamp on the film. At least he gets some effectively colorful support. Anula Shirish Navlekar could be a real star in the making based on her memorable turn as the more mature and self-aware Naina. However, Marigold Hotel veteran Denzil Smith upstages everyone as Bernie, the Bangalore team’s snobby, hard-drinking, shamelessly irresponsible chaperone. He is like the Indian version of a Wodehouse character.

There is a real cornucopia of naughty humor at this year’s Sundance, but Q and screenwriter Naman Ramachandran deliver some of the best. It also has a real purpose underneath all the penis jokes. Recommended for fans of 1980s teenager comedies, Brahman Naman screens again this Friday (1/29) and Saturday (1/30) in Park City, as part of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.