Brahman Naman opens with a revolting scene involving a refrigerator. The sequence was so appalling that it immediately made me root against the lead character, and worse, against the film itself. I managed to survive this scene, and even emerged with the optimistic view that the movie would probably become more civilized as it went on. This mad hope was quickly trampled by an endless parade of disgusting set pieces that featured, among other things, ceiling fans and aquariums put to macabre uses. This is a sex comedy that has been touted as India’s answer to American Pie, but who the heck even asked the question?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to sex comedies on principle. However, the vast majority of movies in the genre are shamelessly lazy. After all, the immaturity of the target audience will supply the laughs – why bother trying to be clever or witty when the mere mention of genitals or masturbation is enough to send your adolescent viewers into delighted fits of giggles?
I think the agitation I feel against Brahman Naman is because it never rises above the gutter despite the fact that there is clearly some intelligence behind it. The film is fresh and inventive in its use of visuals right from the opening credits. There are some superb musical choices. The quizzing background of the story was a treat for the amateur quizzer in me, as were the continuous bursts of trivia that erupt throughout the landscape of the film. The screenplay is interesting too. The characters speak with a convoluted verbosity, pompous awareness of their knowledge dripping from almost every sentence. This rings false – you’ll almost never meet real quizzers who speak like this all the time, but I’ll concede that a lot of the dialogue is clever. There is a quirkiness to these characters that could have been exploited, but sadly they are turned into interchangeable hormone machines. Director Q (Qaushiq Mukherjee) could have made quite a good film about quizzing with an undercurrent of sex. Instead he has made a bad film about sex set against a backdrop of quizzing.
There are a couple of bright spots as far as the performances go. Comedian Biswa Kalyan Rath is entertaining in a recurring cameo of sorts, and Sid Mallya of all people makes an amusing acting debut. Tanmay Dhanania, as Ajay, has some great deadpan moments. However, Brahman Naman is about brahman Naman, and unfortunately the protagonist is far and away the most unlikeable character in the film.
In the right hands, an unpleasant lead is a fascinating thing, but I’m not sure if this film understands just how awful Naman is, or why he is so. Twice in this unsubtle movie, two different women directly voice their opinions about Naman. One tells him, “You’re oddly likeable. Or likeable, which is odd.” Another recoils in horror and says, “You’re ugly, Naman.” Q is tremendously successful in convincing us that the second girl is right. He just can’t make us believe the first girl has a point too, and that is his downfall.