Starring: Shashank Arora, Tanmay Dhanania, Chaitanya Varad
Director: Qaushiq Mukherjee
Running Time: 95 mins
Brahman Naman is an Indian film about a top high school quiz team from Bangalore who travel to the national championships in the hope of winning, and losing their virginities.
Billed as a tribute to teen sex comedies of the 1980s, Brahman Naman certainly delivers on its intentions, even if the very genre it’s replicating is far from the most enjoyable. In similar vein to the irritatingly vulgar likes of American Pie, Brahman Naman is full of juvenile and gratuitous teen sex humour, and although it does eventually calm down, it’s a film that never really lends enough attention to the more human elements of what is at heart an engaging coming-of-age tale.
Now, the first thing I want to say is that I really am not a fan of the sex comedy genre. There are a good few funny films from it, but those that take a look at the teenaged view of sex are more often than not painfully annoying and unnecessarily vulgar. American Pie is the textbook example for Hollywood and the West, but the similarities with an Indian film like Brahman Naman are pretty clear, only that this film, and the bygone era of the 1980s that it’s paying homage to, is actually a little more forward than its Western counterparts.
The first two-thirds of Brahman Naman are pretty infuriating when it comes to the comedic side of things. Despite featuring a zany, quirky bunch of characters with the odd good laugh, the film is bathed in irritating and juvenile sex humour that just never made me laugh. If there were more of a sense of self-awareness in the teen characters’ desperation, as proves more to be the case in the final act, then it wouldn’t have been so unbearable.
However, for over an hour, I was really struggling to find much to enjoy about Brahman Naman, with any element of more tender, sweet coming-of-age drama whisked away by an excruciating affinity for more and more vulgar gags. It’s also a lot more graphic than a lot of what you see from Hollywood, and often unnecessarily so, coming off as gratuitous and lustful rather than in any way comedically sharp.
As I said, there is a more genuine core to the movie, that of a coming-of-age story which follows a group of teenagers as they attempt to navigate the difficulties and frustrations of puberty and all that comes with it. There are moments where the story calms down and lets that side of things see the light of day, with a few sweet moments of romance towards the end of the second act, but in general, Brahman Naman fails to make good use of what is at heart potentially a very strong story.
The film’s saving grace, however, comes in the form of its third act, which is a welcome break from the barrage of vulgar teen humour. While it doesn’t quite make proper use of that coming-of-age story, it does at least switch focus from the characters’ juvenile escapades to their quizzing.
The best part of the whole film is the series of obscure pub quiz questions that serve as transitions between scenes throughout, but it gets even better when the quiz side of the story takes centre stage towards the end. The comedy may suffer a little, and it may still not be a particularly engrossing watch, but even if only for the entertainment and challenge of trying to get the answers to some fiendishly difficult questions, the third act is by far the most enjoyable part of this whole film.
Overall, then, I didn’t think much of Brahman Naman at all. While it succeeds in its objective of serving as tribute to the sex comedy genre, it’s far from a funny film, and its vulgar humour is more often than not a point of annoyance than any sort of entertainment. But whenever it calms down, it’s at least a more engaging film, particularly in its brief but memorable moments of coming-of-age drama, and its entertaining quiz-oriented final act, so that’s why I’m giving it a 6.2.