By SANIYA ANSARI
MAMI Film club with STAR and Netflix presented the Indian Premier of ‘Brahman Naman’ earlier this week.
It’s the 80s, it’s Bangalore, and the milieu cannot be more fraught with boredom for young men (and women). In this film, director Q (Gandu, Tasher Desh, Ludo) captures exactly THIS; you are almost dizzy going round and round on motorbikes in mundane neighbourhoods between college and home and/or drinking copious amounts of alcohol for only reason that there is little else to do.
What fills the void is the endless fantasy for sex and women but since they are both unattainable, the boys flex their ‘general knowledge’ skills in the inter-college quizzing competitions.
Brahman Naman makes ‘loser’ cool and ‘cool’ loser. It deals with the mean, competitive and aimless nature of budding masculinity revealing what goes on between the crevices, as ordinary young men from dedicated, hardworking, religious and ritualistic upbringing deviate to fill the daily void. And in this case, our ‘hero’, Naman, from a stout Brahman household flips the lid on the superficial layer of religiosity. It is humourous when you see him struggle with his own contradictions: he will not drink from a non-Brahman’s glass even though he has imagined masturbating into a fish tank — or maybe really does it; the boredom and monotony of this environment is that surreal.
The story is authentic; characters are local and genuinely represent their environment, whether it’s the linguistic quirks, post-sunset debauchery or general attitude. This is not an adaptation or a copy of a French, Spanish, American or Korean film. The film is a success for cultivating its own cinematic style. This is what is happening in Indian independent cinema — it’s popping with its own dilemmas and pushing comfort zones. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Netflix grabbed the film at the Sundance Film Festival, and is releasing it across 192 countries around the world.
I think the challenge of the film would be to draw more women so that it doesn’t only remain a ‘male flick’. If we can have more empathy between the genders – take home lesson from the 80s – maybe quizzing questions and competitions, as portrayed in the film almost as a narrative device, would not be so numbingly dull!
Saniya Ansari is a scriptwriter, theatre artist and educator. She works as a producer for QEW Films.