You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sundance Film Review: ‘Brahman Naman’

Western teen sex comedies of the 1980s are recalled to diverting effect in this U.K.-India co-production.

Shashank Arora, Tanmay Dhanania, Chaitanya Varad, Vaiswath Shankar, Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy, Subholina Sen, Anula Shirish Navlekar, Siddharth Mallya, Sid Mallya, Denzil Smith, Biswa Kalyan Rath, Shataf Figar. (English dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5240748/

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The film’s screenwriter and executive producer, Naman Ramachandran, is a London-based contributor to Variety.)

Given a bigger budget than usual, indie Indian helmer Q. makes his most polished and commercially angled feature to date with “Brahman Naman.” This equivalent to 1980s Western teen sex comedies (also set in that era) follows a quartet of Brahmin nerds on a Bangalore U. quiz team whose alcohol-soaked mission is to lose their collective virginity. Containing a dollop of class critique, this diverting if seldom hilarious comedy could have used a few bigger set-piece gags a la “Porky’s” and its ilk, though no doubt there’s enough here already to trouble local censors. Offshore prospects beyond the fest circuit are likely to prove most fruitful among cult-audience-targeting home format distribs.

Bossy and arrogant in his narrow social circle of similar brainiacs, Naman (Shashank Arora) routinely leads his school to victory on the collegiate quiz competition circuit of the mid-’80s. But there’s only one subject he and mates Ajay (Tanmay Dhanania) and Ramu (Chaitanya Varad) seem really interested in, and of which they as yet have no personal experience. When not fantasizing about theoretical conquests — notably Rita (Subholina Sen), a beauteous lower-caste local girl whom Naman can’t bring himself to talk to — they spend most of their time seeking inebriation with Brecht-Weill’s “Whisky Bar,” aka “Alabama Song,” as musical theme.

Eventually, accompanied by new junior-classman teammate Randy (Vaiswath Shankar) and a none-too-responsible adult chaperone (Denzil Smith), they take the train to a nationwide quiz championship in Calcutta. En route, Naman meets his intellectual match in pretty Madras girls’ team leader Naina (Anula Shirish Navlekar). But there are some disappointments and injustices that bring this largely frivolous tale to a sobered conclusion, particularly regarding Naman’s ill treatment of adoring Ash (Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy), a fellow student who doesn’t fit his skin-mag-shaped notions of female perfection.

The mild lessons learned by the end about sexism, class prejudice and simple civility don’t carry a lot of weight here — after all, the central protag’s adult path (as heir to a specialty mattress factory) seems preordained. More of the wild energy Q. expanded on scabrous prior projects like “Gandu” could have been useful here, though “Brahman Naman” (whose somewhat autobiographical script was written by Naman Ramachandran, a journalist and critic who’s a regular contributor to Variety) does represent a step forward for Q. in terms of narrative structure — something he barely seemed mindful of in prior pics where he was a sole or co-scenarist. Overall, the mix of medium-grade raunchy humor and middleweight drama works fairly well, albeit with few real highlights. In the great tradition of teen sex comedies, however, the funniest gags here are (what else but) masturbation jokes.

The young cast is spirited and the packaging lively, from Q.’s own vigorous lensing (shared with Siddhartha Nuni) to a busy soundtrack whose various-artist cuts reflect the exclusively English-speaking, privileged protagonists’ almost entirely Westernized tastes.

Popular on Variety

Sundance Film Review: 'Brahman Naman'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema — competing), Jan. 25, 2016. Running time: 95 MIN.

Production: (U.K.-India) A Riley presentation in association with Comiche of an Oddjoint production. (International sales: UTA, Beverly Hills.) Produced by Steve Barron, Celine Loop. Executive producers, John Herbert, Hani Farsi, Naman Ramachandran, Jeremy Gawade, Erica Emm, Debbie Vandermeulen. Co-producer, Alex Dunnett.

Crew: Directed by Q. Screenplay, Naman Ramachandran. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Siddhartha Nuni, Q.; editor, Manas Mittal; music, Neel Adhikari, Miti Adhikari; music supervisor, Iain Cooke; production designer, Tabasheer Zutshi; art director, Krishna; set decorator, Tabasheer Zutshi; costume designer, Ritarupa Bhattacharjee; animation, Xtrathin Design, Karthik Ramachandran; sound/sound designer, Tarun Bhandari; re-recording mixer, Stefan Marchetti; assistant director, Indu Antony; casting, Rii, Pooje Hegde, Nalini Rathnam.

With: Shashank Arora, Tanmay Dhanania, Chaitanya Varad, Vaiswath Shankar, Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy, Subholina Sen, Anula Shirish Navlekar, Siddharth Mallya, Sid Mallya, Denzil Smith, Biswa Kalyan Rath, Shataf Figar. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • Mick Jagger, Donald Sutherland. Actors Mick

    'The Burnt Orange Heresy' With Mick Jagger, Donald Sutherland Sells Worldwide

    HanWay Films has closed out worldwide sales on “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” the art-heist film that screened in Venice and Toronto. The movie stars Mick Jagger, Claes Bang, and Donald Sutherland. It closed the Venice Film Festival. In addition to North America, where Giuseppe Capotondi’s film will open in spring 2020, SPC has acquired rights [...]

  • Between Worlds Nicolas Cage

    Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff to Star in Pulse Films’ Truffle Hunter Movie ‘Pig’

    Nicolas Cage is a truffle hunter who wants his pig back in “Pig,” which started production Monday in Oregon. The film, which Michael Sarnoski will direct from his own script, will also star Alex Wolff (“Hereditary”). Pulse Films, BlockBox Entertainment, Valparaiso Pictures and Cage’s Saturn Pictures are producing in association with Escape Artists and Sweet [...]

  • Sid Haig Dies Devil's Rejects

    Sid Haig, Horror Actor in Rob Zombie Trilogy, Dies at 80

    Sid Haig, known for his role as Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s “House of 1000 Corpses” trilogy, died Saturday. He was 80. His wife announced the news on Instagram. Haig had a fall several weeks ago and suffered serious breathing complications after arriving at the hospital. He died of a lung infection. “On Saturday, September [...]

  • France Boasts Europe's Highest Number of

    France Still Boasts Europe's Highest Number of Theater Screens Per Capita

    France, Europe’s No. 1 movie-going nation, still boasts the continent’s highest number of screens per capita, according to a new study conducted by the French National Film Board (CNC). As of last year, France had 2,040 theaters and 6,000 screens – 69 more screens than in 2017. Out of the 2,040 theaters, 226 are multiplexes. [...]

  • Arab Genre Film

    Arab Genre Films Get Boost From Beirut's Maskoon Lab (EXCLUSIVE)

    Just as Netflix tries to gain traction in the Middle East by backing local genre series, such as its first Arab original, “Jinn,” from Jordan, and Egypt’s upcoming “Paranormal,” Beirut’s Maskoon Fantastic Film Festival is launching the region’s first platform dedicated to genre films. Five Arabic-language projects, ranging from a zombie comedy to a supernatural [...]

  • Simon Yam in "Little Q"

    China Box Office: Hong Kong Dog Film 'Little Q' Leads the Pack

    As China gears up for a big political anniversary and national holiday, its box office has been dominated by innocuous animal films and local fare capable of keeping censors happy but unable to make that huge of a splash. None of the top four weekend titles has scored more than 7 out of 10 on [...]

  • Vendrá-la-muerte-y-tendrá-tus-ojos

    Watch Trailer for ‘Death Will Come and Shall Have Your Eyes’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN — “Death Will Come And Shall Have Your Eyes” Italy’s Cesare Pavese wrote memorably in a poem that enchanted Chilean film director José Luis Torres Leiva a decade or so back. Now he delivers a film of that title which world premieres at San Sebastian in main competition and talks about death without, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content