“What is the colour of colour TV?”
Quashiq Mukherjee’s English-language Indian sex comedy Brahman Naman (2016) is set in 1980’s Bangalore, and illuminates the psyches of four teenage boys tearing their way through a world governed by tradition and social conventions.
Naman (Shashank Arora), Ajay (Tanmay Dhanania), Randy (Vaishwath Shankar) and Ramu (Chaitanya Varad) are a group of quiz fanatics. While scraping the barrel of the social hierarchy at school, they do so with an air of superiority that manages to alienate them from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, their incessant thoughts of sex do little to aid them on their quest to win the state quiz championship.
The camera toys with extreme close-up shots and high angles to inflame the discomfort of a self-conscious teen. This, in turn, heightens the hilarious awkwardness of the youth, which is presented with a self-deprecating quality that instantly alludes to the great comedy of life. The camera, while ruthlessly stripping the actors of any surface-level beauty, captures the colour that plays around the edges of their consciousness.
This manoeuvre points to the great contrast of life in India. On the one hand, there are the irrefutable foundations of tradition, on the other, there is the sense of being disconnected from it all. The boys’ thoughts plunge into a swirling mess of drinking, smoking and sex, instead. By honing in on this discrepancy, the film achieves a certain neutrality – illustrating the woes all teenage boys share, regardless of their place of birth. Brahman Naman encapsulates the essence of being a teenager in a world that demands conformity, which only arouses the desperate need to act out while still young and shrouded in naivety.
When the script does turn to the particulars of the Indian lifestyle, it reflects on the country’s social structure. Brahmans are members of the first and highest-ranked of the four castes of traditional Hindu society. As Naman and his friends represent this group, their haughtiness and bigotry are met with life’s bitter remedies. Everyone gets what they deserve in the end – and with perfect comedic timing.
As the film is primarily a sex comedy, it features traumatising scenes that seem to unnerve the protagonists themselves. However, the film finds perfect balance between the gross and the farcical, trusting its actors to exercise their facial expressions to leave the audience in stitches. The slightly manic, surreal quality of the film gives it the scope to toy around with artistic voices, weaving animation and funky music into the fabric of the plot so seamlessly that the effect is rather psychedelic. With witty, fast-paced dialogue and moustache-adorning men posing as boys added to the mix, the film never ceases to slide from disheartening to uprorious, milking comedy from life’s crippling relatability.
One daring theory about William Shakespeare, a surreal mattress commercial, and a lipsynced music video are among the film’s more memorable clips. All in all, the boys’ endless pining after sex is reduced to brash biological impulses, and retouched so often the film itself is left oversensitive. But if you can stomach it, and follow the narrow mind of a youth lost in the act of self-worship, then Brahman Naman has quite a few laughs in store for you.