Starring: Shashank Arora, Tanmay Dhanania, Chaitanya Varad
Dir by Qaushiq Mukherjee
There is a peculiar kind of hypocrisy that condemns mainstream sex comedies like Masti or Kya Kool Hain Hum, but an indie filmmaker, who pretentiously calls himself Q, gets to travel the festival circuit and earn some praise for his bold look at Indian sexuality—read adolescent male sex fantasies, because nobody in India has dared show the female point of view. Women, in films that are mostly about young men wanting to get laid, are just sex objects and the camera is mostly peering down their blouses and up their skirts, so that the young male target audience can pant with lust.
Qaushiq Mukherjee’s earlier films were Gandu which, understandably, with its graphic sexual content, never got released in India; the strange Tasher Desh, whose Tagore origins could barely be discerned in its orgy of surrealistic imagery; and Ludo, which combined horror and sex in an unwatchable mix. His latest, Brahman Naman, is the first Indian film made for Netflix, and is likely to get a wider viewership, though this one does not even have the touch of humour that redeemed, say, something like Hunterrr, a sex comedy about a young man’s sexual journey. Mukherjee obviously aims for controversy over cinematic accomplishment—a rebel for the cause of freedom of expression, like Anurag Kashyap, without the latter’s superior talent.
While it is true that Indian teenagers have access to pornographic content easily and so look for ‘action’ and get increasingly frustrated when real life does not remotely match their fantasies, there is something ugly about the way the filmmaker portrays his priapic male teenagers. The girls have little to do, but at least they are not bimbettes.
Naman (Shashank Arora) is the leader of the pack of four quizzing champs (it was a rage in the 1980s, when the film is set), all of them sexually frustrated nerds, while the sports star in their college (a surprise appearance by Sid Mallya) has girls hovering around him. Naman and his cronies stalk women, go to seedy theatres and visit a red- light area—their minds crammed with useless facts needed for quiz shows and a desperate need for a sexual experience.
Brahman Naman is what is called a coming-of-age comedy, and it’s crass and unfunny. It begins with Naman humping a refrigerator. In another scene, he ties his penis to a fan and turns it on. It’s that puerile—aiming for an Indian version of American Pie, which by itself is a dubious ambition in a filmmaker.