Home / Culture / Nerds winning…while masturbating. Inspired by Satyajit Ray. ‘Brahman Naman’ is coming to Netflix.

Nerds winning…while masturbating. Inspired by Satyajit Ray. ‘Brahman Naman’ is coming to Netflix.

Brahmannaman

Unconventional filmmaker Qaushiq Mukherjee’s (AKA ‘Q’) surprisingly not-unconventional and touching ode to adolescent geeks and their shenanigans, ‘Brahman Naman’, is arriving on Netflix on 7 July.

The film stars Shashank Arora, Vaiswath Shankar, Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy and Sid Mallya (son of embattled Kingfisher tycoon Vijay Mallya) and has won widespread plaudits since it’s world premier at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Set in Bangalore in the 1980’s, Brahman Naman follows the exploits of Naman (Arora), a quick-witted high school quiz champion who leads his nerdy friends on a trip Calcutta to compete in a major quiz competition.

While first prize is firmly in their sights, so is losing their virginity – cue some hilarious attempts at fornication, virtual and otherwise.

But it’s not all bestiality jokes and ingenious masturbation methods.  ‘Brahman Naman’ is also a moving story about bigotry and the travails of being an outsider.

That’s largely thanks to the film’s writer Naman Ramachandran, the journalist and author best known as programmer of the London Indian Film Festival and whose writing credits include the definitive biography of south Indian superstar Rajinikanth.

You can see any one of the film’s central geeks in Ramachandran – a waif-like presence with a penchant for good whiskey and who always seems to have something naughty up his sleeve.

If Q’s the guy who has the swagger to go buy the spliffs, Ramachandran’s the guy tasked with keeping everyone laughing with the spliff-induced anecdotes.

That in no way is a suggestion of Ramachandran’s consumption habits. Rather a reflection of this writer’s experiences.

I caught up with Ramachandran for a quick chat about ‘Brahman Naman’.

How autobiographical is the film?

Not at all. Some events in the film may have been inspired by some of my past life, but that’s it.

There’s a really funny scene in the film during which Naman ties his manhood to a fan as an ingenious new attempt at masturbation. Can you explain the physics of that?

I don’t know the physics of it, but apparently it really happened and it was narrated to me.

One of the cast members, Sid Mallya, described ‘Brahman Naman’ as an “Indian In-Betweeners”. Is that an accurate description for fans? And what kind of buddy-comedies did you draw on when writing the story?

Describing it as an Indian In-Betweeners is merely a device to make modern audiences understand the genre. In reality, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the British TV show or film. The influence, apart from some events in my own past, were the low-rent American high school comedies of the 80s, Ravichandran’s Kannada films of the 80s, and Satyajit Ray’s ‘Nayak’.
 
Nerds, outsider. What is so compelling – especially to a writer – about nerds winning?  While masturbating?
 
Ah, but the nerds don’t win always. That’s what makes it so compelling. The masturbation is what they do because they can’t get any.

Namanramachandran

Do you consider yourself an outsider?

No.

A lot has been made of the film being picked up by Netflix. As someone who’s been in the industry for such a long time, why was that decision made, especially in the context of reports that Netflix isn’t paying as much as it should do – or paying large fees but spread over a long period – to indie filmmakers/unknown producers?

I haven’t seen those reports, so I cannot comment on them. We made the decision simply because rather than drip feed the film territory by territory over years, this way we reach the entire world at the same time.
 
Alternately, Netflix has opened up a new platform for people who want to make films but would previously have been unable to get their film out there. How’s that changed the filmmaking experience?
 
Platforms like Netflix, Amazon exist today and that’s great for filmmakers. The filmmaking experience doesn’t change because of that. You still need a great script, find a producer and make the film exactly the same way it’s been done for years.

Would streaming ultimately help close the local cinema?

Not at all. The local cinema will always exist as a social experience. Nothing will beat the feeling of laughing or crying along with hundreds of total strangers in a darkened space. As long as community exists, local cinemas will too.

Given the risque subect matter, was there a sense early on that it would difficult to get a distributor in India?

No.

Pehlaj Nihalani would have had a field day with ‘Brahman Naman’. What do you make of him? How do you explain the paradox of having a man as “enlightened” as Mr Nihalani at the helm of the Indian Censor Board at a time when India is producing such amazingly risky, “different” films, like Brahman Naman?

Enlightened is a good word. Let’s stick with that. And there is no paradox at all – because India did not produce BN. No Indian studio gave us a paisa though they all loved the script.

Finally, many of the cast members appear to cast themselves. Sid Mallya? That seems an odd choice. One would have thought he’s the last person someone like Q hangs out with? Let alone cast in his biggest film to date?
 
It took us 18 months to get the perfect cast and then a month of workshops in character and costume for them to have the right chemistry. We thought Sid physically fit the role perfectly. He loved the script and when he auditioned, he nailed it. Like all the other actors, he came prepared to the hilt on set. He is an actor who is very serious about his craft and you can see the results on screen.

‘Brahman Naman’ is on Netflix 7 July.

 

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