July 7 2016
There’s more than one shot of a male appendage in this film – it’s definitely not for those of a delicate disposition – and there are enough gags and nods to creative self-pleasure that you can bet your average Indian aunty isn’t going to be asking you whether the ‘ceiling fan’ scene is a little excessive…
HE IS ONE OF THE MOST mercurial of talents working in India today and many of his fans will delight in him being at the helm for this comic coming of age drama.
“Brahman Naman” is Qaushiq Mukerjee’s (known to all in the industry as just ‘Q’), most conventional movie to date – perhaps with the exception of his latest horror film – “Ludo”, which is as yet unavailable in the UK.
What is this punk anarchist (see “Gandu” – banned in India) with a discerning eye (“Tasher Desh“) doing on what is essentially an Indian-style gross out comedy about four boys looking to pop their cherries when they get to university and go on journey to become young quiz champs of India.
Q had been sent the script and warmed to it without even thinking.
“It was hilarious and superbly developed as the people behind it had been working on it for two years.
“It was not from people who were not just like-minded, but of exactly the same mind,” he told www.asianculturevulture.com over a crackly line to India, before hitting the publicity trail in earnest again more recently.
“It was an easy decision (to decide to direct this film). I’d decided to explore different genres, “Ludo” is a horror film and I wanted to do some form of comedy,” he revealed.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in the US in January and was rapturously received – the line that emerged from there was that this was an Indian version of the hit UK comedy series, “The Inbetweeners”, which is also about four hapless guys whose efforts to ingratiate themselves with the opposite sex almost always ends in ignominy and shame.
The global video on demand platform Netflix snapped it up – paying a six figure sum, ensuring the producers’ investment.
“I didn’t know who had written the script at first,” Q revealed to www.asianculturevulture.com
The writer is Naman Ramachandran, erstwhile biographer South Indian superstar, Rajinikanth, London Indian Film Festival programmer and friend of Q.
“I didn’t know it was Naman’s – we had practically been living with each other for a year and a half – he abused me for not knowing it was his script,” chuckled Q.
Ramachandran is based in London and his day job is as film industry journalist and “Brahman Naman” was produced with British money.
One of the two credited producers (along with Celine Loop) is Steve Barron, a director famous for making the Michael Jackson music video, “Billie Jean” and “The Teenage Mutant Ninja” films in the 1990s.
Part of the main cast is made up of actors who already have some international pedigree – the main character ‘Naman’ is played by Shashank Arora, who fronted the Cannes title, “Titli” in 2014, and Tanmay Dhanania is better known in the UK as Naseem Khan in Channel 4’s recently aborted series, “Indian Summers”.
“It was a long process (finding the right cast)”, admitted Q. “We ended up doing a lot of auditions around the world. Indian cinema is changing very quickly and I was very inspired by the actors.”
He loves the fact that you will be able to watch his film by yourself and considering the number of references both oblique and direct about that activity so beloved of teenage boys, it’s just as well.
“I am not a purist about distribution,” said Q. “This is a very personal experience – you can be by yourself and it’s like a book you can immerse yourself in.”
Set in Bangalore in the 1980s and in English, the film has a certain nostalgia and a more socially aware angle.
“This is before liberalisation (of the Indian economy, which took place from the 1990s), and time moved differently, it was a slow time. India was a bit sleepy, charming and understated.”
Some would argue that its innocence was thrown asunder as the market was ripped open for foreign companies to come in and compete – and India has not looked back. In some respects, it was more like countries behind the Iron Curtain (before the Soviet Union collapsed), though there were no authoritarian barriers.
The film was shot in Mysore is just under a 100 miles south of Bangalore and which has retained its old world charm.
“Bangalore has become a very different city, it’s noisy and looks different.”
What perhaps lifts this film from just simply being a naked gross out production is its loose attack on the caste system.
Naman is a Brahmin and rather stuck in his ways and part of his folly is his inability to shake his prejudices.
“We’re saying something about hierarchy, it’s a sublime thing we (Indians) don’t understand, class and gender art part of that hierarchy. I am interested in breaking the taboos of popular culture – that’s my cue.”
This segues into a discussion about his favourite scene – there are several you are not likely to forget quickly.
“It’s got to be the village scene, when the boys’ (on their way to a university quiz) train breaks down and they have to go into a village and these Brahmin boys are talking about the underclass and then they are completely overpowered by them – these people are the very untouchables they have been talking about.”
This all sounds a little too rational and reasoned for someone like Q, but then he did declare: “It’s very critical for us to understand that the world is a joke and you have to realise it and we are very foolish.”
Idiosyncratic? Provocative? Off the wall?
See “Brahman Naman” for yourself and decide…
Pictures courtesy: Edinburgh International Film Festival