Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020 | Last Update : 03:31 PM IST

Beyond the mainstream

Published : Feb 14, 2016, 10:32 pm IST
Updated : Feb 14, 2016, 10:32 pm IST

In an email interview, Q opens up about Brahman Naman seeing an all-India release and how he is unperturbed by what the censor board would have to say about it.

Still from Brahman Naman.
 Still from Brahman Naman.

In an email interview, Q opens up about Brahman Naman seeing an all-India release and how he is unperturbed by what the censor board would have to say about it. He also points out that there’s more to the sexual quirks of a bunch of geeks than comedy. In the garb of a quiz contest that borders on the hormonal, Brahman Naman brings to the surface underlying issues of patriarchy, caste and sexual repression.

Through the film, the writer and director seek to salvage the innocence of the’80s. Not because they were asexual, but because their means of self affirmation were much more scholastic and much less selfie-driven. Brahman Naman’s reviews at the Sundance film festival bracket it as a college sex comedy. Are you comfortable with that slot It is a sex comedy. And I believe I am generally a comfortable person. Naman’s brahmin roots are clearly spelled out in the title. How do they underpin his quest for “knowledge” in a competitive sense Are you creating the “Brahmin as keeper of knowledge” idea Who am I to create such grandiose schemes I have simply juxtaposed some idiosyncrasies in human males in the throes of their hormonal imbalance with the devout pursuit of trivialities. Bangalore’s quizzing scene is robust to this day. Then why situate the story particularly in the ’80s quizzing scene Because this was our chance, Naman (Ramachandran — screenwriter and executive producer) and mine, to show off the idle beauty and simple pleasures of the times we grew up in. Also, because we truly believe that the simplicity of that time is far gone, and perhaps needs to be revisited. Just for a laugh, if not for anything else.

Quizzing in the ’80s was special, because there was no Google. There were no shortcuts to the trivia, which we called general knowledge. Just a thirst for facts, and data, with a grim determination to unearth the most obscure. Reviews from Sundance inevitably pit this film against your earlier film Gandu, which was made for a limited audience and therefore was more visceral. Is Brahman Naman more mainstream Are you looking at an India release for Brahman Naman How do you plan to get past the currently very moody censor board This is a very different film from Gandu indeed. Is it more mainstream I wouldn’t know that, since I don’t think I know the language of the mainstream. And a question begs to be asked here — which stream should one mainline

We are upbeat about the release of the film here in India. I still believe that moods swing, and so do some people. I do not have an express interest in getting past anyone, since I am not an athlete. Why have you stayed away from commercial releases till now Further, Brahman Naman too is primarily in English, which again limits the audience. In an interview you said “these are films that just need to be made more than artistic expression ” But won’t the language and the content limit the reach of your film to the urban It is not my choice that I have not been distributed commercially. It is the circumstance that we find ourselves in that limits the possibilities of any art. I have been talking in Bangla since I began making films. I think the reach of English might be a trifle more than that. Looking at it from that standpoint, I daresay this film will reach out to many more people than my earlier works. However, that wasn’t the only intent of choosing this language over any other. The film needed to be made in English since that was the language Naman and his gang spoke in. A rather convoluted version of it, may I add!

Aside from that, it must also be mentioned that every film, perhaps, is limited in the way it can speak to people. Language and context have always been things I wanted to intensely engage with and question through my medium.Gandu dealt with street/garbage language. Tasher Deshused classic Tagore. Cinema is a wonderful medium to play with language.

If we compare with Gandu, Naman is again frustrated in his own way. He is a winner at quizzes, yes, but his urge to purge, in ways that are over-the-top signify longing and loneliness. What is it about sex that intrigues you and recurs in most of your films I have been told it’s called perversion. I, however, think that it’s my intense devotion to look at sexuality as a way to peek into the human psyche. As French philosopher Jacques Derrida once said: Give me a naked man, and I will show you his soul.

In an interview you stated that “the sex aspect is trying to deal with issues of patriarchy ” But the fulfilment found in consummation is still a very conventional story. To what do you attribute our country’s drift away from talking about sex As you say, we invented the kiss It unfortunately happened before I was born. Which means, technically, I cannot be blamed for the drift. I don’t know how that happened. Wiser people have attributed it to a number of factors including a Manusmritian, absolutist, hierarchical structure replacing a more organic pagan system. Or a slow and sure disarmament of the feminine power by a phallic society. Whatever it was, undoubtedly it was stupid. And sad! Before we lose ourselves completely, it is best that we try to at least begin to look at our rich erotic heritage and learn a few things about sharing and caring. To keep human sexuality in the shadows is a clear way of a monolithic, power-hungry system subordinating the basic values of its citizens. Ultimately, is quizzing relegated to the background inBrahman Naman, or does it remain an essential driver of the plot Do the sexual and competitive intertwine in resolving the film’s crises It does pop up and aid the narrative, this quizzing thing. And in funny ways. As with anything else, the spirit of competition is also decidedly ’80s style in this film. Which is say, it is not cutthroat, and the sense of achievement is minimal. One thing I have understood while making this film is an essential difference between now and then. Now, more than ever, individuals are forced to take themselves seriously. Look at a young person taking a selfie for instance. This fine act of self glorification goes a long way in telling us about the shift in the way we look at ourselves. There were no such easy ways of lending credibility to oneself back then. And therefore, people were much more relaxed — about themselves, and about each other. More than anything else, we have tried to work with this incredible, lost spirit of India in the ’80s