Question: What is Brahman Naman?
Okay, I got this. A new religious sect? The sound made by my neighbourhood Buddhist chanting circle. A new self-help book?
Wrong. Right now, a sub-set of Bangalore geeks is seriously judging you.
Brahman Naman is Indie film director Qaushiq Mukherjee’s breakout film of the year, premiered at Sundance, picked up by Netflix and coming to a living room near you. The semi-autobiographical movie written by Bangalore-originating, London-based Naman Ramachandran (also biographer of Rajnikanth and regular contributor to Variety, Sight & Sound), takes us back to Bangalore in the 1980s, and follows the lives of sex-starved quizzers trying to win an all-India quiz and lose their virginity.
This weekend, we find ourselves replenishing our knowledge banks. How can we not? We’re due to meet English professor Arul Mani, Naman Ramachandran’s former quiz teammate in school, then in post-graduation and current Vice President of the Karnataka Quiz Association. The long-haired, bearded quiz master arrives having just watched the Naman Brahman trailer, thus perfectly poised for nostalgia.
The small number of interested quizzing candidates and their general embarrassment at having particularly nerdy obsessions made them seek each other out and develop a unique pool of common knowledge, rituals and argot, with each team member focusing on one area of interest.
In the 1980s, Bangalore’s college quizzing teams were akin to Google. Where can I find Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses? How do I read research tomes without actually reading them? How many songs has John Lennon written? “You didn’t need the Internet to find the answers to these, as long as you had a friend in the quiz team,” Arul says.
The small number of interested quizzing candidates and their general embarrassment at having particularly nerdy obsessions made them seek each other out and develop a unique pool of common knowledge, rituals and argot, with each team member focusing on one area of interest. “I remember Naman made it his mission to know everything about films from the 60s till the 90s. He could answer any question about The Beatles, Bollywood music and Hollywood movies.”
Arul also recalls when “Naman took a copy of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses from a senior quizzer once it had been banned, photocopied it at his dad’s office and passed it around in the scene.” Thus grew parallel trade economies of knowledge trading: all my Madame Curie trivia for your Satanic Verses and so on.
Techie, quizzer and quizmaster Thejaswi Udupa is proud of his geeky quizzing ways. “Outlandish tastes are always welcome in the quizzing circle. In fact, we have our own version of hiphop’s shout out to the big MCs. We add the suffix of ‘God’ to people who excel in a particular field, like BizGod, SportsGod, EntGod, and so on, all the way up to NorwegianBlackMetalGod if need be,” he explains. Lawyer, quizzer and quizmaster Varun Rajiv agrees that “having teammates with completely different knowledge banks helps a team arrive at the answers from various routes.”
The Changing Quiz Scene
With the advent of the Internet and disappearance of bookshops and libraries, the quizzing circuit has obviously changed, with the emphasis now on “more intensive knowledge rather than an extensive one”.
“Between ‘87 and ‘94 when I was quizzing, there used to be 12-15 college quizzes in the whole year, but there are more than that in a month now, including online quizzes,” Arul explains. There also seems to be more at stake for winning teams. “There are still quizzes with book coupons or token amount as prizes, but there are also competitions with big prize money, thus encouraging a robust quizzing scene,” he adds.
Thejaswi says that the scene has also changed in terms of demographic, with it becoming an every man’s event. “While it used to be restricted to the English-speaking, it has become more welcoming to other languages and in this way, other kinds of knowledge get added to the community’s pool,” he tells us.
The Big Love & Sex Quiz: Sign Up!
Kids, you don’t have to be in college, living in the ‘80s or Naman’s non-fiction partner to participate in a quiz yourself. The Karnataka Quiz Association holds regular quizzes at the Institution of Agricultural Technology on Queen’s Road. Form a team of four (remember, it helps that each member has a different focus of expertise), pay Rs 100 to enter and you’re on. Quizzes this month will be held at the offices of Ujjivan Financial Services in Koramangala include Pop Ki Kamai, the pop culture quiz and Lao Me Thanda, the KQA’s annual quiz on love, sex and other disorders for Valentine’s Day.
How many quizzers does it take to screw a light bulb?
The Quizzing Booth
Hey dimwits, don’t leave so soon. We got Bangalore’s quiz masters to formulate ten questions - no peters (repeated questions), no shady ones (doubtful of source) and not all sitters (easy ones). Answers at the end.
1. Her producer wanted her to adopt the Hindu-ised screen name of Nanda Devi. She refused saying “I’m no devi!” and stuck to a stage name that was given to her by an American fortune-teller, which coincidentally rhymed with the surname of her producer. Who?
2. What term, now much in the news thanks to marketing hype of a recently launched product, refers to an alloy of gold to which copper has been added, thus giving the gold a warm and flush look?
3. Which movie was advertised with the tagline “For three men, the Civil War wasn’t hell. it was practice!”?
4. Which website founded in the late 1990s was named after the founder, JD Ghai’s grandmother and her sister who had rhyming names?
5. What is The Economist’s newsletter that provides a daily shot of news and analysis called?
6. What title did Queen Elizabeth II lose in 1956 because after nearly a decade of becoming independent from Britain, this country finally declared itself a Republic?
7. In 1999, London-based theatre group Tamasha came out with a play called ‘Four Weddings, Forty Songs, and a Funeral’. What Bollywood film was it based on?
8. Archeological evidence suggests that the ancient Greeks and Romans did this because it left their right hand free to either greet or to draw the sword. What practice?
9. In May 1996, Governor Voinovich of Ohio recommended that the state motto “With God All Things Are Possible” be inscribed above the main entrance to the statehouse. What was his inspiration for this idea?
10. You've Stolen My Heart is a 2005 studio album from the Kronos Quartet. It earned a Grammy Nomination in the World Music category. Who was it a collaboration with? What is the source of the album title?
2. Rose Gold
3. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
6. Queen of Pakistan
7. Hum Aapke Hain Kaun
8. Driving on the left
9. Seeing ‘Government’s Work is God’s Work’ inscribed on the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore.
10. Asha Bhonsle / “Chura Liya Hai Tum Ne Jo Dil Ko”
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