The legend of the Astras is told at the start of the film. They are a gift from the universe and are derived from natural elements (Earth, Wind, Water, Fire). These armaments are disguised as everyday objects that bestow supernatural powers on those wielding them. Sages of the order Brahmansh and their progeny have been guarding the secret of the weapons since ages. Among the astras, the most powerful weapon is Brahmastra, said to carry both the power of creation and destruction within itself. The sages thought that if awakened it could destroy the earth itself and used all their powers to stop that from happening. To protect the world, the Brahmansh split it into three pieces, scattered around India and guarded by three guardians. The film then cuts to the present day. DJ Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor) is a happy-go-lucky young man who keeps seeing visions of death and destruction. He comes across Isha (Alia Bhatt), a super rich girl at a Durga Puja pandal and finds an instant connection. They keep bumping into each other and the film looks all set to be another poor guy meets rich girl romance. But instead of employing the usual tropes, director Ayan Mukerji sends them on a rip-roaring adventure which literally has the fate of the world at stake.
Because the director is attempting to create a Marvel or a DC universe of his own, the present film can be said to be an origin story. Hence, what the astras are and what the astraverse is all about is repeated again and again to make the audience become aware of the new concept. It’s a three part adventure, with the story continuing in two further parts. Hence, while the reiteration kind of jars the pace of the film, the director perhaps felt it was safe to get the basics sorted in the first film and prepare the viewers for what’s coming next.
It’s a sheer delight in terms of the visual splendour it offers. Be it the Pooja scenes, the Varanasi sequences or the climax set in the Himalayas, you can’t take your eyes off the screen. The special effects are truly world class. The training sequence where Shiva learns to control the fire element is one of the best seen in the superhero movies and the ending is out of this world indeed. The level of detailing which has gone into creating each sequence is mind-boggling. Suffice to say that this is pioneering work indeed and something which our industry hasn’t seen before. Those making fantasy films in India will see it as a gold standard in years to come. The fight choreography too is a delight to watch. The high speed chase sequence in the hills will make even Rohit Shetty clap in appreciation. And the fights containing astras are at the Marvel or DC level. Nothing looks out of place. The film took five years to make but given the level of what has been achieved here, the waiting period looks justified. It’s not that the film isn’t without glitches. The timelines are a little off, the story could have been less convoluted and the dialogue less stilted. But these are minor glitches when you compare them to the grand scheme of things. Since it’s a Dharma film, it has to have good music, and Pritam has made sure of that.
There’s a reason why talented actors have always been cast in fantasy and superhero films and Ayan doesn’t deviate from the winning formula. Amitabh Bachchan offers gravitas to the proceedings in his role as the guru. And the man can make fight sequences look poetic, even at the age of 80. Nagarjuna burns up the screen with his screen presence and we wish there was more of him to see in the film. Another superstar, who will not be named, offers his own brand of charm and intensity to the film. Ayan needs to somehow make sure of his presence in the next installments as well. Mouni Roy exudes both mystery and menace as the villain of the piece.
Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor look like they’re literally made for each other. They can just be in the frame doing nothing and you’d still watch them. It’s like watching Raj Kapoor and Nargis creating their magic together. What we need is to cast them together in an out and out romantic film and let’s hope SLB or Karan Johar do it soon. Alia offers sass and spice to the mix and matches Ranbir’s intensity in every frame. Her eyes pour out love in every frame, which kind of becomes her superpower. Ranbir has the hardest job of them all as most of his reactions aren’t towards fellow actors but to props and green screen. He’s literally reacting to thin air and makes it look convincing. The last 15 minutes, where Shiva’s full powers come into force, is filled with multiple layers of visual effects and Ranbir makes it believable because of his intensity.
Watch the film for its visual appeal and for the burning chemistry between Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor. A stage has now been set and let’s hope Ayan Mukerji doesn’t take five years more to bring out the next installment.
Trailer : Brahmāstra
Rachana Dubey, September 9, 2022, 1:39 PM IST
Story: Shiva, a young DJ in Mumbai, discovers that he’s born with a special power that makes him immune and akin to fire. He gradually discovers the secrets behind his own existence that are also tied to a string of mythological incidents. How that changes the course of his life forms the rest of the narrative.
Review: A young, orphaned DJ, Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor), leads a happy life, full of light, around a bunch of orphaned kids. His special connection with fire – it doesn’t inflame him – and a host of visuals that appear before him periodically when he shuts his eyes, suck him into a world of superpowers. While there’s a mythological background to this, it also, gradually, connects Shiva to the story of his parents, which changes the course of his life. His search for love and light puts him on the path to destroy evil forces, and discover his true potential.
With comic-book-styled visuals, and Amitabh Bachchan’s baritone, the film sets up its premise and the origin of its universe in an interesting manner. Brahmastra: Part One: Shiva relies heavily on two aspects – its visual effects and the love story of its lead pair, Shiva and Isha, played by Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt. The film scores a great deal on visual effects. It’s well-thought out, top-notch and effective in most places. For instance, the culmination of the pre-interval scenes is a spectacle.
The film borrows from Indian mythology and folk tales, which is fantastic. The effort and passion invested in creating the universe in this film, replete with minute detailing, are worthy of appreciation. And while doing so, the makers lovingly doff their hats to movies like the Harry Potter franchise. The film shines in divisions like the VFX. The film’s colour palette has been created thoughtfully, and the depiction of the astras created out of the powers of nature and mythological characters is beautiful. The action choreography, especially in the chase sequence before interval, deserves whistles and claps, too.
Watching artistes like Nagarjuna and Amitabh Bachchan playing pivotal parts to the T is a delight, but not much of a surprise. They’ve done it a zillion times before. Nagarjuna in his limited screen time is quite effective. And Mr Bachchan appears comfortable in the skin of his character, performing action scenes with ease. Ranbir’s effort to add emotional gravitas to the proceedings is visible. He tries really hard to take the audience beyond the superficial layers of this film with the way he’s played out Shiva. It would have been great if Alia Bhatt and Mouni Roy’s characters were also developed with the same passion as Ranbir’s for them to have that lasting impact. There’s not much attention paid to the secondary characters either, which is unlike anything director-writer Ayan Mukerji has done so far.
Even though Brahmastra: Part One: Shiva had the potential and the room for it, the film doesn’t score brownie points for the love story of its lead couple which forms the thrust of the narrative here. In fact, it doesn’t seem plausible from the word go which weakens the film at its core in a big way. As a result, the larger story playing out in the film also feels weak and the screenplay suffers, too. The dialogues aren’t able to salvage much either. Towards the latter part, the runtime begins to feel tedious. The narrative could have been balanced better between the two halves of the film. And though the songs are pleasing to the ears, at times, their presence affects the momentum of the narrative.
The line between great and good lies in a believable, character-led story that emotionally engages you. The most imaginative worlds created by cinema’s geniuses eventually rely on the writing to keep everything else glued perfectly in their places. With all its pluses, nothing makes up for the emotional deficits that Brahmastra suffers. If that had been paid more attention to, it would have gone a long way in making the proceedings more praise-worthy.