“Brahmāstra: Part One – Shiva” is one of the most courageous cinematic undertakings from Bollywood’s razzle-dazzle film world. The Hindi-language movie industry has tried for years to make a Hollywood-style blockbuster that mirrors MCU hero stories.
Way before American cinema hyped up humans with superpowers on screen, the journey began with ancient Indian mythology and the legend of the Astras, or weapons of the Light. They derive from elements in the natural world such as wind, water, fire, as well as animals and plants. These Astras are subservient to the Brahmāstra, a weapon with the ability to destroy the universe and all life.
The fate of the world depends on Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor), a happy-go-lucky deejay who can manipulate fire with his mind. One day, he throws an exotic and extravagant dance party, where he lays eyes on the stunningly beautiful and rich Isha (Alia Bhatt). He follows her and convinces her to join him at an orphanage for a birthday party. Then their world is turned upside down, once they’re plagued by visions of Dev, a fiery stone deity who psychically empowers the evil Junoon (TV star Mouni Roy). Earlier, she had murdered The Scientist and stole his portion of the Brahmāstra. Junoon wants to use the completed Brahmāstra to revive Dev, but reunification of that Astra could destroy the planet, so Shiva must stop her.
At the moment, Shiva learns that he has a mysterious connection to the Brahmāstra and that he has a great power within him that he doesn’t understand yet. Shiva must learn to control his powers through Guruji (Amitabh Bachchan) as well as find the truth about his parents’ disappearance. Then he can face a destiny that will shape the world.
Even though Shiva’s character represents one of the main deities, a lot of symbolism isn’t explained because the film is geared towards the Indian audiences. It doesn’t spoon-feed important details to western audiences. Nonetheless, throughout the film, it feels as if the cast is bloated, full of forgettable friends who are overwhelmingly eclipsed by a group of children in Shiva’s care. The villainous Junoon (Mouni Roy) is noticeably underwritten and a flat character, whose identity is primarily defined by her scarlet hair and black eyeshadow.
Once Bollywood superstar Bachchan shows up halfway through the film, his charismatic presence provides a perfect balance between him being both a stern and benevolent mentor.
Director Ayan Mukerji’s biggest achievement is getting Kapoor and Bhatt’s on-screen relationship to flourish, as they are among the precious few real-life couples in the film (and off-screen as well). Isha is literally boiled down to Shiva’s trigger, her existence and force drives him and unlocks his fire powers; she stands firmly at his side even without any Astras of her own. The soundtrack includes a score from Pritam Chakraborty that would be celebrated at any nightclub. Some of the songs such as “Dance Ka Bhoot” are very charming, serving to introduce Shiva’s character through Kapoor’s formidable dance talent. He leaps off the screen and grabs your heart.
“Brahmāstra” is one of the most expensive Indian movies ever made, with an estimated budget of 410 crores, or 50 million dollars. The director gets to establish a visual language all its own, packing it with a brightness through lavish cinematography and flashy coloration. The film accomplishes most of what it sets out to do, such as develop Shiva’s history and his path forward. Mukerji also establishes the look and feel of the Astraverse combat style, as well as balances out the lightness and darkness which demonstrates the triumph of good over evil at the end. This is an ambitious production which introduces us to a rich mythological cinematic universe.
Grade : B
Here’s the trailer of the film.