- Also Known as – Brahmastra Part One: Shiva
- Release Date: 09/09/2022
- Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Amitabh Bachchan, Mouni Roy, Nagarjuna Akkineni, Shah Rukh Khan
- Director: Ayan Mukerji
Few films do a lot of good in their runtime and then balance it out with an almost equal amount of bad. This makes the entire experience feel so levelled out that you ask yourself whether you loved the film or hated it. Brahmastra is one such rare film. At the end of it, I was perplexed whether to praise it for several well-done aspects of it or just trash it for its many, many flaws. Then I thought, it would be best to just jot down all that was good and bad in the film and let my readers decide whether the pros outweigh the cons for them or not. This will be a spoiler-heavy review and consider this my spoiler warning.
The Story: –
Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor) has visions of a strange world of astras (weapons) co-existing with the world that we know of. He sees people murdered by supernatural beings in pursuit of an elusive weapon referred to as the Brahmastra. He doesn’t understand what is happening and ignores it all continuing with his life. A chance meeting with Isha (Alia Bhatt) catalyzes his visions and superpowers that he had kept hidden from the world and set him on a path of self-discovery. He is also destined to aid the safeguard of a weapon that has been protected by a clandestine society for thousands of years.
Terrible direction: –
The direction of the film needed a lot of improvement. I fail to understand how the director couldn’t sense an utter lack of urgency throughout the narrative and did something to rectify it. The lead actor and actress are never in any serious danger. There aren’t any laudable build-ups to sequences and the few that are there are over before you can bat an eye. The story and the screenplay were lackluster and there was no depth in any of the characters. For the audiences to connect with a film of this nature, one had to ensure strong and investing characters, intrigue in the story, and references to things and emotions that have a grip on the audience’s senses and aesthetics. Ayan Mukerji misses out on all these.
The cameos: –
For me, the brightest portions of the film were the two much-talked-about cameos by Shah Rukh Khan and Nagarjuna Akkineni. The film literally begins with Shah Rukh Khan’s cameo as the master of the Vanarastra, and his charm and aura are undeniably overpowering. While this portion could have been a lot better written and had a lot more goosebump-inducing moments, I still enjoyed this bit thoroughly.
Nagarjuna Akkineni as the master of the Nandiastra was even better. It is a fact that Nagarjuna has one of the most charming and disarming screen presences among actors these days and he uses these qualities to keep the audiences transfixed by his essay. The fact that his character sacrifices his all to thwart the evil, adds a lot of heroism to his essay and elevates the character two folds in its final moments. It must be added that the background scores complimenting these cameos were top-notch and added a lot to the sequences.
Extremely poor dialogue: –
The dialogues of this film by Hussain Dalal and Ayan Mukerji are so cringe-worthy and childish that even the most unassuming of audiences will take notice of this discrepancy and laugh at it. There are many sequences in the film that could have worked but are single-handedly brought down by the poor dialogues that not only drain the seriousness or romance out of these sequences but also make you laugh for all the wrong reasons. There is also a lot of unnecessary and ill-placed oversimplification of important and heavy concepts that are further annihilated by the same poor dialogues and an obnoxious sense of unnecessary comedy that Ayan Mukerji infuses in these sequences.
Ranbir and Alia’s spirited performances: –
I thoroughly enjoyed Ranbir and Alia’s spirited performance and evident chemistry even though their characters and the development of their romance in the film are terribly written. If it was not for the chemistry between the two and the fact that they are both easy on the eyes, their portions would have been insufferable. One scene in particular that I loved was the one that comes at the interval point. When Alia’s safety is threatened, Ranbir for the first time bursts out into his true supernatural self and annihilates a villain who up till that moment felt invincible. This was a great way to establish how Shiva’s powers are always triggered by Isha’s presence or involvement.
Overindulgence in the love story: –
This is easily the biggest problem with the film. For a film that is called Brahmastra, there is very little time and importance devoted to the astras. Instead, the film is hellbent on proving how love is the most powerful weapon of all and perpetually ends up making a mockery of the most powerful weapon in the world. The love story drags in the second half and by the end of the film, it starts getting on your nerves.
Every time you feel that something good was about to happen and things were heating up, the love story would put a screeching halt to the proceedings. The perfect example of this is seen in a scene where Shiva and Isha learn that an important character is in mortal danger and that they need to go to Varanasi to inform him of this danger. What do they do? They break into the “Kesariya” song, romantically hopping and cuddling all around Varanasi. They take all the time in the world before arriving precariously at the moment when the man is about to be attacked.
Cinematography and Background score: –
The cinematography and background score of the film are two of its greatest strength. I felt the lighting went a little dim in the second half, especially in the action sequences but that is understandable. They had to make up for the lack of budget in the big action sequences and the best way to cover up the lack of finesse in visual work is by going a little darker. The Background score is consistently good and elevates many sequences by the virtue of its quality. The climactic score went a little over the top but that much can be forgiven for all the good that was done earlier.
Poor world-building and character development: –
I went into this film called Brahmastra expecting a story about astras. I wanted to know their genies, their functionalities, how they could be earned, and how the people in possession of them actually earned them. I wanted to know how they could be transferred, destroyed, or pacified.
Unfortunately, I got nothing in that regard in this film. It is so random in its dealing with the astras that I was perplexed by how they could be so cavalier about what they are calling to be the basis of their film that has been in the making for the past 10 years. Not only do they shun all the real astras and shastras from our Itihasa, and create funny-sounding astras of their own, they didn’t even care to explain or atleast touch on the mythology of these fictional astras.
Shaktimaan did a far better job at explaining his dress made of the five elements from the popular TV Show of the 90s. In addition, there is a total disregard for Sanatan Itihasa and they try to sell Rumi-ism in the name of Sanatan culture and the all-pervading language of love. This makes a mockery of all that Ayan Mukerji, and his team was blabbering about the film being rooted in Sanatan culture and history.
Final Words: –
Brahmastra will leave you uninspired in the end even though it has moments of brilliance and beauty peppered all throughout its runtime. I wanted to love this film. I did love this film in certain moments, but its flaws were so evident and jarring that even I couldn’t ignore them even though I wanted to for all the effort that Ayan Mukerji and his team put into creating something different. Whether to watch this film or not, I leave it to your fine sense of judgment. Probably this review will help you make up your mind.