Brahmastra Part One Shiva Review: The Tale of Indian Superheroes
“Brahmastra Part One Shiva”, the first part of Ayan Mukerji’s big tentpole movie that is meant to be a trilogy, has a lot going on. It has fantasy, mythology, action, and adventure all in one book. It has been in the news for a number of reasons, but mostly because it is meant to save Bollywood from its current rut and do more than just entertain us. At least on the first point, it doesn’t work at all.
Here is what this much-anticipated Dharma production promised to do. Spectacular effects. No one disagrees with that claim. The only other book that comes to mind is “Baahubali” by SS Rajamouli. Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt are one of the cutest couples in Bollywood, both on and off screen. Shah Rukh Khan and the one and only Amitabh Bachchan show up out of the blue, and the friendly Nagarjuna brings up the middle. Is there anything that could be better? It turns out that it’s not, even though it could be and should be.
In the beginning of the movie, Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor) is a modern DJ who makes tens of thousands of people at Durga puja dance to his music. As the movie progresses, everything gets bigger and bigger. The pandal is huge, and as the camera moves back, its incredible size and grandeur become clear. The screen is filled with dance and music. When our hero and his love, Isha (Alia Bhatt), finally meet, our hearts don’t skip a beat, even as the rhythms around them get faster and faster.
This is the real problem with the movie, which is supposed to be the most expensive Bollywood has ever made. Even with the nonstop computer graphics, lavish scenery, stellar cast, and the movie’s commitment to its razzle dazzle, we never really buy into it. It took a lot of work on my part to both get into it and get out of it. Right away, it’s clear why the movie has awkward scripting, parts that aren’t clear, and changes in tone that keep the movie from ever getting comfortable. There is a “tapori” part to Shiva’s talks, but why and where does it go? Why do his best friends just disappear without saying anything? If the bad guys have superpowers, why do they use real machine guns? Why does the humor sometimes feel like it was put on? Many questions arise. Oh, and those obvious plugs for products like Jio phones and Mac laptops. Really?
People say that Shiva is an orphan whose roots are in Mukerji’s made-up “astraverse.” The Brahmastra, the most powerful weapon, used to be kept in three pieces to keep it safe. Its guardians were in charge of keeping the universe’s structure in place. But a self-centered being comes along who wants everything and sends his terrible forces to attack our planet. The target is, of course, our hero Shiva and Isha, which is another name for his devoted wife Parvati, as well as the Brahmansh, a small group of people who live quietly in the Himalayan highlands as guardians of the faith and warriors with ancient weapons. Will Shiva, who has an odd connection to fire (agni), be able to stop the marauders led by the red-lipped, gleaming-eyed Junoon (Mouni Roy, who walks through the movie in flowing black robes) and her two goons?
There are enough building blocks here to make our own Marvel universe, complete with gods and goddesses from our vivid, rich mythology and unique humans with superhuman abilities that they must learn to use first. One of the best scenes is when the older Guru (Amitabh Bachchan) tests Shiva by having him play with fire while the screen lights up. Ranbir Kapoor is always able to think on his feet. Alia Bhatt, who is very smart, also shines on her own. Even though their conversation is cheesy, it makes you smile because you remember their real-life romance, which should have been reflected in their movies but isn’t: “jal gayi tum mere pyaar mein,” which means “you’re burning with love for me,” and “kabki,” which means “long ago.” Shah Rukh Khan brings some of his quirky charm to his appearance (his name, we are told, is Mohan Bhargav, which is a nod to his “Swades” character? But in the end, nothing is new enough, and we can’t care about these cardboard characters as they run for their lives in a boringly drawn-out ending.
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