‘Brahmastra – Part One: Shiva’, undoubtedly, is the most expensive Hindi film of the year. The film features mega motion picture stars and is said to be the most expensive film made ever in India. The one factor, however, that has got everybody excited is the genre of the film. It happens to be a sci-fi/fantasy action adventure film. While the west has made countless films in this (or related) genre, the Indian film industry hasn’t made too many films in this space.
Several media reports have pointed out how ‘Brahmastra’ is in the same space as the two ‘Baahubali’ films and ‘RRR’. However, when you think about it carefully, ‘Brahmastra’ is quite different. It is a film that features characters in possession of supernatural powers. Though the aforementioned Telugu films had several over-the-top sequences, they were still rooted in a sense of realism. ‘Brahmastra’ is a huge departure from the kind of films director Ayan Mukerji has made so far. While ‘Wake Up Sid!’ (2009) was a coming-of-age drama ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’ (2013) was a film on friendship and relationships.
Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor) is a disc jockey who grew up and now lives in a chawl in Mumbai. Shiva is an orphan and it has also been specified why he doesn’t use a surname. While performing at a puja event, he sees Isha and falls in love with her instantly. Isha reciprocates Shiva’s feelings and gets drawn to the world he comes from. Despite going through several hardships in life, Shiva has a positive approach to everything and lives life to the fullest. His world, however, turns upside down when he starts seeing flashes of a scientist (Shah Rukh Khan) being attacked by Junoon (Mouni Roy), an evil woman with superpowers.
If somebody briefs you about some of the elements used in the film, you would be quite excited. Ayaan Mukerji handpicked several interesting themes explored earlier in literature and films and made an attempt to tell a story that would still be original. Scale and ambition won’t take you anywhere unless you have an engaging screenplay in place. The first half of the film has its share of flaws but it’s the second half where the film nosedives completely.
When you see the film, you also get a sense the writers were not very sure about how to design the characters. You see Junoon’s henchmen having some sort of superpowers and yet, they use a gun to eliminate people. The film is also bereft of logic in several places. A hero, who stands by his values, would not eliminate innocent people who have been hypnotised/taken control of by an evil force. You see that happening in the pre-climatic sequence. When the film has been designed as a trilogy, you expect the first part to end with something that makes you feel satisfied and also gets you intrigued about the next film in the franchise. You feel a sense of frustration as the end credits roll.
Much has been written and spoken about the visual effects in ‘Brahmastra’. When you see the film, you realize the VFX (Redefine and DNEG) is of a very good standard. If not world-class, it’s definitely better than the kind of visual effects one has seen being used in Indian films so far. Pritam’s music is good but there is limited scope for songs in the film. ‘Kesariya’ makes an impact ‘Rasiya’, one of the best songs in the film, has been used sparsely. The ‘Swayam Hi Tu Agni Hai’ track is heard briefly but it arrives at a very important juncture in the film. Even though five different cinematographers (V Manikandan, Pankaj Kumar, Sudeep Chatterjee, Vikash Nowlakha and Patrick Duroux) have shot the film, there are no visual inconsistencies. The production design (Amrita Mahal Nakai) is very good.
Ranbir Kapoor looks charismatic and delivers a splendid performance. He was very impressive in the action sequences and looks forward to seeing his character do more action in the second film in the franchise. Alia Bhatt doesn’t get enough scope but does in some of the key scenes in the film. Amitabh Bachchan is wonderful, as always. However, given the fact that he plays a pivotal character, one wished he had more to do. Despite being saddled with a poorly written character, Mouni Roy does well. Shah Rukh Khan shines in a cameo appearance.
‘Brahmastra – Part One: Shiva’ is a well-mounted film with some wonderful visual effects that have seldom been seen in an Indian film. The screenplay, however, does a disservice to the ambition of the director and the key members involved with the project. As and when the second film in the franchise comes out, one hopes it is designed around a better script.