For something regarded as one of the most awaited movies of the year, Brahmāstra: Part One – Shiva opens on a very sour note. After all the narration about Devas and Astras, we clumsily move from Mumbai to Delhi. Or you can say from Ranbir Kapoor to Shah Rukh Khan or from Shiva to Mohan. The transition is ungracious, but let’s move on. Mohan’s apartment is invaded by Junoon (Mouni Roy) and two assassins. When they capture Mohan, he says something about the advent of light, and on cue, sunlight enters the room. Back in Mumbai, the light falls on Shiva’s face. The meaning is clear: Shiva is the light that would remove the darkness. Through Mohan, we also learn about Vanar Astra, an anklet that helps you run fast and make long jumps. Vanar means Bandar (monkey), and Bandar is what Isha (Alia Bhatt) calls Shiva when he jumps onto an elevator. Should you be surprised then that Shiva is seen eating a banana post-interval?
Shiva says, “Kuch toh rishta hai mera aag se,” or something like that. He has no idea that he is the Agni Astra. Shiva can control fire. But before all that, in a scene at the beginning, he stands on a platform and in front of the fire. When Shiva looks down, he notices Isha, and something burns within him with passion. That fire provokes Shiva to madly run after Isha when he sees her again at a party. It’s not just the internal feelings; even Shiva’s fiery superpowers become more intense because of Isha. This is just another way of saying that the heroine simply charges and pushes the hero to his destination. Are they attracted to each other just because of their names (Isha also means Parvati)? Or is there something else going on here? I got the answer to Isha’s “kaun ho tum?” but Shiva’s “kya ho tum?” is still hanging in the air.
Writer-director Ayan Mukerji’s passion project takes a giant leap in terms of visual effects. The VFX in Brahmāstra is truly worth watching on the largest screen possible. It’s spectacular. But unfortunately, that’s all there is to Brahmāstra. The frames have vibrant colors, but there is no imagination. After a while, everything looks like a giant colorful blob. There is a reason why some filmmakers and critics consider the story to be the true champion. After exiting the cinema hall, you might forget certain images, but a powerful story stays with you for months or even years. The only creative moment in the film involves a kite made of magical powers. The rest is a display of extravagance.
The 3D is excellent as there is no dullness. But the movie theaters should start handing out earbuds along with 3D glasses. The ear-splitting noise threatens to blow off your head or make you deaf. It feels as if someone has detonated a nuclear bomb in the theater. The words “Shiva!” and “Isha!” are screamed at such a high pitch that they become equivalent to a loud boom. I somehow survived with all my senses intact, but my companion is still suffering from a headache.
The characters wield the supernatural power of Astras but are weak in front of earthly materials, like underground escape routes, cars, and bullets. Point a gun, and they will dodge. At one point, three characters run through an underground passage while Junoon, though close to them, simply stands silently and watches them escape. An assassin with Vanar Astra is defeated in a chase where characters drive a car. I am all in for vulnerability and limitations, but these scenarios look ridiculous and, by extension, unbelievable. One smells the stench of plot convenience instead.
However, the worst aspect of Brahmāstra is the awkward line readings done by the actors. Everybody fails while delivering their dialogues. Even simple conversations are painful to hear. Only Amitabh Bachchan comes out without any damage. His deep, heavy voice infuses credibility into lines like, “Tumhe DJ se dragon banana hai,” or something like that. It’s surprising how Ranbir and Alia manage to have weak chemistry here. There is no spark or passion in their interactions. In fact, whenever they stop to declare their love for each other, you either yawn or cringe. The pre-interval “I love you” moment makes you bury your head in embarrassment. So much money and care have gone to the CGI department that no one bothered to pay attention elsewhere.
One can divert their attention by musing on facts like Dragon was initially rumored to be this film’s title or that the snake conjured by Junoon could be a hat tip to Roy’s role as Naagin. However, when you pay attention to these small details, you also notice the name of the newspaper which informs Shiva about Mohan’s death. It’s Afternoon Times, which further accentuates the unimaginative state of Brahmāstra.
Brahmāstra is Shiva’s origin story, and it’s so generic that the whole movie comes across as impersonal. Mukerji’s love for visuals gives rise to an empty spectacle. He digs into the fascinating world of Indian mythology but ends up creating an unexceptional movie.