Rto see: A young orphan DJ, Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor), leads a happy, light-filled life around a band of orphaned children. His special connection to fire – it doesn’t ignite him – and a series of images that appear before him periodically when he closes his eyes, suck him into a world of superpowers. While there is a mythological background to this, it also gradually connects Shiva to her parents’ story, which changes the course of her life. His search for love and light sets him on a path to destroy the forces of evil and discover his true potential.
With comic book-style visuals and Amitabh Bachchan’s baritone, the film establishes its premise and the origin of its universe in an interesting way. Brahmastra: Part One: Shiva relies heavily on two aspects – its visual effects and the love story of its main partner, Shiva and Isha, played by Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt. The film gains a lot in visual effects. It’s well thought out, top notch and effective in most places. For example, the culmination of the pre-break scenes is a spectacle.
The film borrows from Indian mythology and folktales, which is fantastic. The effort and passion invested in creating the universe in this film, filled with minute detail, is worthy of appreciation. And in doing so, the producers lovingly tip their hats to films like the Harry Potter franchise. The film shines in divisions like the VFX. The film’s color palette was carefully created, and the depiction of the astras created from the powers of nature and mythological characters is beautiful. The action choreography, especially in the chase sequence before the break, also deserves whistles and applause.
Watching artists like Nagarjuna and Amitabh Bachchan play key parts for the T is a delight, but not a surprise. They’ve done this a zillion times before. Nagarjuna on her limited screen time is quite effective. And Mr. Bachchan looks comfortable in his character’s shoes, pulling off stunts with ease. Ranbir’s effort to add emotional gravity to the proceedings is visible. He goes to great lengths to take audiences beyond the surface layers of this film with the way he played Shiva. It would have been great if the characters of Alia Bhatt and Mouni Roy were also developed with the same passion as Ranbir so that they had that lasting impact. There isn’t much attention to secondary characters either, which is unlike anything writer-director Ayan Mukerji has done so far.
Even if Brahmastra: Part One: Shiva had the potential and space for it, the film doesn’t score points for its main couple’s love story, which forms the thrust of the narrative here. In fact, it doesn’t seem plausible from the start, which weakens the film at its core. As a result, the larger story unfolding in the film also feels weak and the script suffers as well. The dialogues are also not able to save much. For the last part, the runtime starts to feel tedious. The narrative could have been more balanced between the two halves of the film. And while the songs are pleasing to the ear, their presence sometimes affects the pace of the narrative.
The line between great and good is in a believable, character-led story that engages you emotionally. The most imaginative worlds created by movie geniuses end up relying on writing to keep everything else glued perfectly in place. With all its advantages, nothing compensates for the emotional deficits that Brahmastra suffers. If this had received more attention, it would have gone a long way toward making the process more commendable.