Simply put Brahmastra is a superhero film. As yours truly sat down with the 3D glasses perched on my nose, watching men and women with superhuman abilities battle it out, I couldn’t help but wonder how we invariably think of the Marvel template every time we hear ‘superhero’.
The idea that a bunch of powerful people who look like they live perfectly ordinary lives can also conjure up all their strength and power to fight some massive battles is a delicious one.
Some protect, others want to destroy. Of course, over the years we have had Ra.One, the Krrish franchise and the more recent Malayalam film, Minnal Murali, which ingeniously tried to make the Hollywood superhero genre our own. Ayan Mukerji‘s first instalment of this planned trilogy seeks to root it in Indian mythology and philosophy.
The film opens with Amitabh Bachchan’s voice taking us through a guided tour of the various ‘astras’ (weapons ) and how powerful they are. Rishi Munis for years did ‘tapasya’, prayed and meditated for the most powerful Astra of them all - Brahmastra. He tells us about the energies that inhabit our world and how their powers have been harnessed into many such ‘astras.’ The stage is set and so are the expectations!
Brahmastra quite literally and metaphorically must now be “pieced” together. The first of the action set pieces designed to dazzle us involves a certain much-loved superstar (no names here because reviewing without spoilers is my superpower)!
On a parallel track, we meet Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor). He is a young man who must awaken to his true calling. His destiny is intrinsically linked to that of the Brahmastra. But Shiva can’t take his eyes off Isha. “Isha matlab Parvati and shiva ka saath Parvati nahi degi toh kaun dega”, (Isha means Parvati and Parvati will always support Shiva) quips Alia Bhatt. And suddenly all the momentum built up just fizzles. And this is a pattern that sadly defines Brahmastra. Ranbir and Alia are much in love and easy on the eyes but saddled with the silliest lines.
It becomes easier to suspend our disbelief when the screen comes alive with the special effects. The razzmatazz has enough ammunition to make us surrender to this ambitious set-up even if the execution can’t match it consistently through the 166 minute runtime. Take for instance Shiva who seems like he is pretty determined to know the truth of his existence and forges ahead but post interval he suddenly behaves like Bunny from Ye Jawani hai Deewani reluctant to step up and take ownership.
The film’s way to deal with these inconsistencies is to have a lengthy second half where we have an exposition of why Shiva is going through all that he is. But Hussain Dalal’s dialogues continue to disappoint.
The film thrives when there aren’t any dialogues. For instance, there is 'Vanar- Astra', 'Nandi- Astra' (Nagarjuna Akkineni) and 'Prabha - Astra' (Amitabh Bachchan) with their strength on full display. A battle between the forces of light and darkness (Mouni Roy) ensues and the visual spectacle is what keep us invested. Nagarjuna and Mouni Roy seem to be having the most fun and that makes the proceedings flow effortlessly.
As things stand Brahmastra grabs us in parts. If the unnecessary parts about love and lovers could have been avoided the impact would have been stronger. For now, the sound and light show should suffice.
3 quints out of 5.