Brahmastra part 1 shiva review: With an exceptionally brilliant visual experience, Brahmastra is a must-watch in theatres, but it will be its weak script that cannot, unfortunately, match the VFX stature of the film and will disappoint you.
Almost a 400 crore budget, 10 years in making, an ensemble cast that includes big names, an entire verse that depended on VFX that's being created in India for the first time, and a Bollywood film that really needs to work in theatres, really the stakes were too high! Before the release of the film, I was anxious because, with such high stakes, there are only two ways that you can really go either this experiment becomes a complete failure or a massive success. But never did I think that it would be somewhere in the middle and become a conflicted success. In so many ways, Ayan Mukerji's dream project Brahmastra Part 1 Shiva for all its worth, is like Harry Potter IMO, that's wrapped in Bollywood tropes entirely where the exceptionally brilliant VFX creates a larger-than-life visual spectacle on a 35 mm screen to be enthralled with. But as grand as the visual spectacle is, unfortunately, the writing cannot match it and is massively at fault.
During ancient times, a group of sages after deep meditation were rewarded with Brahma Shakti (the light of the universe), from which a set of astras (weapons) emerge containing elemental or natural energy: (jalastra (water), pawanastra (wind), agnyastra (fire), and more). These sages were called the Brahmansh (custodians of these astras) who used their powers for the world's good. Over the course of time, their wisdom and powers were passed down to generations. Whenever the Brahmansh gets together, each member’s astra exudes an energy beam that combines to form a neon whirlpool of energy Brahmastra (the most powerful astra that carries the essence of all the other astras). But this most powerful weapon was broken apart and divided into three parts protected by the members of the Brahmansh. But some evil powers in the world are behind this Brahmastra that once joined back would destroy the world. Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor), a young DJ who doesn't know that he is an embodiment of the agnyastra and that his destiny is attached to the Brahmastra goes on a journey to figure out unusual things happening with him with Isha (Alia Bhatt), his love interest on his side and unfolds the truth about this astraverse and about himself.
Also Read: After a really long anticipation of the film’s release, did Brahmastra live up to its hype for the Janta?
The inspirations of the film are obvious and stretch from MCU to X-Men to LOTR to more but the most prominent one was Harry Potter for me. From being an orphan child who has a huge backstory of his parents unknown to him that marked his destiny to realizing the magic within himself and training to harness it (deva deva and that house on the hill reminds me of Hogwarts), love being the ultimate powerful weapon (love could only destroy Voldemort) to Shiva having flashes that are realistic to change the course of a path by willing to sacrifice oneself for the other ((Lily's sacrifice for her son) and Brahmastra pieces feeling like Horcruxes or astras feeling like magic. There were one too many connections that I could draw out between the two films but yes this is more of a fantasy action adventure with Bollywood written all over it.
Brahmastra Part 1 Shiva in all its colorful glory offers a theatrical experience like no other film before. The film starts with a heavy exposition of a comic book-type reference taking inspiration from Amar Chitra Katha with a voiceover that gets you hooked instantly. The well-structured VFX and a choreographed action sequence with the Scientist (Mohan Bhargava) rising up in the sky to reveal vanarastra (power of a “super monkey”) or the one with Nagarjuna as nandi astra (power of a thousand bulls) fighting with the villains or the training phase, historical reveal or the climatic battle is a visual spectacle to behold. And rightly so because I think most people are not expecting to see this stature of VFX in India. But the technical quality of the digital imagery done by DNEG (Dune, Blade Runner 2049, and Inception) is something that we have never witnessed before.
But as the story moves forward, the plot starts feeling confusing and the pace of the film doesn't help either. In comparison to the awe-inspiring visuals, the script starts to stoop even lower. It's like every concept is there but somebody forgot to structure it and put it all there just like hanging fragmented pieces. This is where the film loses its fictional strength and the reasoning and logic of the people start to seep in. As a different world is created but one that doesn't fully invite you in because it can't decide for itself where and what it wants to do. The overlapping of arcs where one doesn't even end while the other begins does not give you enough breathing space to grasp anything and leaves out too many loose arcs and gaps. These are only filled by the cinematic visual that you are witnessing and the deafening background score (which Pritam should release now) that is definitely aiding in guiding your feelings.
Another major flaw of the film is the cringe-worthy dialogue. They sound exactly like how Harry Potter sounds in Hindi as if they wrote the script in English and then realized they are making a Hindi film. It takes a very poor script to get disgusted by what even Amitabh Bachchan is saying, whose screen presence still overtakes everyone but kudos to Hussain Dalal for accomplishing that feat. During the entire movie, the dialogues have been so dumbed down that you want all of them just to shut up and focus on the action (now the whole love storiyaan debacle as to why they used that word is understood as well). Maybe there could be some outdated jokes given the film was written quite earlier but where the film thinks that it's being smart and funny, it actually comes across as quite childish as if the makers are mocking our intelligence for understanding the realm that they have created and in short bringing their own realm down with it.
And in addition to all of this is the fact that the film doesn't realize its own strength which lies in Shiva's own internal arc, and finding the light within himself making him an interesting and impactful superhero who in order to save someone can sacrifice himself instead of keeping the love story as the main focus of the film.
Don't get me wrong, I love the love story in various parts, like the sweet meet-cute and the attraction between the two but it wasn't the most effective to create dramatic tension and the entire emotion of the film. In fact, there was too much focus on the love story, which could easily be a sidetrack of the film, bringing a certain forcefulness to the film. It didn't give space to any character for development, not even the protagonists or depth to the story, even the love story. Zor and Raftaar are quite harrowing villains or people who fight side by side with Shiva in the last battle, but as for their names and who they are, they are quite forgettable. This comes as a disappointment because a director like Ayan who even gives the neighbor in Wake Up Sid enough ground, cannot produce any emotion for a kid like Tenzing. And moreover, where Aisha and Naina, irrespective of being a catalyst in a hero's journey, had solid ground for themselves, Isha has been just reduced to a Parvati who acts as a mere catalyst in a hero's arc.
The larger-than-life bits of the film are denoted by the entire film, the way 5 cinematographers have shot it, and the sets that it has been placed in. Case in point - the Gods and the Dussehra festival. And even though Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, and all are mentioned yet they look like a city of this astraverse realm, too fictional to be true which kind of works because this is a fantasy film; the scientist's whole lair reminds one of Iron Man's setup. But the characters are not befitting the setting they have been placed in, even though they are looking too gorgeous the entire time, courtesy of Anaita Shroff Adajania. Hence the acting feels weaker, though Mouni Roy and Amitabh Bachchan stand out. And considering that the film had banked on some of the greatest talents like Ranbir Kapoor (who is the weakest in terms of acting) and Alia Bhatt (who still tries to give something to Isha) it seems like a missed opportunity.
But irrespective of all its flaws, Brahmastra Part 1 Shiva makes up for an engaging spectacle to be enthralled by because of its strength visually. You're so busy watching the magic unfold in front of your eyes and taking in one action sequence after another that the lack of a voice takes a backseat and comes to you only when you are out of the theatre. But this film has left me conflicted, at one side my Bollywood heart is filled with watching all the drama, romance, action, villain, hero, and dance sequences (seeing Ranbir Kapoor and a whole lot in dance ka bhoot) after a long time combined with supernatural forces but it's also sad that I could not really fall in love with the film and connect with it even though I wanted to which makes Brahmāstra quite forgettable.
This makes me think that this ambitious project while rooted in our culture was built at the cost of a good dramatic story at which Bollywood is actually good. They got so busy making that world a reality that they forgot about first making it airtight and leaving arcs to be finished in the next one. Marvel films or any other west films are the benchmarks and it's not like they don't make mistakes; remember the 6th part of Harry Potter or earlier films of Marvel. So Brahmastra Part 1 Shiva truly deserves to be witnessed on the big screen there but don't go in with any expectations just simply give in! And of course, the ending truly has me waiting for the next ones, maybe all the loopholes will be tied in those.
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