Fire cannot burn him. Darkness cannot defeat him. Love cannot harm him. Welcome to the new age Bollywood superhero Shiva (a handsome and carefree Ranbir Kapoor) whose nimble footed ‘Dance Ka Bhoot’ act and club bopping music belies his true destiny in Ayan Mukerji's Brahmastra: Part One -Shiva.
Like most modern day romances we presume, he falls head over heels for a pretty girl at the local Pooja mandap – (Isha played by a luminous Alia Bhatt) - and the duo embark on an impromptu adventure that sees them flit from Bombay to Varanasi and the Himalayas in a quest to fulfill his destiny.
Up in a cozy cottage tucked away on the dizzying hillside of Himachal Pradesh, Guruji (a dapper Amitabh Bachchan whose baritone voice alone deserves special credit) the guardian of the most powerful Astras of all, Brahmastra, trains young superheroes to channel the power of nature - fire, wind, serpent - even as he convenes open air meetings with a highly secretive society entrusted with protecting the universe from the ill effects of the Brahmastra.
Among them oddly (for an actress of her stature she is not called upon to do or say anything substantial) is the silver haired Dimple Kapadia who flits in and out in a military size helicopter while her elderly peers commute on horseback and cars to the secretive Ashram.
But alas Junoon (a suitably effective, kohl-rimmed, red-eyed Mouni Roy) and her team of part comic- part menacing villains - Raftaar and Zor - are on a mission to get their hands on the three potent pieces of the Brahmastra to awaken the power of their dormant lord, Dev.
Mind you, for super villains seemingly in possession of earth shattering superpowers, it’s a bit baffling to see Junoon and her sidekicks slum it out in a common truck as they drive up to the Himalayas.
In Ayan Mukerji’s ambitious mythology-meets-modernity tale of a ‘DJ turned Dragon’ compelled to awaken the fire within to put out the darkness around him, Bollywood gets one of its first original fantasy universe based on ancient Hindu mythology.
Overtones of X-Men and Marvel superhero figures hang over the Astraverse where VFX heavy action sequences and spectacular pyrotechnics take centre stage. But can some truly world-class fireworks and dizzying light show distract from cheesy dialogues and a super simplistic concept of how love can overpower evil in this world?
Alia and Ranbir’s youthful earnestness powers this Brahmastra journey, no doubt, aided with some croon worthy numbers like Kesariya. But their love story peaks at the most inopportune moments in the plot. It leaves us wondering if this is meant to be a fantasy film or a modern day love story of two single attractive people who fall in love at first sight, embark on a cross-country journey hardly 24 hours into the ‘relationship’ and end up making romantic overtures to each other in the midst of some extremely nail biting action sequences.
Brahmastra is definitely a must watch to feast on some breathtaking action sequences and VFX that will have you glued to the screens. Kudos to Ayan for bravely attempting to take Bollywood into a fantastical new universe.
But don’t go in expecting any earth shattering story line since the movie seems to have primarily been made to dazzle your eyes than tug at your heart strings.
Brahmastra does attempt to take the high ground by juxtaposing unbridled passion with soul encompassing love; Life affirming light with death akin darkness; Pre ordained destiny versus free spirited choice etc. But all that is lost beneath the razzmatazz.
With all due credit to great performances by Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Amitabh Bachchan, Mouni Roy and even the ‘surprise’ superstar cameo along with an underutilized Nagarjuna, the glimpse we are provided of the upcoming sequel of the trilogy, on the lord of darkness, Dev (whose muscular back is reminiscent of a certain frenzied hero) and the mysterious Amrita, looks more appealing.
Blame it on the fact that Bollywood has spoilt us over the years by presenting larger than life human heroes who can pummel a dozen bad guys to submission with nary a scratch on their air brushed physiques, walk through fire, survive falls from dizzying heights and even stop bullets in their tracks.
So as much as it may be a sight for sore eyes, a buff Ranbir Kapoor dancing around giddily in the middle of a field in awe of his fire harnessing power, doesn't impress us much.
Brahmastra is out in UAE cinemas from today
Director: Ayan Mukerji
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Nagarjuna, Mouni Roy
Rating: 3 out of 5 (for effort)
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