Brahmastra – Part One: Shiva

wogma rating: Catch on TV/online for sure (?)

quick review:

It’s repetitive. It’s mediocre. It tells more than it shows. It’s not creative, visually or aurally. YET, it is charming and got me curious about what it holds next.

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Director: Ayan Mukerji
Running time: 160 minutes
More Movie Info

Swush. Swoosh. Swirrl. Swwirrrl. Svuuuuuush. Almost everyone of any importance in the film can have pixie dust and fire-like swoosh emanating from their palms. They all twiirrl their hands like martial artists and have magical powers serve them. It seemed so common that as I walked out of the theatre I moved my palms to see if I could produce fire. Not exaggerating. That is a huge win for this first installment of Brahmastra. Because you want to know more despite Brahmastra being a pretty run-of-the-mill superhero film. Especially for those of us, seasoned on the likes of Star Wars, X-Men, to the latest The Sandman and The Rings of Power. Brahmastra manages this because of a decent underlying story, Ranbir Kapoor’s energy, and the Ranbir-Alia vibe.

And despite all these major-major irritants, the story carries an underlying strength.

You are thrown into the thick of it from the word go. You are introduced to a prime player in a parallel fantasy world that exists along with our normal 2022 world. You meet the villains and the extent of their viciousness. You know this is a part of the puzzle, and there is much to unfold. Obviously. The movie is, after all, 2 hours and 40 minutes long. And is only the first of the three parts. That the film managed to hold interest for the long run-time is a huge plus. Even though I did get a chance, in the beginning, to wonder how Alia Bhatt would fare in a non-cute role, or dare I say a villainous one. Meanwhile, I was pleasantly surprised that we weren’t being spoon-fed and were given room to piece things together.

I also enjoyed that Shiva, played with the quintessential Ranbir Kapoor fervor, was discovering things along with us. Unfortunately, the writers let go of this show-don’t-tell as Shiva begins to figure out his powers and their origin. The second half goes into using Amitabh Bachchan’s baritone as the sole super-power of the film. Can’t blame them. But, it left me feeling a little short-changed after the narrative style of the first half. Even though it does this cute thing of using the mata-pita-astra* in the midst of having an entire armoury of magical weapons.

The other problem is by interval, you are not really expecting the special effects to be any better than those on display in the first scene. With one exception, they all spin here and there and produce granular stuff and fire-like stuff, and their weapons produce granular stuff and fire-like stuff. We have to be happy that every once in a while, the stuff takes forms? And that each person is assigned a different colour? Thankfully, the colours are nice and bright despite being 3D, which usually gives the film a dull and dark gloomy feel. Unfortunately, nothing very unusual is done with the 3D itself.

It doesn’t help that the characters are all unidimensional, and amidst all the colour, the characters stay as black and white as they go. Whenever fire and dust aren’t flying from one end of the screen to the other, or sometimes even as that is happening, we have Shiva and Isha romancing with pretty much repetitive lines and “I love you”s.

And despite all these major-major irritants, the story carries an underlying strength. A story that seems to have a lot going on, and you enjoy knowing as it is told to Shiva. A story that holds promise. Sure, I wish I was allowed to figure it out instead. But, for this first installment and all that the film is trying to do in terms of breaking Hindi film norms, it will do. For now, this fantasy world holds interest and promises to do so for another 2-3 hours at least.

However, Part Two will have to up its game. In its artwork, it could follow the creativity on display in Part One’s end credits and take it from there instead of just relying on colour schemes from mood boards. In its special effects, it will have to think out of the box and way-way beyond bling and sparkle. In its editing, it would have to rely a lot less on pace and more on skilled action choreography.

The second half goes into using Amitabh Bachchan’s baritone as the sole super-power of the film.

In its writing, it will have to dig deeper than using character names as symbols from Mohan Bhargava and the light connection (Swades) to Zor (force), Raftaar (speed), and Junoon (Obsession) as the villain’s weapons. In its telling, it can take a cue from Part One’s first half. In its underlying philosophy, it does have a strong, even-if sappy one of using love to accept fear. It has to direct that energy to do better than becoming monotonous. 5-6 hours more is a long, long way to go. Else, it will feel like a lovely opportunity lost. ~ ~ ~ *Using the parent card

- meeta, a part of the audience

25 reviewers(?) - 12 yays 9 so-so 4 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Bolly Spice : ...The heartstopping chases never stop and the search for a secret talisman split into three parts echoes Marvel’s super-hero universe. And yet for all its derivative hints, Brahmastra is original, fresh, vibrant and quite irresistible. This, you cannot afford to miss.... full review

Thumbs up, by Russel D'Silva, Bollywood Life : ...The visual treat alone is worth the prove of admission for Brahmastra twice over. The dialogues and romance could've been streamlined, but the fantasy world and folklore that draw you in are enough to ensure that hardly anybody should walk out of the theatre saying that they didn't have a good time.... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...Watch the film for its visual appeal and for the burning chemistry between Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor. A stage has now been set and let's hope Ayan Mukerji doesn't take five years more to bring out the next installment.... full review

Thumbs up, by Punarvasu Pendse, fullhyd.com : ...Pritam's songs are more hit than miss, with some numbers including Kesariya already being chart-toppers. Simon Franglen's score is interesting, but gets repetitive soon. More than the quality of the sound, it is the incredibly loud volume of everything that stands out, and not in a good way - our ears were ringing by the time we left.... full review

Thumbs up, Hindustan Times : ...Watch Brahmastra because it's not every day that Bollywood churns out a film on this grand scale, with top-class VFX and creates a mystical universe that we only see in the West or closer home in the south film industry. And given that it's a planned trilogy, you'd be already left craving for a part two sooner.... full review

Thumbs up, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Brahmastra has pro-level VFX bundled with enough mythology to keep things interesting. It contains everything that the best-looking Indian film should have with some obvious flaws.... full review

Thumbs up, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...On the acting front, Ranbir and Alia achieve the impossible: they ensure that Shiva and Isha are always believable even as the goings-on around them are beyond fantastic. Mouni Roy, playing the arch-villainess who is out to wrest the brahmastra and wreak havoc on mankind, carries the daunting weight of the role without wilting.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sonil Dedhia, News18.com : ...But at the heart of the film is an incredible performance by Ranbir Kapoor, who doesn’t just play Shiva he becomes him. Just like the director, the actor too has been committed to the project for a decade and that can be seen in the performance.... full review

Thumbs up, by Isha Sharma, NewsBytes : ...Surreal experience that stays with you much after credits roll The strokes that have painted Brahmastra have Mukerji's vision written all over them. It encapsulates love, emotions, action, violence, death, and is a kaleidoscopic story fueled by jaw-dropping VFX and a potent background score. Mukerji's maverick genius mostly succeeds in achieving the rare fusion of exquisite mythology and modern sensibilities, and even though it falters, the film picks itself up soon enough.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sukanya Varma, Rediff : ...Brahmastra shines best in action mode. Of its many set pieces, the highway car chase is one of the most thrilling. Like a relentless T-1000 going after his targets in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, this one too goes for the same brand of full throttle menace. Wish Ayan had gone for the same degree of aggression in Shiva's training instead of doing it the cliché Bollywood song and dance way. Its pacing may waver as rapidly as its attention span, but Brahmastra's love for light is steady. Frames brim in pyrotechnics, bokeh effects and hues of red, blue, pink, purple and orange powering a blazing spectacle.... full review

Thumbs up, by Make McCahill, The Guardian : ...The film eventually assumes the familiar shape of the pixelated beat-’em-up, with Amitabh Bachchan outgrowling MCU’s Patrick Stewart as a guru overseeing a Himalayan training camp. Yet the emphasis on light as a special power banishes the murkiness of certain entries in the Marvel and DC universes, and Mukerji brings a peppy, wide-eyed spirit to the superhero-movie model, adorning tried-and-tested arcs and beats with workable Pritam songs, ravishing colours and gorgeous people. History suggests there are less effective ways of drawing a crowd on a Friday night.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rachana Dubey, Times of India : ...The line between great and good lies in a believable, character-led story that emotionally engages you. The most imaginative worlds created by cinema’s geniuses eventually rely on the writing to keep everything else glued perfectly in their places. With all its pluses, nothing makes up for the emotional deficits that Brahmastra suffers. If that had been paid more attention to, it would have gone a long way in making the proceedings more praise-worthy.... full review

So-So, by Sagar Tenali, Film Companion : ...And yet, Despite the appalling flaws in its writing. I enjoyed Brahmastra as a theatrical experience primarily because of the superficial appeal of the constant stream of stars who get their own "mass" scenes and the prettiness of the land pair.... full review

So-So, by Deepanjana Pal, Film Companion : ...Brahmastra is supposed to be the Bollywood equivalent of a marvel franchiseand Thank you. to the budget lavished on VFX, is a decent first attempt.... full review

So-So, by Madhuri V, Filmi Beat : ...Pritam's music in Brahmastra is a mixed bag. Our pick from the music album is Arijit Singh's melody 'Kesariya' which is already topping the music charts and the beautifully picturized 'Deva O Deva.'... full review

So-So, by Rohit Bhatnagar, Free Press Journal : ...Undoubtedly Ranbir and Alia are solid performers and so does Amitabh Bachchan and Nagarjuna Akkineni, but watch out for Mouni Roy’s bright performance throughout. She draws parallel to Ranbir-Alia in the film. Dimple Kapadia is a blink-and-miss... full review

So-So, by Ambica Sachin, Khaleej Times : ...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.... full review

So-So, by Sameer Ahire, Movie Talkies : ...Brahmastra is watchable for its big-screen value that introduces you to VFX-led grandeur, though it lacks both a storyline and storytelling, which could have taken it to the next level. The young guy has done more than his age, though.... full review

So-So, by Nandini Ramnath, Scroll.in : ...And what’s with the brahmastra itself, which resembles a glistening paperweight and is tossed about at will? The weapon’s undignified treatment is on par with Guru’s banal advice to Shiva that in order for him to discover his powers, he needs to be “on”.... full review

So-So, by Anuj Kumar, The Hindu : ...Perhaps, the big boys of Bollywood are missing the plot. They need to combine the courage and the visual flair of an Ayan Mukerji and the research of a Chandra Prakash Dwivedi to come up with something original.... full review

So-So, by Stutee Ghosh, The Quint : ...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.... full review

Thumbs down, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...As a Bollywood enthusiast I am conditioned to root for the rare mega budget fantasy title. I look forward to a first date of jitters : will this finally be the one? I go in with hope, despite being armed with the knowledge that thinking big in Hindi cinema is too often sacrificed at he alter of thinking wide.... full review

Thumbs down, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...Films so stuffed with special effects need to maintain a balance between parts which are meant to astonish us with their wares, and the parts which allow it to slow down and breathe. The VFX is non-stop (at one point, a troll-like army appears, and disappears), the blaring music keeps wanting to bludgeon us into submission, and we are left yearning for magic.... full review

Thumbs down, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...Brahmastra, I’m told, is India’s most expensive film—the cheque of around R500 crore, signed off by Disney (then Star). It shows. As does the audacity of the producers, to announce its sequel in the final frame (Part Two: Deva), which is otherwise contingent on the commercial success of Part One. Hollywood has regularly pulled off such franchises, on account of its global audience. And comic-book fans over generations... full review

Thumbs down, by Pooja Birala Jaiswal, The Week : ...At the end of the film, the makers announced Brahmastra – Part 2. Ayan Mukherji has wasted the skills and popularity of Shah Rukh Khan, Nagarjuna, and of course, Amitabh Bachchan. The same will happen with the next set of actors who decide to be part of Brahmastra movie cast. The best the audiences can do is brace themselves and just avoid it.... full review

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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Loads. Like any other superhero action film. A few gory scenes.
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: A superhero discovers his powers
  • General Look and Feel: Bright, dark, superhero-ey.

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Brahmastra – Part One: Shiva - Cast, crew, links

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Comments (2)

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Raj

Dear Meetu, Thank you so much. Very nice review. Seems to me like and attempt to amalgamate many Hollywood fantasies for mass-Indian sensibilities...

@Raj yeah, that sounds about right.

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