Director Ayan Mukerji had a blazingly potent weapons cache as he assembled his fantasy adventure ‘Brahmastra: Part One — Shiva’, but you are left wondering whether he utilised them to their full potential after watching this bombastic saga.
Laden with impressive special effects and striking visuals, the first part of this dazzling trilogy about sages who protect ancient weapons is weighed down by clunky dialogues, lame characters, and reducing its leading lady — a fine actress like Alia Bhatt — into a luminous but screechy damsel.
The movie opens with DJ Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor) falling in love with a radiantly pretty Isha (Bhatt) for no particular rhyme or reason.
While we can buy into two consenting adults being instantly attracted to each other, it’s difficult to digest the speed with which they turn into soul mates who are willing to court danger and even death for each other’s sake.
At one point, Shiva tells his buddies that a girl had captured his heart in the corniest of fashion.
He meets her again at the nightclub he was DJing in and they both hurtle towards a whirlwind romance. In between them being googly-eyed, Shiva goes into violent trance where he has this graphic visions about demons, weapons, fire, and everything in between — and runs away from her. Normally, a woman would go running in the opposite direction if the dishy guy goes off kilter, but not Isha.
Later, Shiva finds her again, and together they learn about how he isn’t your usual bloke who just falls in love with random strangers. He has special powers that includes a divine connection with fire. Fire doesn’t burn him, and an insipid quarrel between the two shining love birds later, they go on a danger-filled adventure to find out more about his murky past.
Apparently, a clutch of sages are the keepers of weapons with incredible powers, but villainess Junoon played in broad strokes by Mouni Roy — a lady dressed in all-black — is out to snatch the pieces of the ultimate weapon that will give her incredible power over the universe.
Shiva and Isha, aided by his violent visions, embark on a journey to find out more about his strange connection with fire and how he doesn’t feel the heat. Is he the modern fireproof superhero with incredible powers to conquer evil?
While it’s Shiva’s origin story, it’s the extended cameos that crank up the heat in this film. Shah Rukh Khan as scrupulous scientist Mohan and Nagarjuna Akkineni as a renowned artist Shetty — who are mere pawns in this game of astras that control the elements in this earth — are interesting twists.
But stilted dialogues — such as ‘Look, the killers are in the truck’, as Shiva mansplains to Isha — bog down the narrative. While the first half is dominated by the blossoming love between the two, it’s the second half that’s redemptive.
The parts where Amitabh Bachchan plays an astra guru and runs his own school with wards wanting to harness their special powers is interesting. This is where the good bits kick in. The wait is long for the special effects-laden spectacle to play out. Be warned, the film is nearly three hours long and you might have to wait for this film to heat up.
The main players who appear impossibly tinny and shrill come into their own towards an action-filled climax that’s visually striking. But then, all that good work is unravelled when a monologue about love triumphing hate is uttered.
The usual tropes of hyper masculine heroes saving the world and their sweetheart looking wide-eyed at the hero’s antics is regurgitated incessantly. In terms of acting, Kapoor and Bhatt are on-point, but their sketchy character arc comes in their way of impressing the viewers.
The overdramatic lines about Kapoor — an orphan — wanting to know about his parents and his past don’t tug at any threads. Roy is on call to look lethal with her dark, Goth wardrobe and mutinous expressions. Bachchan may remind you of his stern principal act in ‘Mohabbatein’ where he reels out sanctimonious lines about discipline and duty, but he does what’s on the tin efficiently. Actress Dimple Kapadia — in a blink and miss it role — looks regal despite her limited screen time.
While the spectacular special effects save the day in ‘Brahmastra’, what really burns is that the movie’s potential to be a sizzling tale about sages and demons in Hindu mythology was never culled out. Perhaps, the next few instalments will sear you with its strong writing and storytelling. The first part blows hot and cold.