From his coming-of-age debut, Wake Up Sid (2009), to the romantic comedy-drama follow-up, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), the films of India’s beloved writer-director extraordinaire, Ayan Mukerji, have always beamed with a love of the romantic. This recurring thematic interest is still front-and-center (maybe now more than ever) in his newest offering, the Hindi-language fantasy action-adventure epic, Brahmāstra: Part One—Shiva (2022); but the film offers much more than a love story. Mukerji also seems to be exploring questions of family, friendship and loss that pair well with his ability to capture romance onscreen.
As audiences follow Shiva, a DJ who discovers his supernatural connection to fire can help save the world, the first thing that stands out is the visuals. The film is currently available in 3D and IMAX in select theaters, and I couldn’t recommend either version enough. With its eye-popping use of color, jaw-dropping action sequences and dance numbers big enough to give your favorite Bollywood production a run for its money, it’s safe to say this film was made to be seen on as big a screen as possible. It’s not only jam-packed with many amazing sights to behold, but also gives audiences a lot to think about in terms of the dangers of greed and ambition, as well as the importance of community and human connection.
While dark forces conspire to get their hands on an ancient weapon capable of ending the world, it’s up to Shiva and the love of his life, Isha, stop them—but they can’t do it alone. Success is only possible with the help of the Brahmansh, an ancient secret society entrusted with guarding powerful weapons belonging to the gods. With their help, Shiva not only has a shot at saving the world, but might also be able to learn what happened to his parents, a question that's haunted him since childhood. In an era of rampant individualism, this film’s handling of collectivity is a breath of fresh air, and an important contribution to cinema in the twenty-first century. The script also handles gender very deftly: despite Shiva’s ability to control enormous flames, Mukerji situating tenderness and love as the source of Shiva’s power provides a really interesting deconstruction of masculinity and strength. These themes crystallize onscreen with the help of some fantastic acting.
Ranbir Kapoor finds himself at the center of yet another Mukerji production, and once again the actor-director duo has hit it out of the park. It’s a great performance, doing exactly what each scene requires to further immerse audiences in this fantastical, maximalist world. There’s also a lot to be said of Alia Bhatt’s portrayal of Isha, whose range captures the entire spectrum of emotion with intense commitment and sensitivity.
The film's universal scope is also conveyed via some mind-bending crane shots and other dynamic camera movements one can expect in a movie as big as this; and don't even get me started on the score! Simon Franglen and Pritam's music isn't overly-emotional, we're not told what or how to feel, and yet it still manages to effectively set the tone for each moment.
Premiering to wide acclaim, Mukerji’s first entry into what’s being called the Astraverse hits all the notes one would hope for. It’s fun, smart and full of genuine emotion. Many reports say a sequel can be expected mid-2025. While that may seem like an eternity from now, there’s definitely enough in this film to keep us entertained until then. Be sure to watch Brahmāstra: Part One—Shiva in theaters (some theaters have tickets half-off on Tuesdays)!
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