Everyone was crying foul about the words ‘Love Storiyan’ in Brahmastra’s Kesariya. After watching the film, it can only be said that the words don’t feel out of place anymore. In fact, it’s the most normal aspect of the film.
Was Ayan Mukerji’s Brahmastra made in all seriousness? Perhaps, this will be a fever dream that we all had and the real film that took almost a decade and was made on a budget of Rs 400 crore could be something entirely different and not feel as if it was written during a Koffee with Karan acting segments. Varun Dhawan ranting in Marathi at Arjun Kapoor during his KwK appearance in Season 5 felt more like a film than Brahmastra did. Maybe this was Ayan’s tribute to many of the over-the-top supernatural 90’s films—you know, our desi version of the Scary Movie franchise?
But the truth is here, Brahmastra, a frazzled lovechild of Harry Potter and the Marvel franchise, did happen. It almost leaves you in an existential crisis because you are torn between denial, unable to accept that a film like this was made, as well as being vastly entertained at how bad it is. It’s so fabulously awful that many of the 90’s gems suddenly pale in front of it. After coming out of the theatre, one can’t help but feel that they watched a spiritual sequel to Jaani Dushman. Ah, the days when you could watch a skeleton dancing around in a bridal lehenga in the name of horror.
Saif Ali Khan and Kajol embarking on a tale of reincarnation in Hameshaa or Madhuri Dixit breaking through a window and jumping into a pond to be with Chunky Pandey in Khilaaf seem rather tepid now. Or perhaps even Bobby Deol going rogue on the airport runway to stop Aishwarya Rai from leaving the country. That really was the hysterical joy of these old Bollywood films—-you could watch them, laugh at everything and be entertained, throughout. Those elements of flamboyance and garishness stayed in 80s and 90s, and the 2000s, with all its progress, also showed us films that were just bad and that you couldn’t sit through at all.
But then there’s Brahmastra. It’s an Ayan Mukerji film, the director who was behind Wake Up Sid and the loveable Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. He put so much effort into the VFX and grand effects of the film, that he left out the basic ingredients of the film itself, a story. It has been a while since Bollywood served a truly terrible film, that leaves you in splits (at all the serious and intense moments, mind you). With Brahmastra, you’re riveted and aghast simultaneously. While you’re riveted at the lack of storytelling and how such prominent stars agreed to feature in this film, you are curious about the extent of how bad it can be. The answer? It hits rock bottom. Perhaps that’s the reason why people are still going to see the film.
It’s 2022, but Alia Bhatt did ask Ranbir Kapoor umpteen times during the film, ‘Tum kaun ho Shiva’ or was it Tum kya ho, a little hard to tell. She did try distracting a magical thug and say ‘Jio ka outgoing free hai’, and then say ‘Cheapo’. She did say something along the lines of, ‘Main tere pyaar mein jal gayi, Shiva’. She did meekly leave the scene for a while to go and pack his clothes, almost getting killed, mind you. After falling from a balcony, a bleeding Alia manages to answer Ranbir’s phone and say she’s okay and then they proceed to shriek at each other about patchy network. ‘Teri awaz kat rahi hai’, they both say and as the scene doesn’t demand more from Alia, we don’t see much of her for a while. I had to remind myself several times that this is Alia Bhatt, the actor who gave us Gully Boy, Raazi, Dear Zindagi, Highway and more recently the critically acclaimed Darlings. She’s carried films on her own, but now she’s relegated to the sidelines as a heroine with bleating dialogues. What’s even more astonishing, is their frozen chemistry that couldn’t even be thawed out by one desperate kissing scene.
Ranbir Kapoor, despite his credibility, has acted in something like Besharam, so there’s not much to be said about his choices here. Mouni Roy did play a cross between a Balaji Scarlet Witch and Naagin, and did bellow ‘Scientist saab’ several times at a bleeding Shah Rukh Khan, who mutters about fiery ‘paayals’. He’s a scientist who lives in a palace, by the way. It must be mentioned here that only SRK could pull off such cringe-inducing dialogues with flair.
The film begins with Ranbir’s Shiva being so enamoured by Alia’s bland Isha that he’s willing to hang on to an elevator for her till death do them part, but she smirks and loves this behaviour. He’s afraid that a rich girl like her won’t ever want to hang out at his humble abode with his gang of orphaned kids, but she proves him wrong and dances to Chikni Chameli. The dance track is enough reason for Shiva to bare his life’s traumas to her, and she dissolves into tears at how pure-hearted he is. Isha is a little concerned after he has a seizure and leaves her on his balcony, but later she asserts that she is going to go along with him for whatever foolhardy journey he is on. She doesn’t have much of a life anyway, so she’s willing to die for a man she just met two days ago.
From then on she explains gently to anyone who asks about Shiva, “Usko daure padte hain.”
They begin a deathly road and boat trip to save the universe, starting with Nagarjuna, who is targeted by ‘killers’. Yes, that’s the amount of effort put into the names for Mouni and her super-powered ruffians. Nevertheless, Nagarjuna seems desperate to escape the film and would rather die than deal with two confused kids. He finally does get his refuge after knocking down Mouni’s truck (yes, it’s a truck) with ‘Nandi-astra’.
After a battle with Ruffian #2, they wend their way to the top-secret ashram—the Astraverse version of X-Men school for gifted kids. It was on Google Maps, not to mention there was a big notice board titled Ashram sitting outside the building. Amitabh Bachchan is in his Mohabattein Narayan Shastri element, but this time he’s running an isolated school in the hills and trying to save the kids from demons rather than the evils of love. Everyone can find the Ashram, but super-powered magical beings didn’t, until the plot demanded they do so. There’s Dimple Kapadia too for some reason, who quickly makes her exit out of the film in a helicopter. Nevertheless, after much shrieking and punches, it’s a happy ending, till the next part comes along. These are all actual plot points and dialogues, served to the audience, expecting them to devour them as they would have in the 90’s.
Again, it’s hard to believe that Ayan, Ranbir and Alia put their blood, sweat and tears into Brahmastra. It’s even harder to believe when you watch them passionately defend it. Nevertheless Ayan’s promised that Part Two will acknowledge all criticisms and be much better than this. Let’s see.