September 9, 2022
Early in the much-hyped superhero epic Brahmāstra, we enter an ominous Delhi penthouse, a scientist’s lair. It’s clear from the sinister music and the way a man is sitting alone on his outdoor terrace that something terrible is about to happen.
We soon learn the scientist, Mohan Bhargav (played by superstar Shah Rukh Khan), is magical, and two ferocious men — Raftaar (“speed”) and Zor (“strength”) — are after something he has been safeguarding for many years. The premise might be predictable, but thankfully, the outcome is wholly exciting. Fans get to see Khan in his element: bemused, snarky, and hilarious. “Umar ho gayi meri,” Mohan tells his two apprehenders. “I’ve gotten old,” a flick at his 50-plus years. When the villains push him through glass, Mohan jokes, “ouch ouch ouch.” What follows is an exhilarating chase scene in which we see Khan leaping, running, and outsmarting his foes. Mohan is a nod to Khan’s NASA scientist in Swades(2004), and reenvisions him in a completely different, awe-inspiring context.
It’s a promising start, but things only go downhill from there. And that is the biggest kryptonite for Ayan Mukerji’s Brahmāstra. The film is the first of its kind — with VFX galore, high-speed action sequences, and one of the biggest budgets ever in Bollywood at ₹410 crores ($51 million today). But for all the film’s newness and bigness, it can’t seem to escape the trappings most other Hindi films have long left behind.