Readers Write In #486: Lessons from Brahmastra: Part One Shiva

Posted on September 12, 2022

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By Kartik Iyer

Looking at the figures Brahmastra: Part One Shiva is earning it is safe to speculate there will be a part 2. Secondly, looking at the sharply divided stance on the movie, it is clear that people either love it or hate it. What is also clear is few have avoided it. Considering all this, I want to jot down a few lessons Ayan Mukherji can learn from this first instalment to make the second one better. All eyes were on him for the past 8-9 years. But now, the nazar is stronger than before.

Exposition

Unsurprisingly, critics have disliked it. Their feedback is genuine. One major point they have picked up which needs to be looked at is the exposition phase. I won’t mention the failure in writing dialogues. I believe there was more than enough experience and talent behind the movie to know beforehand that the dialogues were bad. I am being at my kindest and allowing for that mistake; but if I ever find out that the creators actually thought those dialogues will work then they will have lost my trust significantly. The larger problem is with the exposition. It takes about 15 minutes for Ranbir Kapoor to say his first dialogue. Add to that he is introduced to us through Dance Ka Bhoot song which tells us nothing about him except that he is a DJ. The very short sequence of him locking eyes with Alia Bhatt at the end of the song works purely because of the performance and background score. But he should’ve been introduced better. Maybe the creators thought having a song right in the beginning will help retain audiences. It does not. The song fails.

Those of us who sat through it and accepted the world are generous to the movie. Don’t rely on the audience’s generosity. We watched it in a theatre. Cinema theatres make us kinder towards movies than laptops, TVs, and mobile phones. Take us on a ride but not for a ride.

Characters and their world

Decide what world you want the movie to be placed in. If you are blending myth-fantasy with reality, pay attention to what brings both together. VFX is marvelous but think of characters and their spaces. Give them identities. Isha has nothing. It becomes very hard to defend the movie if one of its primary characters is just a pretty chick that the main guy loves. Calling them by their profession won’t help either. The more flesh they have the more openings for us to be invested in their story. It is a Bollywood movie. I don’t expect you to Kurosawa the shit. But at least, Salim-Javed it.

Don’t look at MCU or Nolan or DC for inspiration. What works best with the movie is the fact that it is driven by only emotion. That emotional engine is strong. Just package it better. Euro-Americans are bad at emotions. Think of how you can support the emotional journey with better set-ups.

Pace

I love the roller-coaster ride. It works. But maybe next time, try a few pauses. Let a few things linger. Moving on is the way, but waiting on a few scenes, a few shots, and a few relationships won’t hurt. It may add depth, which is needed in the second one.

Brahmastra: Part One Shiva delivered emotions. The next one should deliver it with nuance. Treat the story, the characters with love. Give them time to grow on us. The movie is run on fear: of being cancelled, of being a flop, of wasting money, of losing attention, of bad VFX, etc. Let it run on love: for characters, for narrative, for stories, for emotions. The power of the fear of failure delivered a maybe-good movie. Maybe there were valid reasons to be scared. But today, the box office is telling you that you don’t need to be scared anymore. Those of us who loved it are willing to forgive the mistakes because we want to give you a second chance. We think you have it in you to make it better. It’s a matter of choice now. As Raghu, the Guru, says: what will you choose? Power of fear or strength of love? Only Brahmastra: Part Two Dev will tell. Till then, I hope.