Could Ayan Mukerji’s “Brahmastra” be the superhero franchise Bollywood needs?

“It’s like I haven’t slept … forever,” says Ayan Mukerji, director and screenwriter of Brahmastra, a new trilogy of Indian superheroes, after announcing a new release date for its first opus.

“I was 29 when I started working on the film. I will be 39 when it comes out. My peers made several films, got married and had children around the time I made this film.

The film, starring real-life superstar couple Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt as well as veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan and South Indian superstar Nagarjuna, was originally scheduled for release in August 2019, but was delayed to four times. Last week, Mukerji unveiled the film’s first official poster and a new release date in September 2022, more than three years after its scheduled release.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Mukerji. Say that BrahmastraThe journey so far has been long, winding and difficult would be an understatement.

the Brahmastra The trilogy was announced in October 2017 on Twitter by its producer Karan Johar, to be completed over a decade. Funded by four production houses – Fox Star Studios, Dharma Productions, Prime Focus and Starlight Pictures – the first part alone reportedly cost over 300 crore Indian rupees (around $ 40 million), to be released simultaneously in Hindi, Tamil , Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada languages.

It’s unusual for a Bollywood film to be heralded as a trilogy from the start, let alone in a genre that has yet to find much success in India. The last two big budget superhero movies to roll out – Ra.A (2011) and Krishna 3 (2013), starring superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan respectively – have been widely criticized, citing more hindsight than fear.

Mukerji might just be the local superhero author India has been waiting for, or he might fail on an almost unprecedented scale. And given that Mukerji’s filmography only covers two films – Wake up Sid (2009) and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) – Both Slice of Life romances, although they are hugely successful, there is still a lot of potential for things to go wrong.

To his credit, Mukerji seems to take the pressure lightly.

“My previous films were made in the tradition of the films that came before it. Wake up Sid was my interpretation of Dil Chahta Hai. Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani was my point of view Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, says Mukerji. “But even though I love superhero movies, honestly I couldn’t imagine creating something like a Marvel Universe because there just weren’t a role model in India, which is probably why the others didn’t. neither did.

“But towards the end of YJHD, I just knew in my bones that I had to. I thought I had the right age, the right skills, the energy and the right level of experience to attempt something so ambitious. And here we are. “

In Brahmastra Part 1: Shiva, Kapoor’s main character, Shiva, travels through two time periods – contemporary India and another 3,000 years ago – in an attempt to understand his fire-based superpower. All he knows as he sets out on the journey is that he shares a mysterious connection with the most powerful and powerful divine weapon in the universe – the Brahmastra. His quest is supported by his beloved Isha, played by Bhatt, and guided by Professor Arvind Chaturvedi of Bachchan.

“My modernized version of Dumbledore meets Gandalf,” explains Mukerji.

The result of thousands of hours of work and rework, it took him years to write the film, he says. “I can’t even quantify the amount of work in this gigantic film. First I had to let the thought marinate, then pinpoint the script of three films in my head. Then I started the back-breaking work of figuring out the action and visual effects. Then budget, then learn that I can’t do what I want to do with the budgets I have, then do it over and over, and over again. Too many people have made too many sacrifices to make Brahmastra happen.”

The story has nothing to do with religion, but it uses symbolism that has powerfully appealed to me all my life

Ayan Mukerji, director

Delays do not bode well for a film, let alone for a film edited at Brahmastrathe scale of. Tying up an actual couple to star in a film that takes half a decade to produce is tricky at best, and disaster in the making.

Mukerji’s own frontman is well aware of the tragic ways a film can be ruined when soured relationships are combined with production delays, given the fate of Jagga Jasoos. The once-highly anticipated 2017 film starring Kapoor and Katrina Kaif barely made a box office jump upon release after numerous delays caused, at least in part, by Kaif and Kapoor’s breakup.

But Mukerji, 38, doesn’t worry about Brahmastra looks dated, and is completely comfortable with her casting decisions.

“It must have been Ranbir, Alia and Mr. Bachchan. We went with the people who fit the role the most naturally, ”he says. “As far as looking dated I’m not worried at all. We were filming until last month, we still have a few visual effects to finish. It will be a visual delight, and as a Indian, you will be proud of it when you see it, I can guarantee that to you.

Mukerji’s film is inspired by Hindu mythology. Brahmastra is considered to be the most powerful among the many weapons of the gods in Hinduism. Likewise, Shiva is one of the main gods of the creator trinity (Brahma), the curator (Vishnu) and the destructive trinity (Shiva).

The director, however, insists that his film’s story is not religious.

Over the past few years, several Bollywood filmmakers have had to issue public apologies, alter parts of their films or rename them in the face of the fury caused by the hurt feelings of several factions and religious communities. The reasons for their objections ranged from portraying famous fictional characters in a bad light to promoting interfaith love and even character costumes. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has faced incidents of violence and threats as his big-budget film nears release Padmaavat in 2018.

“Honestly, I don’t think there is anything in the movie that could offend anyone,” says Mukerji. “The story has nothing to do with religion, but it uses a symbolism that has powerfully appealed to me all my life. It is my way of connecting with my culture and a tribute to my roots.

“In terms of history, we’ve been very clear throughout that everything is fantastic. I just felt that this fantasy had to be ingrained in the treasure of inspiration and wisdom that exists in my faith, but is unfolding in modern India. I felt that this combination would help me create something original and inspiring.

“Deep down, I think this movie is a powerful love story.”

Brahmastra is scheduled for release on September 9, 2022

Update: December 24, 2021, 5:16 a.m.

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