Director/writer Ayan Mukerji is perhaps best known internationally for 2013 musical romance Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, a big hit at home and abroad. Nearly a decade later, he’s putting the finishing touches on Brahmastra Part One: Shiva, a passion project that marks the beginning of a trilogy as well as what’s billed as India’s first original cinematic universe.
Produced by Fox Star Studios, Dharma Productions, Prime Focus and Starlight Pictures, Brahmāstra will be released globally by Disney. In India, where it goes September 9, 2022, it will play in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. At a promotional event last week, Mukerji unveiled the first motion poster teaser, which has already been viewed over 14M times on YouTube (check it out below).
This new universe, dubbed the Astraverse, is inspired by ancient India and spiritual Indian mythology. Said Mukerji, “I’ve been very deeply affected by those themes my whole life.” And, though it’s set in today’s India, “all the fantasy elements and energies are ancient energies.”
The set-up involves a secret society, the Brahmānsh, who, generation after generation, have protected many divine ‘Astras’ (weapons) that were created in ancient India, and safe-guarded from the eyes of the world. The most powerful and the most deadly amongst these divine weapons, the Brahmāstra, is now waking up and threatens to destroy the universe we know today.
Part One of the planned trilogy centers on Shiva (Kapoor), a young man on the brink of an epic love story with Isha (Bhatt). But their world is turned upside down when Shiva learns he has a mysterious connection to the Brahmāstra, and a great power within him that he doesn’t understand just yet — the power of fire. The story follows Shiva as he journeys into the world of Astras and discovers his destiny as the Divine Hero of the universe.
A self-declared “fanboy of Western fantasy fiction,” Mukerji recently told me he was inspired to make Brahmāstra because, “a lot of content from the west that I’m a big fan of is based on comic lore. There are few universes in the west that have been completely original, like Star Wars or Avatar… I was at the age where I felt like if I do this, this is like my Star Wars idea. That’s why I’ve given a decade of my life to it. I felt it so powerfully.”
Brahmāstra is one of the most expensive Bollywood productions of all time with VFX from DNEG out of London and India. Mukerji tells me, “We probably had more international work than any other Indian film has had so far… There is the vision of the story which is the characters at the heart of this, but then the technical aspect which informed a big part of the journey of this film. I would say very confidently I think we will arrive at VFX that will make a lot of people sitting in India very proud.”
Mukerji adds, however, “I really believe the value of the film is much more than what we invested in it, like where we wanted to reach. Our lead actors did the film without charging us what they would be doing on another film.”
He also told me that in India, Brahmāstra is perceived as “a sort of Avatar-in-the-making kind of story where we’ve been trying to make this really ambitious venture and making sure we can get it up to a certain level.”
With such a big project there’s been pressure “and a lot of nerves about everything,” but, “it’s also exhilarating. I feel fortunate… like when I look back, I’m going to marvel at how we put this together.”