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Ayan Mukerji: I knew ‘Brahmastra’ was a difficult journey to embark on

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In the film, Ranbir Kapoor plays Shiva, a man with supernatural powers, and Alia Bhatt as his love interest Isha and Bachchan as Guruji

In the film, Ranbir Kapoor plays Shiva, a man with supernatural powers, and Alia Bhatt as his love interest Isha and Bachchan as Guruji

Multiple delays, a pandemic and two lockdowns later, director Ayan Mukerji says he is happy a fulfilling but difficult journey has led to the fruition of his dream project, “Brahmastra: Part One Shiva” a mega budget fantasy adventure that is finally set to release in September.

Mukerji, best known for his youthful, slice-of-life dramas such as “Wake Up Sid” and “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani”, said the film gave him a chance to mix ancient Indian culture and spirituality with the contemporary world.

“I knew this will be a difficult film to make, a difficult journey to embark on but I felt I was on to something that was pioneering, innovative and original, it is genuinely new,” Mukerji said in an interview.

“It took so long. It was such a crazy investment of time that, in a way, it obliterated who I was. It has been 10 years since my last film. I have forgotten who I was as a person before. This is one of the longer pregnancies that a director can have with a movie. I will understand a lot once we deliver the project. But this was the kind of project that needed (time).”

Mukerji hopes “Brahmastra: Part One Shiva”, which is the first in an ambitiously planned trilogy, will mark the beginning of a new cinematic universe, ‘The Astraverse’.

The film features Ranbir Kapoor as the titular hero Shiva, his actor-wife Alia Bhatt, Amitabh Bachchan, Nagarjuna Akkineni and Mouni Roy in key roles.

The basic idea, according to Mukerji, was to set a film in modern India yet seek inspiration from ancient Indian culture and spirituality as it revolves around the concept of ‘astras’ (weapons), which were created by sages.

“The film is kind of a meeting place of modern India with a feeling of ancient Indian powers about it, which, in many ways, is what our country is. Like, we live in the modern world but Indians are a bit spiritual, close to faith, close to a feeling that something divine connects us or hangs around us,” Mukerji said ahead of the film’s trailer launch on June 15.

Fantasy adventure is one of the most underutilised and high-risk genres in Bollywood, given the fact that such films demand huge budgets but Mukerji said his love for the genre and mythology inspired him to take on the challenge.

“I loved stories from Indian myth while growing up and I loved Western fantasy fiction, which I would read a lot, like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Harry Potter’. I loved some of the blockbuster films that Hollywood was making, like ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, Marvel movies. I loved that they were able to use technology and bring their fantasy storytelling alive as blockbuster cinema.”

“I wanted to do the same thing but I wanted to draw from what existed in India and what I understood and felt all my life. There was a great opportunity because nobody had done that before, maybe because of us not being that comfortable with working with technology, not having the budget…”

In the film, Kapoor plays Shiva, a man with supernatural powers, and Bhatt as his love interest Isha and Bachchan as Guruji.

Stories and characters may change in Mukerji’s film but Kapoor has been a constant part of the director’s filmography, which he attributes to their shared understanding.

“It could have been interesting to work with another talent as working with new people also gives you something. Like, Ranbir gets the opportunity to work with other directors. But our connection and understanding is good. Ranbir is a talented actor and superstar and has great faith and belief in my work.” Getting stars like Bachchan, Bhatt and Akkineni was “incredible” for the director as he believes they lent the film a certain heft that would not have been possible otherwise.

“There was something in ‘Brahmastra’ that whoever we approached, they sort of came on board. Whether that was Alia or Nagarjuna or Mr Bachchan, who is a big deal to walk in my film… Mr Bachchan has always liked the idea of ancient Indian ‘astras’ in the modern world. He told me that the concept will work with people.”

“Brahmastra Part One: Shiva” is a joint production of Star Studios, Dharma Productions, Prime Focus and Starlight Pictures.

The magnum opus will release theatrically in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada on September 9, 2022.

Now that the film is ready for release, Mukerji hopes that people connect with the story he has lived with for a decade.

“On ‘Brahmastra’, I have understood that nothing comes easy. We have to go through the ‘agni pariksha’ (fire test) to let Shiva’s agni (fire) come on the big screen. Hopefully, the reward and result will be good.”



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