Could Ranbir Kapoor's 'Brahmastra' be the superhero film Bollywood needs?

"Brahmastra" stars Ranbir Kapoor as Shiva.

 The teaser for "Brahmastra: Part One", starring real-life couple Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt as well as veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan and South Indian superstar Nagarjuna, was released today. It is one of the most anticipated Bollywood films of the year. 

 Director Ayan Mukerji's Brahmastra trilogy was announced in October 2017 on Twitter by producer Karan Johar, to be completed over a decade. Bankrolled by four production houses – Fox Star Studios, Dharma Productions, Prime Focus and Starlight Pictures – the first part alone is rumoured to have cost more than 300 crores Indian rupees to be released simultaneously in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.

Ayan Mukerji with Amitabh Bachchan during the making of the film. Photo: Collected

It is unusual for a Bollywood project to be announced as a trilogy from the start, let alone in a genre that has not seen much success in India. Two big-budget superhero films to come out of the country, "Ra.One" and "Krrish 3" , starring superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Hritik Roshan respectively, was widely panned, garnering more cringe than applause. 

That being said, while Indian  filmmakers may hope to reproduce the same kind of success that American superhero franchises enjoy, their creations are more than just copies of the Avengers or the Justice League.

In a 2012 column for Hindustan Times, Gautam Chintamani — an author who's written extensively about Hindi cinema — dives into the history of Indian superheroes. In his article, he points out that while many still think of 1987's "Mr. India" as one of the first superhero films of Hindi cinema.

In "Brahmastra Part One: Shiva", Kapoor's titular character travels two timeframes – contemporary India and another of 3,000 years ago – in an attempt to understand his fire-based superpower. All he knows as he undertakes the journey is that he shares a mysterious connection to the most powerful and potent divine weapon in the universe – the Brahmastra. His quest is supported by his lady love Isha, played by Bhatt, and guided by Bachchan's Professor Arvind Chaturvedi.

A snippet from the film, featuring Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor.

Mukerji could be just the right fit for an Indian superhero franchise. He has described the character of  Amitabh Bachchan in the film as "the modernised version of Dumbledore-meets-Gandalf," which is a good reason to be excited for the ambitious film. 

However, given that Mukerji is only two films old -- "Wake Up Sid" (2009) and "Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani" (2013) -- both of which were light-hearted, slice-of-life romances, there is potential for matters to go wrong.