A stroll across the urban chatroom throws up quite interesting views on Ayan Mukherji’s Brahmastra, touted to have been the most anticipated film of the year from Bollywood. In fact, after the disastrous Liger, Karan Johar, its producer, too, must have been praying hard that he doesn’t miss the target this time and the film breaks the box office jinx. In fact, even before the film released the team employed just about all promotional plugs to ensure they get the audience to witness the movie in the theatre. Yes, they arm-twisted, too. If getting a film critique arrested for a tweet written two years ago or getting Twitter to shadow ban a popular page that outs the anti-Hindu diatribe dished out by Bollywood from speaking up against Brahmastra can be called arm-twisting that is. But, did the efforts bear fruit? If one notes the audience reaction to the film and the legitimate reviews (not the paid ones), the response has been vastly mixed or lukewarm. The manipulated collection figures also don’t seem to match the visuals of empty cinema halls or the booking websites showing largely green seats. Is this another PR ploy to make people feel that they are missing out on a film that is running to packed houses (there are rumours of corporate bulk bookings in some places), is making record collections? Is this the best bait the Brahmastra team can tempt viewers with? Bollywood tried it with Laal Singh Chaddha but failed. Let’s wait and watch to see the outcome this time.
Industry insiders feel that reverse marketing is being employed by Johar to garner curiosity about his production. There are memes and mockery reels all over social media that any sane artist or actor will find disrespectful. Yet, Johar, Alia Bhatt (the maximum jokes target her poor performance) seem unfazed. Nagarjuna, Amitabh Bachchan, Mouni Roy and Ranbir Kapoor are tight lipped, too. Are these influencers acting on behest of Johar to get their followers to at least go for a ‘nonsense comedy’ if not a legitimate treatise on Hindu iconography? If this plug works, then it enforces Johar’s knowledge that not everyone is particular about quality content in India, a truth his and a lot of Bollywood careers flourished on. After all negative publicity is also publicity, right? So what if influencers and content creators are making cruel jokes about the film and Bhatt’s monotonous dialogue delivery. If that drives some people to go for the film, the producer’s purpose is solved.
A section of people are endorsing the film highly because of the VFX without emphasizing how only fancy graphics should not constitute good cinema. In the absence of a sound narrative and a solid story, celebrating Brahmastra only means glorifying mediocrity. When Indian cinema is continuously dishing out relatable content from Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu (Karthikeya 2 has floored the audience from the Hindi belt), Kannada and OTT productions, why is this misrepresented, insipid work being touted as ‘Indian cinema has come really far’. A lot of voices are justifying their decision to watch it saying that at least it presents a version of ‘Hinduism’ (Hussain Dalal’s dialogues have used extensive Urdu and Farsi words and the Sanskrit shlokas in the BGM seem like an afterthought in a film that was earlier named Dragon) and for youngsters with limited clue of Sanatana or Indic characters this could be a ‘cool’ initiation. I ask these self-appointed experts on Sanatana Dharma one question, “Who gives Bollywood the right to present Rumi’s philosophy of light as a concocted discourse on my religion? Would they dare to take similar creative liberties while depicting Islamic or Christian philosophies?” Why should youngsters learn about the Hindu world view (it’s definitely not an ism) from a Bollywood commercial production that lacks research and in-depth study of our scriptures? Won’t they jeopardize the foundation of their knowledge that way? Moreover, why trust an industry that has always fed contrived narratives about the Hindu religion and Mughal history to its audience to suit their vicious agenda? Also, proud Hindus know how awesome their religion is. They don’t need a bunch of hypocrites informing them about its cool quotient with their loose depiction of Hindu iconography.
Lastly, let’s dwell on those rejoicing about Shahrukh Khan’s cameo in the film. Yes, Shahrukh Khan, whose flaky characters in Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hain and Farah Khan’s Main Hoon Na, showed exactly what our education institutions and army personnels are not. If we have seen a degradation in the conduct of college students who are massively influenced by this kind of content in recent times, we know exactly who all to blame, don’t we?