Ranbir Kapoor, Ayan Mukerji on ‘Brahmastra’: ‘We Had the Opportunity to Create Our Own Marvel’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Ayan Mukerji’s magnum opus ‘Brahmastra Part One: Shiva,’ is now galloping towards the finishing line after years in the making.

The film, from Disney’s Star Studios, Dharma Productions, Prime Focus and Starlight Pictures, stars Amitabh Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Nagarjuna Akkineni and Mouni Roy.

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Based on Indian mythology, the film is set in contemporary India, where a secret society called the Brahmansh has guarded ‘Astras’ (divine weapons) created in ancient India for generations. The most powerful among these, the Brahmastra, is now waking up and it threatens to destroy the universe.

Constructed as a trilogy, which is part of an “Astraverse” created by Mukerji, the first part follows the protagonist Shiva (Kapoor), who is in love with Isha (Bhatt). Their lives are changed forever when Shiva learns that he has a mysterious connection to the Brahmastra and a great power within him that he doesn’t understand just yet — the power of fire.

“It’s deep rooted in Indian culture, and we had the opportunity to create our own Marvel, which Ayan is trying to do with his Astraverse,” Kapoor told Variety. “Any film, any good compelling story, made in your culture, in an authentic way, in a true form, will connect to a large audience.”

“There is a little luck to play to it – like what kind of release you get, what kind of exposure you get. And in our case, we have Disney. And there’s nothing better than that,” said Kapoor, who also serves as a producer on “Brahmastra.” “So, I believe that ‘Brahmastra’ is in a great place where we have that opportunity, where a world audience can witness it.”

Kapoor’s last release was 2018’s “Sanju,” which grossed $75 million worldwide. He has had a fruitful working relationship with his close friend Mukerji, in whose “Wake Up Sid” (2009) and “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” (2013) he starred in.

“We were just three best friends, Alia and I, sitting and dreaming this film with Ayan, and being soldiers to him,” said Kapoor. “We were really excited and really privileged to be part of this film and part of this vision so selfishly as an actor that I would do it over and over again.”

Kapoor will get to do it at least twice again in the remaining two parts of the “Brahmastra” trilogy.

” ‘Brahmastra’ is not an end in itself, but it’s a means to a larger end. We have part two and part three ahead of us, we have the potential to really take the storytelling in many diverse directions even beyond ‘Brahmastra,’ and there is no way to do it at the scale at which I hope to do it, unless our audience base does not increase. So that’s definitely part of the ambition,” Mukerji told Variety. “Let’s start with some strong baby steps with part one. I think we’ve gotten far enough with this with having, over time, gotten Disney to lay their attention on the film, help us to push the release a little wider, and I’m hoping that can bring in bigger and wider returns for us.”

The benchmarks for Indian action films this year have been set by “K.G.F: Chapter 2,” which collected $161 million and “RRR,” which has grossed $155 million so far. The latter is directed by S.S. Rajamouli, also known for the Baahubali franchise. Rajamouli is presenting the Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam language versions of “Brahmastra,” which will also release it its original Hindi language.

“Certainly, with all humility, definitely, I think our ambition is larger than that [“RRR”] number overseas. And I hope that, as a key step with Disney coming on board, just our overseas distribution before it even crosses over to the western audience, I hope it’s able to reach the subcontinent audience in the western world in a much wider fashion, so that we can actually see that return on box office numbers,” says Mukerji.

Basic storylines exist for parts two and three of ‘Brahmastra,’ says Mukerji, and they are currently being developed into screenplays. Mukerji says that he’s heard from filmmakers like Rajamouli that the subsequent parts can be made much faster as the team is familiar with the universe, or Astraverse in this case, and the processes and VFX involved.

Meanwhile, Kapoor has a busy slate ahead of him. Period bandit action drama “Shamshera,” alongside Sanjay Dutt and Vaani Kapoor, directed by Karan Malhotra (“Agneepath”), is due a July 22 release and “Brahmastra” is due Sept. 9. An untitled romcom by Luv Ranjan (“Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety”), alongside Shraddha Kapoor is due March 3, 2023 and gangster film “Animal,” alongside Anil Kapoor, directed by Sandeep Reddy Vanga (“Kabir Singh”), is due Aug. 11, 2023.

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