Long ago, a group of sages meditated in the Himalayas. And the gods gave them a group of magical elemental weapons called astras in response to their devotion.
However, one of these fabled weapons, called the brahmāstra, was very dangerous. In fact, it was capable of destroying the whole world. Having collected these weapons, the sages banded together to protect the brahmāstra and the other weapons, calling themselves the Brahmānsh. But through the course of thousands of years, society largely forgot about the astra and the Brahmānsh.
But let’s jump to our modern day. As Shiva (a regular guy, not the Hindu god of destruction) DJs for a Diwali festival, he spots a young woman named Isha in the crowd. It’s literally love at first sight. And fortunately for Shiva, she spots him back and has same reaction.
Unfortunately for Shiva, their romcom-esque meet-cute is cut short by Shiva’s sudden, intense visions of a man being tortured for information. Shiva doesn’t exactly know why, but he feels like he needs to intervene somehow.
As Shiva soon discovers, those torturers are searching for something—pieces of a broken stone which, once combined, create the world-ending brahmāstra. With little more than a scrap of information leading them, Shiva and Isha set off to prevent the villains from achieving their goal—and the two dive deep into the long-lost world of the Brahmānsh along the way.
Shiva grew up at an orphanage. As an adult, he remains there to take care of its children when he’s not working his DJ job. Though he never knew his father, Shiva is a great father figure to the children he interacts with, including rushing home so he doesn’t miss one of their birthdays and joking around with them.
We see many instances of people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others. One man jumps in front of another to take a bullet for him.
Shiva soon learns that he has the ability to control fire. It is Shiva’s love for Isha that causes the strength of his fire powers to grow. But he is afraid of hurting Isha and other innocent people with it, so he often quenches his flaming ability. A man tells Shiva that his love for Isha will require him to confront his fears about using his fire-controlling abilities—otherwise, his fear will dominate him rather than his love.
The prominent concern some Christian viewers in America may have with this flick is its heavy Hindu influence. Many of the prominent gods of Hinduism are referenced here. Some are vocally praised or prayed to, including Rama, Ravana, Kali, Parvati, Shiva, Durga and, of course, Brahma. In addition, the plot revolves around a group of people who were given divine elemental weapons, and the film assumes Hinduism’s spiritual worldview is true.
Shiva (the character) in particular is a devout Hindu man. At one point, Isha asks Shiva how he can love life given the poor circumstances from which he came.
“Instead of complaining about life, you love it,” she says. “How?”
And when many Christians would springboard from that question into a gospel presentation, Shiva provides his own Hindu version, telling Isha that she should “focus on the Light” in the world, which can only be found (he says) through the Hindu goddess Durga.
Shiva has a shrine temple in his wall at home. He attends a public Hindu prayer to Durga. He also prays to the Hindu goddess Kali for guidance. Shiva receives a divine prompting, exclaiming that the goddess’s blessings are with him. Shiva also owns a conch shell from his mother, an item the Hindu god Vishnu holds. Isha tells Shiva that her name means Parvati, who is (the Hindu god) Shiva’s wife in Hindu teachings.
A man chants in Sanskrit and gains supernatural powers. People look to the stars for divine guidance. A man says that the Wi-Fi in a place is so strong that you could What’s App God if you wanted to. Various other religious ceremonies are seen in montages. Magical necklaces control the minds of others. People reference prayer. Various magical weapons are seen in action.
[Spoiler Warning] At a critical moment, Shiva sprouts multiple ethereal arms from his sides and back, mimicking those often on Hindu idols.
Shiva and Isha share a kiss. Isha wears a shirt which reveals cleavage and her midriff. Shiva and a couple other men are seen shirtless. In a dance montage, Shiva shakes his rear at the camera.
Because the film partially focuses around these powerful astras (weapons), viewers can expect to see a lot of fighting. Indeed, at least a third of this nearly three-hour movie centers on intense action scenes brought about by the clashing of opposing ideologies.
Shiva uses his fire abilities to burn and kill a few generic baddies (the morality of this is questionable, as a few of those baddies were innocent people who were being mind-controlled). Shiva also causes a couple enemies to fall off of cliffs, and other people are sent by others off cliffs, too (apparently, it’s an effective strategy). Isha suffers a gruesome burn mark on her arm.
A group of mercenaries led by the wicked Junoon stab, shoot and punch at a man. Later, they torture the man with magical black smoke, and the man throws himself off a building to his death to prevent them from extracting more information. They also frequently attack Shiva and Isha. One of them hangs onto the roof of their speeding car attempting to stab and shoot them through the roof.
One character is shot multiple times. A car zooms off a cliffside, and another is pushed off a cliff too. A man uses his astra weapon to ram a vehicle. People are fired upon by goons.
A young child is stabbed and killed (and he also falls off a cliff). People cut their fingers with a blade to extract blood. A man is said to have killed many people. A fiery tree crushes a group of generic bad guys. Additionally, a woman is seen burning to death.
In the subtitled dialogue, “h—” is used four times, “d–n” is used once, and God’s name is misused twice. The British vulgarity “Bloody” is used three times.
A man asks Shiva if he’s been doing drugs. Shiva jokes with another man that the man should lay off the drugs.
Shiva’s visions cause him to shake and have spasms. Shiva hangs on to the outside of an elevator in order to speak with Isha.
Brahmāstra is what you might get if you mixed the Eastern spiritualism of Doctor Strange with the elemental bending powers of Avatar: The Last Airbender and dropped all of that into La La Land.
And that’s not a set-up for a joke—that’s genuinely the best way I can describe it to a Western audience. It follows Shiva (a DJ, not the Hindu god) as he falls in love with a girl just as he discovers his divine purpose is to help a bunch of element-benders prevent the world from ending—all while occasionally dancing and singing regarding how he feels about it all.
But families might not find as many reasons to sing along to in this film. For starters, the movie’s spiritual worldview revolves around the gods of Hinduism and their divine gift of the magical elemental weapons called astras. There’s an assumption that Hinduism got it correct, which may make viewers pause in the same way did when Marvel appropriated Norse, Greek and Egyptian mythology. And while those Hindu gods don’t make any appearances in the film, their direct influence is evident throughout it.
For a movie that nearly spans three hours, it may still seem surprising that at least a third of the runtime seems to be dedicated to intense fight scenes where generic bad guys spend their time shooting and stabbing at our protagonists. As you may expect, there will be some deaths, and while they’re mostly tame, the murder of a young child will still shock some.
By no means is Brahmāstra a bad film. In many ways, it’s actually quite enjoyable, and it will often feel quite similar to one of Marvel’s hectic phase-ending films. But its heavy focus on Hindu mythology may well make Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva an action film to take a pass on.
Though he was born in Kansas, Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics and hermeneutics. He doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “that bad.”