How Bollywood and Hollywood use mythological universes and loving superheroes
Exploring the parallels and contrasts between Bollywood’s Brahmastra series and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Spoiler warning: This article mentions scenes from Brahmastra Part One: Shiva.
Bollywood director Ayan Mukherji has come out with an Astraverse—a unique supernatural universe—based on Hindu mythology. Brahmastra Part One: Shiva is the first movie of Mukherji’s trilogy—an action-packed adventure that introduces us to the universe of Brahamastra. In his world of different “Astras” (superheroes/powers), Mukherji tells a thrilling romance story with Ranbir Kapoor as Shiva, the fire Astra, and Isha (Alia Bhatt) as his love interest.
I was so excited to watch this film. I had not seen a Bollywood movie in the theatres in a long time. As the lights went out and the music started, I sank into the familiar feeling of Bollywood. While watching, I could not help but compare the Astraverse to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The visual effects (VFX), the fight against evil, and the character’s superpowers were some elements that felt similar between the two mythical universes.
Shiva, an aspiring DJ, grows up in an orphanage. His parents, who were part of the Brahmansh family and had superpowers themselves, died in a fight—although Shiva is not familiar with how exactly they passed. Many superheroes in the MCU—namely Iron Man, Captain America, and Spiderman—begin their story arcs by losing a parent or parent-like figures.
As Shiva’s story unfolds, he meets the Guru (Amitabh Bachchan), who is the head of the Brahmansh family and acts like a parental figure. He helps Shiva learn about and control his newfound superpowers. Guru’s character is very similar to Nick Fury in the MCU. Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D, organizes the Avengers Initiative to unite the most powerful beings in their universe.
After meeting Isha, Shiva discovers his fire powers. He gains motivation to use and control his fire Astra through his love for Isha. Love has been a significant force in many superhero movies. Moreover, saving “the woman in distress” is a common hook in supernatural films. Iron Man, Spiderman, and Thor have all been seen as saviors to their love interests—Pepper Potts, Michelle Jones (MJ), and Jane Foster, respectively.
Brahmastra Part One: Shiva shines brighter than other Bollywood films in the VFX arena. The Astral fight scenes left audiences in awe, and the portrayal of the elemental Astras—who united to save the world—mirrored Hinduism’s concept that multiple Gods work together to run the world. Interestingly, the VFX team for this film also worked on Avengers: Endgame—a staple in the MCU.
After watching this movie, I walked out of the theatre mesmerized by the world of the Astraverse. Brahmastra Part One: Shiva made me fall more in love with Bollywood. While the director drew inspiration from the MCU to create the Astraverse Trilogy, Hinduism and Indian culture play significant roles. The film is the perfect combination of the MCU’s visual effects experience and Bollywood’s typical romantic musical love story.
Staff Writer (Volume 49) — Malavika is in her third year, pursuing a double major in Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology and Professional Writing and Communications with a minor in Political Science. With her contributions to The Medium, she hopes to share her perspective as a young Indian immigrant. She likes research and write about interesting new topics. While procrastinating on her assignment deadlines, you can find her watching romantic Bollywood movies, true crime documentaries, or baking delicious treats.