Sunday, October 2nd, 2022

Ayan Mukerji: Bigger Event Films Will Be Box Office Leaders In India

At a time when luring the audiences to theatres was becoming increasingly difficult for Bollywood, director Ayan Mukerji’s most ambitious film “Brahmastra Part One: Shiva” has achieved the feat renewing his faith that “big event” movies are the future of Indian cinema.

The fantasy action adventure epic starring real-life couple Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt has crossed Rs 225 crore in worldwide gross box office collections since its release on September 9.

One of the most expensive Indian films said to be mounted on a budget north of Rs 400 crore, “Brahmastra Part One: Shiva” serves as the first installment of a planned trilogy of the Indian cinematic universe titled ‘Astraverse’.

According to Mukerji, the audience today looks forward to having a cinematic experience in theatres, which he believes only juggernaut multi-starrers can offer.

“Around the time when I decided to embark on making a film like ‘Brahmastra’ years ago, there was a trend to come in and watch stuff on the bigger screen. With the advent of technology, audiences want that big screen experience.

“The reason you come out to watch a film on the big screen is that it should offer you something that is big screen worthy. And what is big screen worthy is giving big screen visuals,” the 39-year-old director told PTI in an interview here.

This has been the tendency globally for the last 15 years, added Mukerji, an admirer of Hollywood tentpole blockbusters like “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and several superhero films from Marvel Studios.

This year, the Indian exhibition sector itself has witnessed the phenomenal box office success of lavishly mounted south Indian films such as “KGF: Chapter 2” starring Yash, SS Rajamouli’s “RRR”, and Kamal Haasan’s “Vikram”.

“Slowly, many more bigger event films will be the leaders of the box office in India, not to say that the smaller films won’t do well,” the director, known for making coming-of-age drama “Wake Up Sid” and rom-com “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani”, added.

“Brahmastra” follows a DJ named Shiva (Ranbir), who sets out on a journey to find the origins of his special powers with Isha (Alia), a woman he falls in love with at first sight. Amitabh Bachchan features as Guruji, Shiva’s mentor.

The film has also managed to give hope to Bollywood, which is reeling under the poor performance of star vehicles such as the Akshay Kumar-starrer “Prithviraj”, “Laal Singh Chaddha” headlined by Aamir Khan, and lead actor Ranbir’s last release “Shamshera”.

But there were Friday jitters for Mukerji, who said the pressure to deliver on the promise of larger-than-life cinema, which combined ancient Hindu mythology and avant garde visual effects, rose by a notch before the release.

“We may think it’s a big film and has got all the ingredients, sometimes the audience may not feel that way. I was making this cinematic spectacle, using visual effects, with a little Indianism running through it.

“The pressure went up so much. It was a bigger film and recently Hindi films have not done well unfortunately. So, there was a lot of pressure as to what is going to happen with Hindi films,” he recalled

Mukerji said he is happy his film has given a ray of hope to the Hindi film industry.

“So much has happened last weekend. I felt a sense of relief that people came out to watch the film. I feel proud in a humble way because ‘Brahmastra’ has become that film that has given a feeling of hope.

“Movie goers will thrive if you give them what they want. There are some things they like, and then there are some, they don’t like. Cinema is a commercial art form (but) it is still an art form.”

But, it was a different environment in the weeks preceding the film’s release. Amid boycott calls on social media, “Brahmastra” had found itself at the centre of a controversy over Ranbir’s old statement on beef following which he and Alia were prevented from entering Ujjain’s Mahakal temple.

Mukerji said he was surrounded with “positivity”, which emanated from his peers and cinephiles.

“I have only focused on the positive. It is part of our philosophy too. Like how you feel on the inside and the lens with which you see life is what you seek,” he added.

While the film appears to be doing good numbers at the ticket window, the filmmaker is aware the praise for “Brahmastra” is not unanimous.

He has read a few reviews where people are critical about the film’s story and dialogues.

“I have been hearing about it. I have to understand it deeply. My thought is to take all that on board for the next film,” he added.

Mukerji previously described “Brahmastra” as “one of the longer pregnancies” that a director can have with a movie. His last film was “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” which was released nine years ago.

Before he begins work on the sequel, titled “Brahmastra Part Two: Dev”, he will go on a break.

Mukerji also promised fans will not have to wait too long to watch the two follow-up parts in the ‘Astraverse’. His ambition is to release the second part by 2025 and the untitled last chapter will come out by 2026.

“Everything we set up in part one will make sense by the time you see part three. The entire trilogy is integrated in a beautiful way but some essence of certain themes like love will still come back in a critical way,” he added.

Also starring Mouni Roy, Nagarjuna and Shah Rukh Khan in an extended cameo, “Brahmastra” is produced by Star Studios and Dharma Productions.

Rajamouli presents “Brahmastra Part One: Shiva” in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. 

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