India sparks its own superhero cinematic universe with Brahmāstra: Part One—Shiva

In Hindu mythology, an astra is a spiritual weapon that can be used to summon the powers of highly specific deities. Binding your enemy in live snakes, causing his army to fight amongst themselves, “drying anything at once”: these nifty ancient McGuffins are a bit more niche than Captain America’s shield or Superman’s dull omnipotence.

It’s kind of a wonder that India, a country where Marvel’s cinematic universe entries are wildly popular, hasn’t established its own mythos into an epic series of superhero movies. The Astra saga is changing all that, and scorching the box office as it does: you can see Brahmāstra: Part One—Shiva in New Zealand cinemas right now.

As perhaps the Astraverse’s Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, huge Bollywood celebs Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan add some extra clout to this opening chapter of an ambitious new action franchise. But Ranbir Kapoor plays our lead Shiva, an orphan (huh pretty typical) and famous DJ (ooh that’s new) who can’t control his fire-casting abilities (ah yeah we’ve seen that before).

“Isha, I don’t burn in fire. I have a strange connection with fire. Fire doesn’t hurt”, he somewhat redundantly tells his love interest (Alia Bhatt) in the stunning trailer below. There’s plenty of cosmic imagery, dance sequences with enormous casts, and hints at a broader ensemble of heroes with different astras/powers to get hyped over.

It may be hard for international cinemagoers to see this audacious new venture as more than India’s MCU, or even a superior live-action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender. But as a wise YouTube comment points out, “if we go crazy about Nordic mythology in Marvel films, then we should also appreciate how Brahmastra represents our culture!”

There’s certainly thousands of years of storytelling to inspire further entries, and the wild box office returns suggest that we’ll get just that: the most expensive Hindi film of all time, Brahmāstra: Part One—Shiva is already the third-highest grossing Hindi film of the year, and will certainly rack up more crore as audiences become obsessed.

“There are ancient weapons of light, and a group of warriors who protect them”, Shiva explains in the trailer above. Might we meet them in parts two through 30?? We sure hope so.