Do Brahmastra’s star cameos add value to the film or weigh it down?
Why did Brahmastra need so many cameo appearances in addition to a star cast that consists of Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Amitabh Bachchan, Nagarjuna Akkineni, among others?
Spoilers ahead for Brahmastra Part 1: Shiva
The idea of increasing the anticipation surrounding a project through star cameos is not new. So, it is of course unsurprising that team Brahmastra would take the same route. In fact, just recently, Kamal Haasan-starrer Vikram benefited extremely from adding a cameo. Actor Suriya appeared as Rolex, to hint at an expansion of the universe that director Lokesh Kanagaraj is building with Kaithi and Vikram.
Hollywood superhero films — Marvel, DC and every other production included — are great examples of how and when to use cameo roles, and they excel at taking their fans on a wild ride each time there is an actor who exceeds expectations. One of the most recent instance of a cameo that left audiences in splits is Russell Crowe’s character in Thor Love and Thunder.
Considering the budget of Brahmastra, and the scope of the three-part series, it is important to capture the attention of audiences not only in Hindi-speaking regions but across the country. This is the biggest reason for any industry to scout actors outside of their industry from a business perspective. Who can forget the red carpet-invitation that Vijay Deverakonda received with Liger? From a production value perspective, the returns justify the cost. So when news spread that Shah Rukh Khan would appear in a cameo, the excitement surrounding the project grew manifold. This was then followed by rumours of Deepika Padukone appearing in the film as well.
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Now that the film has released and we know the number of small roles portrayed by star actors, the question arises. Why so many? Why did Brahmastra need so many cameo appearances in addition to a star cast that consists of Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Amitabh Bachchan, Nagarjuna Akkineni, among others? Will each of them get their own chapters in the Astraverse? Take Shah Rukh Khan’s cameo for instance, and yes, this is a definite spoiler, his character dies. He plays a scientist who is gifted with one of the astras — Vaanarastra — and is also guardian of one of the three broken pieces of Brahmastra. He is tortured by the bad people, until he is forced to jump to his death instead of shirk his responsibility (yes, kartavya).
To be fair, this sequence is one of the best in the film in terms of visuals, the special effects and even the performance. If you can pardon the dialogues that keep flipping between colloquial and medieval. Coming back to the question, can SRK get a chapter of his own? Unlikely. If we were to pose this question of all the cameos, the only one who may get a chapter of their own is Deepika Padukone, who appeared (only in silhouettes, and extreme long shots) as Amrita.
Shiva’s chapter gave audiences enough of a built-up about Dev and Amrita’s love story, that met a tragic end. This arc may very well be the only thing is interesting about the next chapter as well, considering the shoddy writing in the first chapter. The filmmakers have confirmed the title of Brahmastra as Brahmastra Chapter 2: Dev. The main character of this iteration of Ayan Mukerji directorial is Shiva’s (Ranbir) father. Amrita is Shiva’s mother. While the film didn’t have to give all of the characters their own chapters, their treatment should have been better. They were mostly used as fodder, and ones the were out of use, they were discarded.
Dimple Kapadia’s cameo is no different either. In addition to this, cast member Nagarjuna’s character faces the same fate as that of Shah Rukh Khan’s. All of this points to the intention of the filmmakers clearly enough and that is relatability. They aimed for audiences across the country to be able to relate with their characters through the cameos, but instead, this might set them back. Brahmastra is no Game of Thrones for audiences to accept one death after another. In fact, GOT kept its viewers on the edge of the seat with one question —. “Whose turn is it next? Who will face the axe?” Brahmastra, however, draws a clear road map for viewers in its very beginning and it only goes down from there with respect to special appearances.
So while the special appearances may pull in the crowd initially, it doesn’t keep them happy.
Priyanka Sundar is a film journalist who covers films and series of different languages with special focus on identity and gender politics.
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