A shambolic script and tardy protagonist make Shivaay an unbearable near-three-hour torture. Producer-director-actor Ajay Devgn has no else to blame.
Shivaay review: Ajay Devgn is an ace among shunyas (zeroes)
Mumbai - 28 Oct 2016 11:29 IST
Updated : 15:41 IST
Film: Shivaay (U/A)
In this industry, an actor cannot sustain himself by turning a blind eye to commercial cinema. Most young actors take the tried and tested route by doing a bagful of masala entertainers. After years of experiences, and having enough money in the kitty, an actor can then try to fulfil his desire to do the kind of cinema he always aspired to do.
Now 47 and having spent nearly 25 years in the industry, Ajay Devgn felt the time was right to make a comeback as director. His first attempt, U Me Aur Hum (2008), did not yield too many happy memories. The legend, the aura of Lord Shiva, inspired him to create his near immortal character Shivaay — Shiva with a Y. Writer Amish Tripathi wove mythology with fiction in the Shiva trilogy, making a fortune with the ensuing popularity. Devgn had similar plans.
The film begins with the audio of Shivaay (Devgn) panting, suggesting something untoward has happened. We are taken back nine years, where mountaineer Shivaay displays some extraordinary daredevilry — flying off snow-clad Himalayan peaks, using just a harness and his sickles. Lord Shiva himself must be wondering, ‘How the hell did he do that?” Never mind, this is the age of CGI (computer-generated imagery). Lord Shiva is too ancient for this kind of technology.
The bedazzled army men ask him to use his skills to serve the army, but Kailash Parbat is Shivaay’s home and he is not ready to leave it at any cost. While driving back the trekkers, Shivaay and his mate Kancha are marvelling at the beauty of a blue-eyed tourist, oblivious to the fact that the lady is well versed with Hindi. Olga (Erika Kaar) is a Bulgarian out to experience the chill and thrill of the Himalayas.
Now, the two key developments in the film happen through a natural disaster. The first is a glacier which the duo miraculously escape by jumping into a tent. Remarkably, the tent is swept off, tumbles down to the abyss, but somehow Shivaay manages to hook the tent anchor to an end. Their lives are hanging by a thread, but Shivaay and Olga choose this to moment profess their love in mid-air.
So, by now you figure out that this is a maiden Indo-Bulgarian love affair. Soon, Olga finds she is pregnant, but doesn’t want the child, while all that orphan Shivaay seeks is a family. So, he manages to convince Olga to stay back another nine months, deliver the child, and then leave for Bulgaria for good.
Olga gives birth to a beautiful, mute girl Gaura (Abigail Eamess). Shivaay then takes care of her as a single parent. Whilst Olga may have valid reasons to leave the child behind, has anyone come across a mountaineer climbing dangerous peaks with a toddler on his back? A little far-fetched, we thought.
The second disaster, a tremor, leads to Gaura getting hold of a letter which reveals that her mother is alive. So, reluctantly, Shivaay gives in to her demand and takes her to Bulgaria.
What was meant to be a search for Olga turns into double jeopardy for Shivaay as his daughter is kidnapped by masked goons. What follows is a man chasing a speeding van on foot. Remarkably, instead of pinning down the culprits, the local police charge Shivaay with kidnapping and human trafficking. After all the mush in the first hour, Shivaay finally gets down to business. Some high-octane action in the Balkans follows.
Sadly, the mushy malaise that plagued the first half spreads deep into the second half too. Anushka (Sayyeshaa Saigal) is an official from the Indian embassy who joins Shivaay in the search for his daughter. Young Anushka has good screen presence, but is let down by a poorly written character and limited screen space. She bears the brunt of comical dialogues and a crippled father (Girish Karnad) who would bore you to death with his archaic nonsense.
As a Polish woman, Erika Kaar should be lauded for making a sincere attempt to speak Hindi in her first Indian film. However, maybe therein lies the rub. This attempt falls flat, making her look very pretentious. In a globalised world, one is free to fall in love with anyone, but there is absolutely no chemistry between Shivaay and Olga. What doesn’t help this pair is Devgn’s lack of fluency while speaking English on camera. Leave alone the language, romance has never been Devgn’s forte.
The one thing that Devgn is comfortable with is dare-devilry. However, at 47, the wheels are beginning to wear off. It is evident from his tardy chases. There is no aggression, no fire in his combat scenes, some of them resemble a lovers' tiff. Be it as an actor or a fighter, Devgn clearly doesn’t pack a powerful punch.
The little girl Gaura is the sole saving grace of Shivaay. Like Munni from Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Gaura is a cute girl. Her sealed lips didn’t complicate her task. For a foreign artiste, she displays great confidence to play such a character, that too, in an Indian film.
There are hardly any scenes to rave about, and if one started to rant about the bad ones, we would end up disclosing half the film. Bollywood has a tendency to demonise communities/nations. Sexual crimes against children is a sad reality in the Balkans, but Devgn has presented a Bollywood-esque version of the evil.
Take, for instance, the scene in which Shivaay bumps into a Bulgarian sex worker who stuns all by speaking Hindi. That is still acceptable, but can one relate to a Bulgarian sex worker who tells an Indian that 100 lev (the Bulgarian currency) is just 3,000 Indian rupees? Whoa! Are Indians hanging out a lot in the shady streets of Sofia?
Anushka is right in saying that superheroes exist only in comic books, but these books don’t have the comical dialogues we hear in Shivaay.
Much of the blame for a shambolic screenplay should lie with writer Sandeep Srivastava. You wonder whether he put his pen in a freezer before writing such a laboured script.
The writers didn’t do their job, the actors were not up to the mark, but as the director of the ship, how could Devgn allow this mess? Did he burden himself by taking the three main roles – producer, director, actor? The actor had promised there would be destruction this Diwali. However, the damage will likely be felt at his doorstep.
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Sayyeshaa Saigal, Erika Kaar, Abigail Eames
Director: Ajay Devgn
Runtime: 173 minutes