This is one narcissistic Diwali as far as Hindi cinema is concerned. If Karan Johar doffs a hat to as many key moments as he can from his films in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Ajay Devgn does everything to pat his own back in Shivaay.
In Shivaay, a little girl wants to ask her Bulgarian mother, who abandoned her back in India, why. It’s something you want to ask Devgn as well. Only, there are a lot of whys here. Why make this film and why direct it also? Why rehash Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Taken if you cannot get inspired even properly? Why not get a script written properly? Why not cast it properly? Why not flesh out characters properly? Why not pay some basic attention to detail? Why not… Ah well, you get the drift.
So, we have hunky super mountaineer, Shivaay (Devgn), who makes out with a Bulgarian woman, Olga (Erika Kaar) in a tent suspended in a mountain crevice following an avalanche, instead of first ensuring they get to safety. She gets pregnant, but doesn’t want the baby as it interferes with her life plans, which don’t include taking care of one more person. He emotionally blackmails her into having it for him over a glass of milk and she leaves back for Bulgaria, leaving a little girl behind for him to bring up as a single father. 8 years later the mute daughter, Gaura (Abigail Eames), finds out her mother is alive, throws a screaming tantrum and gets dad to take her to Bulgaria to meet her mother. There, she gets kidnapped as part of a human trafficking business. Shivaay, of course, turns into a superhuman killing machine to rescue her.
OK, if it all sounds corny, it is – every excruciatingly painful 172 odd minutes of it. There’s little logic or common sense in the plot. For instance, if Olga wants to go back to Bulgaria for her mother with a heart problem and a younger sister, they vanish miraculously as we see her 8 years later, conveniently living a rich life with her husband (presumably). But then, that’s not even the point of Shivaay. The film is just as an excuse to glorify Devgn in every department with the man himself in charge to see it is done right. So what if he is shot or has his throat slashed brutally in the final fight sequence? He is as agile as ever and still beats the villain to a pulp, kills him and survives…
That said, at least the film does keep you on the edge of your seat for some of the expertly executed action set pieces and some spectacular camerawork by Aseem Bajaj. The CG work, though, is tacky and the overdose of slow motion stretches the film to breaking point repeatedly. However, Devgn proves he still has it in him as an effective action hero and even produces the odd intense moment as an actor. But he fails to give himself enough introspective moments for us to invest in him. Nor does the film give the other characters any space to breathe. In fact, if at all, they are all given their share of cringeworthy moments with Girish Karnad taking the cake, icing and cherry on the top in the sequence where he attempts to get up from his wheelchair. Naturally, barring Devgn and to an extent Eames, no one from the rest of the cast makes any sort of impact. And yes, Bulgaria is full of white baddies, who are laughable as they sing along comically with operatic music or play video games and some good Indians.
The music has no impact, the film lacks an editor and the less said about some of the deafening background score, the better. But the one place I have to say where Shivaay scores over Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is that it harbors no pretentious or claims to be too profound for its own good. It sets out to make a god of its leading man and that, admittedly, it succeeds in.
Hindi, Action, Drama, Color