Right from the time we were introduced to Ajay Devgn’s dream project Shivaay, I was intrigued. To start with there’s the title which seems to be obviously a tribute of sorts to Lord Shiva. Added to this were the reasonably eye catchy first look posters. And then of course we had the promos, again something which drew a lot of attention. In fact my gut feel told me that the film would either end up as a lovely visual spectacle that we would go on to admire or else be a complete failure. It certainly did not look like something that would fall in between these 2 extremes. And what did the promos indicate or promise? A Himalayan action entertainer perhaps? Well that is probably what we feel while watching the first half an hour or so of the movie. So we see the vast expanse of the mountains, the snowclad peaks in the distance and of course how can we forget Shivaay (Ajay Devgn) in the midst of it all.
Shivaay is someone who seems to know the mountains better than the whole of mankind. In an impressive act of daredevilry (which is also nearly impossible for a human) we seem him do death defying stunts on a mountain, all in the garb of answering the Indian Army’s call for help. In fact I’m surprised that the sequence did not come with a statutory warning advising people not to try the stunts on their own 🙂 (or did I miss that?). There is no doubt that Ajay Devgn’s second film as a director is an ambitious venture, and he also seemed to be quite confident of his product. The very fact that he stood by his decision for a face-off against a formidably strong film like Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil itself suggested the same. By now the Diwali holidays are over and the film has completed its first week. With no major releases lined up this weekend, the debate as to which is the better of the 2 Diwali releases continues.
Shivaay begins with us getting introduced to the title character, a Himalayan mountaineer who is respected for his ability to handle the mountain terrain admirably well as the early scenes indicate. He is shown to be a through and through daredevil and someone for whom the mountains mean the world. Shivaay meets Olga (Erika Kaar) a Bulgarian who can speak Hindi, during one of his trekking expeditions and they fall in love. They go on to have a daughter, Gaura (Abigail Eames) but Olga leaves the kid with Shivaay and goes back to Bulgaria to fulfil her family commitments. 8 years pass by and Gaura whose life revolves around her father realizes that her mother is alive and is in Bulgaria; hence Shivaay takes her along with him to meet Olga. The rest of the film tells us what happens once they reach Bulgaria. Unfortunately Ajay Devgn takes an excruciatingly long time to get to the point where the actual story line picks up momentum.
The romance between Shivaay and Olga does not impress and the lack of chemistry between the two clearly shows. The writing (Sandeep Shrivastava and Robin Bhatt) is also ordinary at places and that doesn’t help either. For a film that is mounted on a lavish scale it is surprising to see that there is no investment made on the characters, barring perhaps Shivaay and Gaura. When we should ideally be feeling the pain that Shivaay and Gaura go through but remain unaffected, it clearly means that the writing is ineffective. And it’s also quite surprising to see just 3 known faces among the supporting cast in the film- Vir Das, Saurabh Shukla and Girish Karnad. While the film scores very well when it comes to the action sequences, some really terrific heavy duty stunt sequences holding our attention, it is really disappointing to see Shivaay shown as a desi superhero but not having any adversary worthy enough of him. After all what’s the point of having a superhero action film if the antagonist is not powerful enough and unable to make an impact?
And the attempt to pass off Shivaay as a modern avatar of Lord Shiva (check out the cheesy dialogues during the same) is actually unintentionally funny. In fact there are some really hilarious dialogues which take you by surprise as they appear at places where you least expect them. The locations are thankfully fresh for a Hindi film, adding to the visual appeal of the film. Speaking of which Aseem Bajaj’s cinematography is a big plus for the film. Mithoon’s compositions and BGM work to an extent; nothing to rave about but a little more than functional. When it comes to the performances of the actors, both Erika Kaar and Sayyeshaa Saigal are strictly functional. Both of them do manage to get their quota of songs, though how does one end up having sex when you have broken your leg and your life is still in danger (Erika kaar) and why is someone (Sayyeshaaa Saigal) unnecessarily having to appear in a bathtub for the sake of a song is something that beats me.
Vir Das tries to be funny and doesn’t really succeed, his attempt to come across as someone of Pakistani origin (perhaps, this is not clear) by lapsing into Urdu does not really appear genuine. Saurabh Shukla and Girish Karnad float around, while Abigail Eames is a good pick to play Gaura. In fact she manages to convey a gamut of emotions without the use of dialogues quite creditably. Ajay Devgn is comfortable doing the stunts and pulls off a few emotional moments well, but then all he does for most part of the film is to sport a grim expression which lasts forever of sorts. He has also shown a certain degree of comfort in pulling of a film that’s far bigger than what he had attempted earlier. In fact the film does have stunning visuals and fantastic stunts, both living up to the promise exhibited in the promos. But beyond that there’s nothing much which works in favour of the film. Once you’ve seen Shivaay it’s not surprising if you end up feeling that it is basically an Indian version of Taken with a lot of emotional drama added to it, that’s all.