Tejas Nair | October 30, 2016
Ajay Devgn has what we call the “acting chops” to portray a diverse range of characters, but this directorial action thriller fails to herald him as a “man at the helm” which should have been understood, done, and dusted way back in 2008…
Shivaay (Ajay Devgn) is a fiery mountain climber who is presently trying to perceive life’s intricacies. Bit of a loner, he is an expert when it comes to climbing and descending gigantic snow-covered peaks, and is an occasional savior of the border troops. It is by chance that he meets and consequently falls in love with Olga (Erika Kaar), a Bulgarian national with a pompous attitude about her dreams and responsibilities. Considering her relationship with Shivaay as only a casual fling, she flies back to her motherland handing him over their infant daughter who was born out of wedlock. Time passes by and the child grows up to be Gaura (Abigail Eames), who thinks, or is made to believe, that her mother died soon after she entered the world. Shivaay, who loves her like the apple of his eye, has to clear the dilemma when Gaura accidentally finds out that her mother is still alive…
The setup is pretty rundown with a tried-and-tested story riddled with mind-numbing superhero characteristics. The drama starts with Shivaay’s feats as the audience are supposed to gasp in unison watching him free-fall from the mountains without a proper harness. Gasp! Self-appreciation is acceptable, but the degree here is intolerable, which is further aggravated by the dialogues which make the central character look like God. Drama soon turns into action and crime as Shivaay and Gaura fly to Bulgaria to meet Olga. Things start going south when Shivaay faces repeated difficulties and has to scramble his superhero powers (viz. defying logic and bullets, artfully using a firearm, and fighting like Batman on steroids) to take what is rightly his.
The attempt at humor is horrendous and cringe-worthy, and fails to induce any laughter. But, the secondary unintended humor does drive the narrative into that territory, making the film and its characters a laughing stock in front of an audience who are well-versed with Hollywood action sequences. The characters are seen romancing in a free-falling tent, for cryin’ out loud, and from there, it takes a downward spiral into a dark trench of nothingness. Muddled with improper use and picturization of songs, the film solely depends on the cat and mouse chase which is the entire second half of the film.
Of course, the production setup is exhilarating, with the exotic locations quenching the taste buds of the anticipating audience. The stunts are laughable, but the car chase sequences are enough to entice an action film fanatic. But, wait, you cannot fully enjoy these sequences because few seconds into them, the title track starts playing in the background as Shivaay breaks a bone or few in slow-mo. However, this good part ends in a jiffy, and the plot again goes back to defying common sense, bringing out new, half-baked, and clichéd characters who are in the space just to help the protagonist. One of the very few good things about the whole affair is the type of masks the antagonists sport. Reminds one of The Town (2010) and The Dark Knight (2008).
The biggest problem with the film is that the emotions don’t come. They just don’t. It’s like they know it’s a gimmick, and refuse to take the center stage. Even if we consider the actors’ quickly-changing countenances, the emotions either are missing or are not properly showing, which all makes the viewing-experience an irritating exercise of the mind. Devgn has worked hard here, which he may call his magnum opus, but I won’t. His efforts are clear, but a flat screen cannot be held on a wall using a single bolt. The foreign actors are fine with their portrayals, while newcomer Sayesha Saigal fails to impress. Vir Das and Girish Karnad are puppets.
Lastly, it is a terribly long film which is filled with montages that were unnecessary and sequences that do not entertain. It shifts genres like a machine gear and conclusively uses an inefficient converter to settle at tragedy, reducing the three-hour journey to be about absolutely nothing except maybe about a father’s undying love for his child. One will heave a sigh of relief by the time he/she walks out of the hall, trying to answer his own conscience about his 2016 Diwali and how it has turned into a Himalayan blunder.
BOTTOM LINE: Ajay Devgn’s “Shivaay” is an action film in parts based on a story that is familiar to the audience at large. Wait for TV premiere.
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