Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay has been crucified by critics upon its release. It is his second directorial venture after U, Me Aur Hum which, incidentally, was panned too. The trailer and promotion of the film was superb and I was really looking forward to it. However, the extreme criticism that the film received from one and all really put me off to a great extent. The Diwali festivities further delayed me from watching this film. Now having finally seen it, I must say that my reactions are bittersweet. If someone asks, which of the two I feel more? I guess the answer will be “bitter”. Through the course of this review, I will try to put forth my pros and cons of this film into perspective and try to unlock the reasons behind its failure as a film.
The story is lifted from the Liam Neeson starrer “Taken”. The similarities are so obvious and blatant that anyone who has seen “Taken” will see the similarities and can actually put his/her fingers on almost every scene. However, before the film lies back on the screenplay of Taken, there is almost an hour of Bollywood-ish melodrama that unfolds between Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay and Erika Kaar ‘s Olga. The two meet during a climb of the Himalayas, face an avalanche and end up on a hanging tent where they make out and voila! Gaura is conceived. The mother has other pressing issues on her hand so she gives birth and departs without even looking at the daughter. Shivaay brings up the girl alone and when she is eight years old, she learns of her mother and goes berserk to meet her once.
Shivaay and Gaura travel to Bulgaria where on their first night in a hotel, Shivaay saves a kid from a pedophile and unknowingly invites the wrath of a gang of human traffickers who kidnap his daughter soon after. Shivaay goes all the way trying to rescue his daughter but not in Liam Neeson style but in the most Bollywoodish manner conceivable. Helping him in his endeavors is Anushka (Sayesha Saigal), who at first thinks little of him but then gradually understands his madness to get his daughter back. There is also an ethical hacker, Wahab (Vir Das) who plays an important role in tracking down Gaura.
The initial half an hour of the film is terribly boring. The screenplay is lazy and is so cliché that it will make you feel like throwing up. The love story between Ajay and Erika is puke-inducing. They are so mismatched and look so not in love that the whole portion feels like an endless drag. The editing also doesn’t help matters as the film jumps from portion to portion in such abrupt cuts that you feel exasperated. In some sequences, the speed drops suddenly making you feel restless while some others just whiz past at a speed that leaves you dazed. The arrival of a kid generally lifts matters. Not here, though. Abigail Eames is not a good actress and her interpretation of a mute girl is shrill and irritating. The audience doesn’t forge a connect with her character and hence the portions involving the father and daughter chemistry falters too.
Once the girl is kidnapped and Ajay goes all Singham-y to trace her down, the proceedings become enjoyable. The story moves briskly and even though there isn’t a shred of believability to the proceedings, they are light on your senses. The action is well choreographed and the chase sequences are especially great to look at. Once alone, Ajay comes back to his elements and exudes some dynamic heroism that he is better known for. The editing for a while settles down into a rhythm and it feels that that film will take the “Taken” way to the climax. That, however, doesn’t happen as the climax is dragged to an extent where I just like leaving it where it was. There is unnecessary melodrama, slow motion and repeated close-ups of Ajay and Eames that will make you go “enough man! Let it be”.
The editing again gets choppy and things happen that have no explanation. Upon its release, the film was chopped down, after it received serious flack from the critics and audiences alike but that hasn’t helped the cause. It has made many sequences very incoherent and has further alienated the viewer from the story and the proceedings. While some sequences feel terribly elongated and almost boring to sit through. Speaking of the performances, Sayesha Saigal and Vir Das are criminally bad. Vir Das makes the work of a hacker look pathetically laughable. Saigal is constantly blank and has all but three expressions. She seems dazed and confused. Erika Kaar is terrible. The absence of chemistry between her and Ajay’s character is one of the chief handicaps of the film. Also, her character is so badly written that you can’t help but feel frustrated by the manner in which her character develops throughout the film.
This is an Ajay Devgn film. He is present in almost all the scenes of the film. He is terrible in some; he is good in some and brilliant in a few. Suffice is to say that he is one of the three reasons for watching this film. The second reason would be the cinematography. The film looks plus and brilliant almost throughout its run-time. The action is superbly filmed as are some of the surreal scenes. Only if it made a little more sense. The third reason would be the action itself. Yes, the film has some great looking action and Ajay proves himself equal to the task in those sequences.
Overall, the film fails in more ways than it should have and coupled with the towering expectations, Shivaay proves to be one of the biggest disappointments of the year. I felt that the name Shivaay and the multiple references to Shiva were unnecessary. There are no possible or evident links. Imagine the character of Brian Mills in “Taken” being called Zeus and him shown killing the Albanians with thunderbolts and you understand what I felt like.
Rating 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)