Ajay Devgn in “Shivaay.”

Shivaay (Ajay Devgn) likes to be compared to Lord Shiva, from whose name his own is derived. He is a professional mountaineer in the Himalayas, assisting visitors, tourists and when needed, even the Army, in seemingly-impossible treks and recces.

On one such trip, he encounters Olga (Erika Karr), a Bulgarian student on a mission. She has even learned good Hindi and has a deep knowledge of Indian culture. After he rescues her from certain death in an avalanche, they fall in love. But they both realize in a moment of truth that marriage is out, as Shivaay cannot leave his life and neither can she. They must go their own ways.

A complication sets in — Olga becomes pregnant. Shivaay’s request to her is that she remain in India and deliver the baby so that he as a loner can live the rest of his life with a “family” and Olga’s memories. Reluctantly, she agrees, but, after delivering the child, she neither sees her daughter nor gives her a name to remember her by — she does not want any connection left with the past. Shivaay names the daughter Gaura (Abigail Eames), and the mute girl also shows signs of being an intrepid mountaineer.

Olga has told Shivaay that the child should be told her mother is dead, but an earthquake makes the child, then eight years old, find her mother’s last letter and a picture of hers in an old wooden chest that breaks open. Shivaay has no alternative but to take the child to Bulgaria and visit the address left by Olga.

Here is where the film, which could have been an intense story of a family (and better than “Drishyam!”) and relationships goes for a complete toss. Shivaay does something incredibly stupid in the hotel where they are staying, and, because of that, Gaura is kidnapped by human traffickers! And so begins a roller coaster of action!

This is where the film loses all its soul and becomes only a cumbersome (almost three-hour long) ‘body’ of action, spectacle, VFX and super-heroism, including trying to make the audience believe (in the best tradition of old Hindi films and Hollywood actioners) that policemen and gangsters can fire volleys and volleys of bullets but miss the hero, and the hero can chase a speeding car on foot, drive with one hand on the wheel and almost his entire body out of a car whose windshield has been smashed, and do everything a Sunny Deol or Suniel Shetty could do at their hunky best — and more!

The plethora of shots of snow, icy mountains, stalactites and impossible camera angles (the film has been shot in Poland, Bulgaria, Mussoorie in India, Canada, Russia and more) may be spectacular but are in overdose. Bulgaria’s views are spectacular but leave you cold.

But what leaves the audience colder is the fakeness of the emotions and the almost South Indian film-like action that is clearly meant only to show Devgn’s skills and the conception, design and execution of action sequences done by him and his team. The resultant flaws in the script and the unintentionally hilarious lines by Girish Karnad (as the wheelchair-ridden father of embassy official Anushka, played by Sayyeshaa Saigal), and even by Karr and sometimes Devgn and Saurabh Shukla (as the “naturally curious” Indian ambassador) pull down the film.

Aseem Bajaj deserves more than a hundred out of a hundred for his magnificent camerawork, and so does the VFX team. Jai Singh Nijjar and the foreign team that collaborated with him also get full marks. However, Sandeep Shrivastava’s script (with the dialogues) and the songs (Mithoon and Jasleen Royal) are, but for Mithoon’s passable title track, a disaster. However, the background score (Mithoon) generally works.

The film is a clear ego-trip for Devgn the mega-star. He carries the film with his intensity, but his emotional voltage is not matched by either co-actors or the script, leaving him finally as a cold action hero! Eames as his mute daughter is good, but again handicapped by a script that seems to have international ambitions (in terms of its tenor) but is a mishmash of clichéd Indian content that dates back to the 1980s, never mind the inspiration taken from “Taken”(!), the Hollywood actioner!

Karr has (unintentionally) different looks in many sequences and finally in her sequences in Bulgaria. Her performance is equally inconsistent. Saigal has no role to speak of but does alright. No one else has scope to perform, and Karnad, Shukla and Das largely ham away. The foreigners like the pimp, the music-loving gangster and the corrupt cop are adequate.

Sigh! We wonder why such a level of action was shown when what was needed was an emotional treatment. The film’s one extravagant splurge was like spending a million or two on a fake Hussain! Or should that be, in terms of the film’s tenor, a fake Leonardo Da Vinci?

Rating: **  

Ajay Devgn Films and Pen Audio present “Shivaay” 

Produced and directed by: Ajay Devgn

Written by Sandeep Shrivastava and Robin Bhatt

Music: Mithoon

Starring: Ajay Devgn, Erika Karr, Sayyeshaa Saigal, Abigail Eames, Saurabh Shukla, Girish Karnad, Sandeep Shrivastava, Ambika Oli, Robert Maaser, Markus Ertelt, Maciej Bielski, Andreas Nguyen, Aakash Dabhade, Viktoria Nikolova, Bijou Thaangjam, Swen Raschka, Buddya Sunari Magar, Pratik Khattar, Noyon Thapa and others       

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