Shivaay, Ajay Devgan's second directorial venture, is all-out action film in an overdrawn narrative.
It could be coincidental that Ai Dil Hai Mushkil, the other Diwali release this week, spoofs on Bollywood's love for snow-clad mountains, where heroes go all padded up, but heroines are in flimsy saris. Unable to take the cold, the hero says, 'these Bollywood guys are stupid.'
You cannot say that about Shivaay, for sure. Ajay Devgan, who produces and directs the film - his second directorial after the flop U Me Aur Hum, uses snow-capped mountains as a definitive backdrop for a thriller dotted with high-wattage action sequences.
Devgan goes all out to push his boundaries doing some daredevil stunts, and he is practically in every frame too. And yet, if Shivaay fails to engage you, the trouble rests totally on a wafer-thin narrative, a lagging screenplay and some terrible dialogues. None is questioning the nobility of the theme - of child trafficking - but come on, why drag it for nearly three hours?
No one is complaining about the implausibility of the stunts and action sequences.
Sample this: We have Shivaay (Ajay) manoeuvring a car with one arm, while being seated on its hood (talk about long arms), with a heavy bag placed on the accelerator, while banging the vehicle against a truck. The sequence then goes on to having Devgan being dragged on his legs by the truck, and yet, nothing of any consequence happens to the hero. Man of steel, indeed.
We have seen worse sequences in even worse Hollywood films. But with their nerve-wracking speed in story-telling, you really don't think further. That tempo is lacking in Shivaay.
It is full-bodied Bollywood in its emotional context aspiring to be a Hollywood-style thriller.
With so much action for action's sake, and all executed single-handedly by Devgan, the film becomes more of a narcissistic indulgence than an engaging drama.
Add to the downside some bad acting, squeezed in songs, a background score that progresses from good to bad to worse and Shivaay becomes one long drawn out cinematic experience.
Devgan infuses novelty to the setting. Shivaay, who expounds profound wisdom on the supreme power beyond mankind's understanding, is a trekking guide/adventurer, who also helps the Indian Army (a bit of patriotism is what films need now to work at the box office).
He falls in love with Olga (Erika Kaar), a Bulgarian who has lived all her life in Delhi while on a Himalayan adventure and after Shivaay shows off all his tattoos. She, however, refuses to stay back, and presents him with their child before returning to Sofia.
The child Gaura (Abigail Eames) learns about her mother and wants to meet her. The journey becomes tumultuous as Gaura is kidnapped by human-traffickers after Shivaay crosses their path.
Action abounds - from the streets of Sofia - to snow-capped mountains. More characters enter the fray but little value to the narrative. It should all have been one heady adventure, as the film's trailer promised, but with a weak villain and the 'nothing will happen to the hero predictability,' Shivaay fails to engross.
Devgan has been clearly too busy as director, he perhaps forgot to manage his over-the-top expressions. His action sets, though, are fantastic.
We are told at one point that Shivaay is an extraordinary man caught in extraordinary circumstances. Sadly, the making of the movie, other than its action choreography, is less than ordinary.
Directed by Ajay Devgan
Starring: Ajay Devgan, Erika Kaar
Now playing at theatres in the UAE