Bollywood has mostly disappointed in delivering ambitious, big-budget films backed by strong, cohesive narratives. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s masterfully cinematographed Bajirao Mastani (2015) was an exception. It was a story well told. Down south, SS Rajmouli’s mega-budget and exquisitely crafted Bahubali – The Beginning (2015) too found broader resonance. It showed hope and a direction for Indian cinema to aspire big. But films like these are few and far between. From the trailer, Ajay Devgn’s dream project Shivaay looked one such visually spectacular, lofty-budget film.
But it’s all show no substance. It was touted as a story around a father-daughter relationship. It’s hardly about it. In fact, for half of its butt-numbing runtime, you will feel jaded finding a story. Shivaay hits a new low on that front. It is, nimbly putting, a big mess.
Last seen in Nishikant Kamat’s south-remake Drishyam, Ajay Devgn is one of the most dependable actors in the industry. A natural actor, Devgn manages to entertain in a commercial film as well as lead a content-driven film. Here he’s also donned the hat of the director. Unfortunately, he disastrously fails in both departments.
He’s taken inspiration from his friend Rohit Shetty in terms of jamming action scenes where cars make squeaky sounds that hurt your ears and drama that tortures your soul. At least, dialogues in Shetty’s films make you laugh. Shivaay’s dialogues neither enthrall the viewer, nor contribute to the plot (well, there is hardly any).
The film begins promisingly as our chillum smoking-hero stylishly climbs down a gargantuan mountain with Bolo har har har in the background and Aseem Bajaj’s fabulous camera work. If there is something to praise in this crapola, it’s the cinematography which is spectacular throughout. The scenes in the first thirty minutes, in particular, are a treat. But the party gets over real soon as logic drops out and stupidity strikes in. There are all the cliché elements that make a film bad.
Some of which include parent issues (guy wants a child, woman doesn’t), child troubles (girl wants to meet her long-deserted mother), father’s turbulence (finding abducted daughter), crappy government, and supporting characters who are in the film probably only for a paycheck.
Shivaay is an exercise in making us value good cinema. How much can one afford to sell in the name of entertainment or art?
Besides, it’s horrendous to mislead people with details which may not be true. Bulgaria is presented in such a bad light that it’s hard to digest the fact that they permitted Devgn to shoot the film in their country. Every other Bulgarian in the film is either a sex trafficker, violent, or some level of wicked.
The screenplay and editing are downright terrible. Almost every scene seems dragged and incoherent. The climax stretches beyond the limits of endurance with moronic twists and turns.
Performances in Shivaay dig the final nail in the coffin. While Ajay is just passable, non-native actors like Erika Kaar and Abigail Eames are strictly mediocre.
Abigail specifically annoys for majority of her portion. Since she plays a mute girl, she either screams or makes infuriating sounds which make you respect Kabir Khan for ably directing Harshali Malhotra in Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Vir Das, Girish Karnad and Saurabh Shukla are all gloriously wasted and the lesser said about Sayesha Saigal the better.
There is a scene in the climax where Abigail lands a dozen punches on Devgn. It was probably an enlightening moment for her for she finally realized what the director had done to the film, the crores involved and the people of Bulgaria. Skip it.