Ajay Devgan’s Shivaay is basically Taken with a big helping of melodrama, and a lot of talking. A LOT of talking. Way too much talking.
Action films don’t usually have room for much dialogue. The fists or the bullets do most of the talking. But Shivaayisn’t merely content with being an action movie. It wants to tell the emotional story of the bond between a single parent and his child, it takes a half-hearted stab at addressing the murky business of international child trafficking, and at its core it’s intended as a showcase, a reminder if you please, of the charm and the appeal of its tough-guy leading man with the brooding eyes.
That’s too many agendas attached to a single film, and as a result Shivaay unfolds over a butt-numbing 2 hours and 52 minutes. Frankly, that’s as much time it would take to watch Liam Neeson rescue his daughter in the first Taken, and then his wife in Taken 2 – those are both roughly 90-minute films.
But jokes aside, the length wouldn’t be such a problem if the film itself wasn’t so derivative and boring. Yes, some of the action is pretty impressive – dizzying car chases shot with hand-held cameras, and visceral free range fights – but it’s all in service of a plot that’s entirely predictable and seldom compelling.
Ajay Devgan, who has also directed the film, plays Shivaay, a desperate father who must literally scale mountains to rescue his mute eight-year-old daughter when she’s kidnapped on a trip they take to Bulgaria.
That simple but potentially promising premise is buried under so much idiotic backstory involving Devgan’s character and the little girl’s mother, you can’t decide whether to laugh or to cringe. By way of indulgences, there are supporting characters who are rewarded with way more screen-time than they deserve. (A bathtub song for the young lady at the embassy who helps our hero track his daughter???) And then there are absolutely unnecessary characters that serve no purpose whatsoever. (Yes, Girish Karnad, I’m looking at you!)
Shivaay himself is a curious fella: a daredevil thrill-seeker who leaps off cliffs and mountains, routinely refers to himself in the third person, and appears to talk only in punchlines. Despite the shallow writing, Devgan infuses the character with genuine humanity and makes his pain at being separated from his child fully palpable. He’s equally convincing in ‘superhero’ mode, flying into a mad rage when provoked, landing punches and kicks at the speed of lightning, even driving without foot on pedal, and surviving both bullets and stabbings.
What Ajay Devgan the star deserved, was a sharper director and a better script. In the end, there’s little else to Shivaay than the eye-watering locations (both in the Himalayas and in Bulgaria), and occasionally poignant moments between Devgan and the little girl who plays his daughter. Everything else is noise. Way too much noise.
I’m going with two out of five.