Ajay Devgn’s first film as a director happened to be a romantic drama called ‘U Me Aur Hum’ (2008) which was heavily inspired from ‘The Notebook’ (2004), a novel that was adapted into a film in Hollywood. His second directorial venture ‘Shivaay’, which features him playing the title role, is an action thriller which, from what one has seen in the promos, is expected to have an emotional base to it.
Shivaay (Ajay Devgn) is a daredevil mountaineer who believes he cannot live anywhere in the world except for the Himalayas. While taking a group of tourists on a trekking trip, he meets Olga (Erika Kaar), a Russian who has been living in India for the past five years. Shivaay saves Olga’s life from an avalanche, sparks fly between the two and their relationship culminates in Olga getting pregnant. While Shivaay is ecstatic at the thought of having a baby, Olga is not too pleased. She has a mother and a sister to look after in Russia and she shudders at the thought of sacrificing her career and her family to live with Shivaay and the soon-to-be born baby. She leaves for Russia after giving birth and Shivaay raises the baby as a single parent. The baby blossoms into a beautiful girl called Gaura (Abigail Eames). An incident leads Gaura towards discovering that Shivaay had lied to her about her mother being dead. She is heartbroken upon discovering the truth and urges her father to take her to her mother so that she could see her just once. The father and the daughter head towards Bulgaria where Anushka (Sayyessha), an Indian embassy executive, is asked to help them out.
One did not get to see a glimpse of the main antagonist in the trailer. That made one believe that he would be a very powerful and supremely evil character for the makers to keep his identity a surprise from the audience till the film releases. Shockingly, the character of the antagonist is very weak. He does not come across as a powerful person and his identity is revealed in a very amateurish manner which makes things worse. The film deals with the issue of child trafficking and one fails to notice the kind of research the writers did while weaving this issue into the narrative. You do not really get an insight into the way these people work and commit these crimes. A strong antagonist could have, to a certain extent, made up for this deficiency but that is not the case here. The action is slick and engaging and is a major asset to the film. Apart from the action, emotion was expected to be a mainstay for the film. Unfortunately, the drama in the narrative just does not work. The lengthy monologues do not serve any purpose, apart from making you break into a yawn.
‘Shivaay’ has a very simple plot, too simple if you ask. The film has been mounted on a huge scale but does not have a thick plot to support it. To give the credit where it’s due, Ajay Devgn does quite well as a director and manages to engage you for a large part of its duration, even when the film is devoid of any interesting idea to boast of. He gets good support from Aseem Bajaj who captures the scenic beauty of the Himalayas and the chilliness of Bulgaria effectively on the lens. The four songs (Music: Mithoon, Additional song “Raatein” by Jasleen Royal) have been placed appropriately in the narrative and are impactful but it is the background score (Mithoon) that impresses a great deal. It almost acts like a character in the film.
Ajay Devgn delivers an excellent performance as Shivaay. His body language, dialogue delivery and intense expressions, all contribute towards making Shivaay a believable character. Sayyeshha looks very pretty and despite getting limited screen time in her debut Hindi film, she leaves a good impression as an actress. Erika Kaar’s performance is quite good but her heavily accented Hindi sounds jarring to the ears. A veteran like Girish Karnad and a competent actor like Vir Das are wasted in roles that could have been played by lesser known actors. Markus Ertelt is burdened with an ill-written role that makes him look like a caricature.
‘Shivaay’ is a film that is high on style and low on substance. The screenplay does not do justice to the scale of the film and the vision of an ambitious filmmaker who fails to achieve what, one believes, he had set out to.