As the title character, Ajay Devgn (who also directed the film) introduces his character as a superman of sorts by leaping from a snow covered summit and using his know-how to fly-fall-scrape down the snow and ice covered mountain side like spiderman, sans the webbing. With a powerful soundtrack to back him up, he is a force to be reckoned with - an idea echoed when he reaches the bottom and delivers a cringe-worthy dialogue reiterating his awesome understanding of the mountain.
But stick with it.
This mountain man becomes a bit more human with the introduction of Olga, played by Polish actress Erika Kaar. Fortunately, Kaar comes to the screen with experience gained from recurring roles in television series in England and Poland. In Shivaay, she delivers a performance that is much better than you typically see from a non-Indian in a Bollywood film. In addition, she learned to speak the Hindi for the role. In a Mumbai Comic Con panel discussion, she explained,
"I did learn Hindi for many, many months to be able to play my part. Six months it was every day a couple of hours and then afterward I had words taught here and there but then we would mainly focus on the shoot. But I did learn continuously."
Shivaay and Olga trek up the mountain and when they come back down, their lives are completely changed.
Years later, Shivaay has raised his mute daughter Gaura to become a mountain climbing chip off the old block. The decision to make Gaura a mute manages to work on screen, perhaps because no one in the film questions it. British actress Abigail Eames successfully uses all her physicality to convey meaning since, unlike Erika Kaar, knowledge of Hindi was most likely not required for her role.
In the film, an earthquake damages their home and Gaura discovers documents confirming that Olga, the mother she thought was dead, is alive and well and living in Bulgaria. She demands to meet her mother, just once. Shivaay takes Gaura to Bulgaria.
As they search for Olga, the film's action drama intensifies when Shivaay and Gaura experience the impact of human trafficking first-hand. Like Rani Mukherjee's Mardaani, Shivaay's storyline highlights an important issue albeit in a filmy way. According to the U.S. Department of State 2015 Trafficking in Person's Report,
Bulgaria is a source and, to a lesser extent, a transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Bulgaria remains one of the primary source countries of human trafficking in the EU. Bulgarian women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, as well as in Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and the United States. Several NGOs assert internal trafficking is increasing. Bulgarian men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK, and Zambia, predominantly in agriculture, construction, and the service sector. Bulgarian children and adults with disabilities are forced into street begging and petty theft within Bulgaria and also in Austria, Greece, Italy, Sweden, and the UK. Romanian girls are subjected to sex trafficking in Bulgaria. Government corruption creates an environment enabling some trafficking crimes.
Ajay Devgn's Shivaay takes on the attributes of his namesake Shiva as he weaves a path of destruction through Bulgaria while seeking to get his daughter back. He meets up with those who hinder and those who help - Vir Das as a Romeo hacker, Girish Karnad as an aging father, Sayesha Saigal as his daughter and Indian embassy employee and Saurabh Shukla as an Indian ambassador in Bulgaria, and Olga. Along the way, he even manages to rescue other victims of human trafficking.
Mithoon's soundtrack for Shivaay is powerful, musically highlighting the strength of our action hero and the bond he has with his daughter. The cinematography presents gorgeous mountain landscapes and beautiful Bulgarian cityscapes. The chase action sequences, in particular, are creative and well choreographed.
Like many a Bollywood film, Shivaay takes you to the heights of happiness and drops you in the depths of despair. Unlike many a Bollywood film, this action drama doesn't include the standard song-and-dance numbers you expect to see. This is a blessing since Ajay Devgn's on screen advantage isn't on the dance floor but in close combat, physical feats and frantic chases. Devgn's moves define poetry in motion as he jumps, darts, runs, slams and flips to take down his opponents one by one. With the help of beautiful cinematography, this experienced action hero's sequences turn brutality into ballet. Just like Liam Neeson in Taken, Ajay Devgn has a very particular set of skills which he leverages very well.
If you are new to Bollywood films and like action drama, Shivaay is just the ticket.
The following playlist features the trailers for the film Shivaay.
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