In Prabhudheva’s ‘Action Jackson’ – an absolute nightmare of a film – Sonakshi Sinha played a character who believed the penis of Ajay Devgn’s character was ‘lucky’ for her.
In ‘Shivaay’, Devgn’s latest in a recent spate of horrid movies, his character gets asked by a Bulgarian tourist how similar he is to Lord Shiva. Devgn, the eponymous Shivaay, goes on to show tattoos adorning his body, which signify different aspects of the deity. The girl, unsatisfied with the responses, asks him if there’s any other Shiva feature he possesses. His reply remains inaudible, because the dialogue is censored. Given the scene that follows, my guess is he said “lingam”.
© Ajay Devgn FFilms
It’s amazing that Devgn feels the need to resort to penis jokes in his films as he pushes 50, especially because the actor had some credible films to his name till a few years ago. Sometime around the beginning of the decade, though, Devgn tasted box office success with senseless Rohit Shetty comedies, and now he feels obliged to replicate that in films like ‘Himmatwala’, ‘Son of Sardar’ and ‘Action Jackson’, all of which withered away at the box office after big opening weekends.
With ‘Shivaay’, the actor also dons the director’s hat – the second time he does so after ‘U Me Aur Hum’, a lazy adaptation of ‘The Notebook’, but which at least had a story to tell. ‘Shivaay' has nothing more than a dollop of misogyny and awful stereotypes to offer, all of which Devgn turns into a multi-crore “festival” release and throws at audiences with brute force.
© Ajay Devgn FFilms
Take, for instance, the most integral element of the story – the fact that Devgn plays dad to a girl born to the Bulgarian tourist. About 40 excruciating minutes into the film, Olga (Erika Kaar) is about to return to her native land after a brief affair with mountaineer Shivaay. Along the way, she finds out she’s pregnant. Cut to: Devgn angrily drives back to his house with Olga, demanding she go inside. When she refuses, Shivaay yells at her, and then makes a plea for her to stay back till the birth of her child. Olga pleads with Shivaay to not force her to keep the baby, and to let her return home – “stop this emotional blackmail”, she says – both he refuses to relent.
Pro-choice? What’s that? Kidnapping and forced pregnancy? Hell yeah.
Apart from the awful precedent he sets with this aspect of the story, Devgn the director never shies from propping Devgn the actor as some sort of a “superhero”, the kind who jumps from mountain peaks and beats Bulgarian thugs, who kidnap his daughter, to pulp. He often speaks of himself in third person, as if he suffers from some sort of split personality disorder. You would only be willing to suspend disbelief to the point where a group of girls look at Devgn strut away and exclaim, “He’s so hot and sexy!”
These are all tropes more and more Hindi filmmakers spit out of their systems every year, but Devgn reintroduces every forced cliché into his film, the only USP of which was the “never-seen-before” action it promised in its trailer. The action and Aseem Bajaj’s eye-filling cinematography hold your attention in only a couple of scenes in the pre-interval portion. After intermission, the film plunges faster than Shivaay’s headlong dive down the Himalayan mountains.
© Ajay Devgn FFilms
In this portion, a fine actor like Girish Karnad gets some of the cheesiest lines you’ll see in a Hindi film (written by Sandeep Shrivastava and Robin Bhatt). A wheel-chair bound patriarch, Karnad struggles to get on his feet at one point, slumping back into his chair after an attempt. When asked by his daughter why he did so, he replies, “Kisi ko toh khada hona padhega (Someone has to stand up)”. In another scene, his daughter informs him that she’s travelling somewhere, and the old man nonchalantly replies, “Sahi raaste pe ho (You’re on the right track)”. Saayesha Saigal plays Karnad's daughter in a role as thankless as that of Kaar’s – every character plays second-fiddle to Devgn, after all.
Taking the ‘Shiva The Destroyer’ adage a bit too seriously, Ajay Devgn destroys several things in ‘Shivaay’: Brain cells. Time. Sanity. Equilibrium. And a general love for the movies.
One of the worst films of the year (almost as bad as ‘Mastizaade’; both films, ironically, have Vir Das in them), watching ‘Shivaay’ during Diwali (or at any other point in life) is akin to getting lung infection by willingly inhaling smoke from firecrackers.
The latter, come to think of it, would be better.