By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service
Film: "Shiva"; Starring: Mohit Ahlawat, Nisha Kothari; Director: Ram Gopal Varma Rating: * 1/2
Fifteen years ago, the one-man-army theme used to be much in vogue. By recreating the 'expected' experience from the past, "Shiva" comes up with a reasonably unexpected thrill of what used to be the expected not so long ago.
Remember Amitabh Bachchan making long strides into the villain's den in "Zanjeer" to reduce his adversaries to pulp?
Welcome to the world of 'pulp friction'. The stakes are high. Saving the country, no less. Each time our super-cop walks into the feverish frames, the soundtrack comes alive chanting his oath for induction into the police force. Ilayaraja's background music is flush with ominous chants and wails.
Even blood-curdling at times. Mostly, just creating a specific ambience for the hero's leonine leaps over time and space.
This police story has plenty of force, most of it generated from the way Varma cuts the old-as-the-hills material into a newly-rejuvenated shape.
The editing by Nipun Gupta and Amit Parmar is first...rather, 'fist-rate'. Sound of slapping cheeks and cracking bones rent the soundtrack creating a reverberating sensation of retaliatory violence meant to combat malignant violence.
The action is swiftly and smoothly vindictive... Shiva in the den, Shiva in the departmental store, Shiva on a construction site, Shiva in a middle class food-joint (run by cine-buff Ninad Kamath who does corny take-offs on Sanjay Dutt, and Rajnikanth).
The one-man-show-off idea gets its definition mainly from the fist.
Interestingly, you seldom see Shiva combating evil with the gun. Bare hands are used to slap his adversaries to a grovelling mass of terror...that's the way it works. The quieter moments shared with the journalist-girlfriend Sandhya (Nisha Kothari) are relatively less effective.
Each time the courtship begins, you wait with an indulgent smile to let the high-octane action begin.
The encounters with the main villain Bappu (gangster-turned politician inspired by Arun Gawli) played by Upendra Limaye are all done-to-bludgeoning death, revivified by Varma's excellent command over the language of seething implosive rage (seen earlier to great advantage in his "Satya", "Company" and "Sarkar").
Mohit Ahlawat speaks little and fights frequently. His forte is reticent retribution. The real heroes are the action directors (twin brothers Ram Lakshman who also play climactic parts in the film). The stunts are purely from the 1980s, with loads of new-millennium attitude thrown in.
You won't think much of the world-weary story. But there's a kind of old-world charm about this street-smart bone-cruncher, which hits you with its message of a cleansing chemical.
At the end of it, you aren't looking at Shiva bringing down the crime graph in the city. You're looking instead at Varma's clenched narrative that sweeps across the concrete jungle in overt gestures of ruthless vindication.
The performers include Ramu's usual suspects like Zakir Husain (corrupt cop), and Shereveer Vakil (ruthless goon). Dilip Prabhavalkar, lately a hit as Gandhiji in "Lage Raho Munnabhai", will shock you as a corrupt home minister. Actors often do that. They change characters.
But the real shocker is the old-fashioned narrative. You've seen the cop doing his deadly justice act to death. That doesn't stop Ram Gopal Varma from socking it in our face one more time.
Bollywood.com Rating: 1.5