A man is panting heavily and then falls into the snow with a thud. In the distance we see a few other men lying flat—perhaps dead. The action then cuts to nine years before. As the opening credits roll, Ajay Devgn, star and director of the film, swings, jumps, scrambles and shows off as he makes his way down a mountain face. There is no purpose to that scene except spectacle. The title song, heavy on chanting, pounds in the background.

Devgn is Shivaay, an orphan raised in the mountains who is a daredevil in the plains and on the peaks. The day job of this rough and ready adventure junkie, who grandiosely refers to himself in the third person, is to take enthusiast climbers on expeditions. One lady, awed by Shivaay, says, “Awww, he’s so hot and sexy." On the same trip he meets Olga (Erika Kaar), a Bulgarian who has spent the last few years at Delhi University. Shivaay has the good fortune of spending a night with her in a tent suspended in mid-air after a mountain mishap (an avalanche destroys the campsite). Olga, who’s rather chirpy for someone with a broken leg, has to wait it out in the Indian hill station before returning to her home country. Love, pregnancy, drama and a baby follow.

Eight-year-old Gaura (Abigail Eames) is a mini-me of her father Shivaay, nimble on her feet and daring on the mountains, but she’s also mute. Her desire to meet her mother takes the father and daughter to Bulgaria, where the story (based on a screenplay by Sandeep Srivastava) becomes a poor cousin of the hit franchise Taken. As soon as Shivaay arrives in Bulgaria, he transforms into an activist, and this is before his daughter is kidnapped by a crime ring that sells children to the flesh and organ trade. Once Gaura goes missing, Shivaay turns into a deadly killing machine, wanted by the local cops for murder.

His only allies are two cardboard-cutout diplomats in the Indian Embassy, played by Saurabh Shukla (who inexplicably speaks in Bihari inside the Indian Embassy) and Sayyeshaa Saigal. Even as Shivaay is desperately searching for his daughter before its too late, Devgn the director takes us on a sentimental side-plot about Saigal’s character, Anu, and her relationship with her wheelchair-bound father (Girish Karnad). It’s diversions like this, and four songs in the first 40 minutes, that burden the narrative—you feel every minute of the 173 minute running time.

The Bulgarian and Russian goons are textbook representations of bad guys, and the CGI is so appalling that you can spot the computer-generated figures tumbling down mountainsides. In the romantic scene in the illuminated, dangling tent that is sliding down the crevice, the couple looks less like they are in a sensual embrace and more like they are being tossed around in a washing machine.

What works are the action scenes —ambitiously designed, well executed and often pulsating, with background music and cinematography to match. But the story interlacing the action set pieces is so lame and the motivations of the characters so illogical that the emotional thread is frayed. Erika Kaar does well with her Hindi-English dialogues, but the performance of note comes from British child actor Abigail Eames, who might be confined to screaming and making high-pitched noises to communicate, but uses the silences and her muteness to convey a great deal. Devgn has clearly put time and effort into his direction,but appears to have put less into his performance. Neither makes the grade. And let’s face it, there can only be one Liam Neeson.

Shivaay releases in theatres on Friday.

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