This film by Puri Jagannath and Vijay Deverakonda is an amalgamation of sports, action and drama with nothing to impress. In the opening minutes of Liger, a voiceover describes the title character as a slumdog from the streets of Mumbai aiming to win on an international stage.
Although overused, this underdog template can still make the cut if a writer-director has a story that stays true to its surroundings and engages the audience. Helmed by Puri Jagannath and helmed by Vijay Deverakonda, Ligar, however, turns out to be a lazily written film, moving from one song/stunt sequence to another.
- Release Date: 25 August 2022 (India)
- Directed by- Puri Jagannadh
- Written by- Puri Jagannadh, Prashant Pandey, A.R. Sreedhar, Kiran Thatavarthi
- Produced by- Puri Jagannadh, Karan Johar, Charmme Kaur, Apoorva Mehta, Santosh Mojar, Prashant Shah, Janeshwar Shukla, Vish
- Music by- Tanishk Bagchi, Vikram Montrose
- Cinematography by- Vishnu Sarma
- Film Editing by- Junaid Siddiqui
- Production company by- Bollywood Hollywood Production, Dharma Productions, Puri Connects
- Distributed by- MSK Films
Ligar (Vijay Deverakonda), who his mother Balamani (Ramya Krishnan) describes as a crossbreed between a lion and a tiger, is good at mixed martial arts (MMA). Hailing from Karimnagar and raising him on her own, she has moved to Mumbai to see him rise as an MMA national champion; Mother and son make their living by running a tea stall. They enlist the help of a coach (Ronit Roy), although they cannot pay the fees. Balamani is a feisty character who does not bow down; She reveals an emotional story that cuts the ice with Coach.
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Puri gives a hindrance to the liger – a stutter. He can deliver multiple punches when he stitches together a sentence. Predictable sequences follow in which Liger is ridiculed by MMA students and has to fight to earn his respect.
Once Liger’s potential in MMA is established, the story introduces the leading lady, known as a retard, who is both intentionally and unintentionally hilarious and annoying. Tanya (Ananya Pandey) is portrayed as a rich brat who wants to garner social media attention.
A friend of hers suggests posting a ‘hot’ video to get attention; But after a few scenes we see her lip-sync to M S Subbulakshmi’s rendition of Suprabhatam. She is game for anything that can get her traction. The entire scene in which Liger’s mom describes the kind of girl he shouldn’t fall for and all of those traits is just one of many cringe-inducing scenes that pass off as humor.
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In another scene, Balamani talks loudly on the phone and tells Tanya to leave her son alone and not mislead him, saying that she wants to see him as a champion. Tanya’s immediate reaction after the phone call is to ask, “Where’s my vodka?” And it gets cut to the foot tapping ‘Akdi Pakpi’ dance number. Soon after, he is woken up by friends who tell him that his Instagram post has caused an uproar and fans have gathered below.
She goes to the balcony and greets the crowd like Mannat’s SRK. So was that song a dream, did it really happen and did they go viral by posting the video? The transition in the narrative is so random. Some kind of reveal about Tanya’s true reaction to the mother’s anger is revealed much later, but nothing matters until then as the film slides to the bottom.
Trying to put the unsettling narrative together is Vijay Deverakonda. His physical transformation makes him agile and fit enough to pull off stunt sequences. A pre-climax fight sequence involving women trained in Krav Maga turns out to be a sore throat. Was that a way of showing the power of women after Puri’s portrayal of glam dolls of leading ladies in the last few films? Who knows!
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The much-anticipated fight between Liger and Mike Tyson has its moments, but coming to the end of a poorly-written story, it’s too little and it’s too late. Cast in a fictional character, Tyson is depicted as an idol of Liger, but the climax of the other side of the champion is a joke.
A major disappointment, apart from the story and screenplay, is the language of Liger. Apparently, some of the characters are men and women of Telugu origin who live in Mumbai. A simple mix of Telugu and Hindi would have been appropriate. Instead, we get the feeling of watching a partially dubbed movie in which characters from Mumbai are speaking Hindi dialogues but we hear them in Telugu. A cursory explanation of the use of language would have made it less awkward.
Sports action dramas have done much better in Indian cinema. Here the characterization and the way of storytelling are so simple that it is difficult to root out the Dalit story. Forget the physical transformation and action episodes, we have seen better performances than Vijay Deverakonda in Telugu cinema. Stuttering is also seen forcefully in some scenes. Ramya might pack a punch as a courageous mother but she is mostly made to scream and scream. Chunky Pandey appears in a brief character that starts out as flaky and fidgety.
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This big-ticket film that garnered pan-India attention ended as an embarrassment. At the beginning of the film, the protagonist says that he is not good at storytelling, but he will try. Maybe that was a warning about the movie. Thankfully, Liger doesn’t end on a note that leaves room for a sequel.
Liger is louder than the word go. Be it the characters, the action in the ring or the background music – it’s all resonating in your ears for 140 minutes. One thing that is clear from the beginning is that Bollywood does not learn from its mistakes. How many times disabled characters such as speech impairment have gotten filmmakers into trouble and Liger is no different. It shamelessly ridicules its stammering hero and is distasteful at times.
For example, when Vijay tries to name his name for the first time, if you don’t see him, you will really feel like he is trying to imitate Suniel Shetty. After a time it seemed that the makers did not want Vijay to speak more dialogues as his Hindi is not that fluent and clear. So much for a pan India film. I mean, I was looking forward to a really good scene where I’d see him say a few lines without interrupting the other characters, but it never happens. In terms of performance, how good Vijay looks in every frame and brings his best to the table, the poorly written script fails him miserably with even worse execution.
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Also, Vijay has faced his share of troubles with Arjun Reddy, who was marked as problematic and anti-feminine, but Liger hasn’t really learned any lessons there either. A scene when Liger grabs Tanya by the collar and then pushes her, or how a girl is unapologetically referred to as a ‘chudail’, only sexism and psyche deeply rooted problems. They cleverly try to balance it by referencing Kabir Singh (the Hindi remake of Arjun Reddy) and how men are cocky and can’t take that from a girl.
Talking about the chemistry of Vijay and Ananya, there is nothing like it. They looked better together while promoting the film they appeared on screen. While Vijay looks at her lovingly during the dance sequence, Ananya is only concerned about the camera and the chemistry can RIP.
As for Ananya, I don’t know if she was told what to do in the film. where was the acting? Was it overacting? Was she herself? Was she trying to calm down? or dumb? I don’t know I am confused. Maybe, she needs to take some serious lessons in acting, so we know she knows the craft. In Liger, its tracks, its scenes, its dialogues, the way they are called – everything seems to be a joke, to say the least.
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How can I not mention the beautifully choreographed and elaborate song and dance sequences in Liger. Well, Ananya Panday’s change in outfit was the only reasonable justification for me as to why such pathetic wrong songs were thrown when the story didn’t seem to budge anywhere. Something is happening in a scene and suddenly the actors create a ruckus in a glamorous song and dance sequence. ridiculous.
It doesn’t look like Ramya Krishnan has come out of her Sivagami mode from Baahubali. She is roaring in almost every scene and blowing her lungs out. However, her scenes with Vijay are lovely and the mother-son story in the original could have added value to the story. Ronit Roy has done a decent job in his small part in Ligar’s journey.
The climax brings the much-hyped cameo of Mike Tyson playing a fictional character named Mark Henderson and I think that was the only saving grace. I wish Vijay and Mike had a fight with the main storyline and maybe the movie would have been different. Watch this only if you are a fan of Vijay Deverakonda, but still, you will feel sorry for him.