Liger review: You can take several catnaps during this Vijay Deverakonda film

Director Puri Jagannadh appears to have started with the intention of making a sports film but changed his mind midway to make a hotchpotch of romance and gangster genres. The result is a script that’s gone to the dogs.
Vijay Deverakonda in Liger
Vijay Deverakonda in Liger
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Puri Jagannadh’s Liger is perhaps named with a fair amount of self-awareness because this film is a crossbreed of not just two but many films. Many films that we’ve watched and grown decisively bored of. Vijay Deverakonda plays a mixed martial arts champion named Liger – as his mother (Ramya Krishna channelising Rajmatha Sivagami unnecessarily) tells the audience infinite times, he was born to a lion and a tiger. Liger has a shaggy mane and a stutter; he has a father who was killed in a knock-out punch in the ring. His mother now wants him to make a name for himself in the same sport. So, they move from Karim Nagar to Mumbai and sell tea on a cart to make his dreams come true. Wild! Not.

What we get is a film so tame, so unoriginal, so boring, that I was wondering how Puri convinced so many big names to come on board this project. Vijay Deverakonda has not managed to shed his Arjun Reddy image in five years. In fact, he seems to be clinging to it in every film, and it stops him from becoming anything but a been-there-done-that actor. In Liger, he cannot speak fluently because of his stutter, but he mouths cuss words to provoke his opponents and pander to his fans. Pelvic thrusts are part of his fighting strategy in the ring. Vijay has certainly worked hard on his body and the abs are all very nice. But where is the story? Puri seems to have made up the scenes after he arrived on the sets, depending on who had turned up to shoot that day.

Ananya Panday is saddled with a role that can only be described as ‘twit’. Taniya (yes, that spelling only) is a wannabe social media star who falls for Liger after watching him fight. BIG PROBLEM! She’s the villain’s sister. Brother Sanju is ALSO a mixed martial arts player. Did anyone see this remarkably unpredictable twist coming out of the sky like a blazing comet? But the writing is so lazy that Puri doesn’t even bother doing anything substantial with this supposed conflict.

The romance between Liger and Taniya is so plastic that it should be classified as an environmental hazard. The only good thing about the song sequences is that they’re short. Considering the interval block revolves around this insipid romance, the prospect of sitting through the other half of the film is a real test to the sincerity of a film critic.

I don’t know if Jagapathi Babu was unavailable to wear suits for this film in Las Vegas, but the honour goes to Chunky Panday. He plays an Indian-American business tycoon who says “Saar” and praises Liger’s masculinity. Ramya Krishna goes overboard with her screamy motivational speeches for her son. The scenes between them are meant to make you cry but what you get is unintentional comedy.

There is some half-hearted patriotism – perhaps for pan-India appeal – and this involves Vijay shouting “WE ARE INDIANS!” and asserting that he can therefore achieve anything. He’s also referred to as a “chaiwala” in the ring. I was wondering if Puri would make Vijay wrestle with a crocodile too, but the contribution from the animal kingdom is limited to the cat family.

Mike Tyson’s much-hyped cameo is ridiculous, though the boxer-actor evokes some feeble laughs in the end. The fight sequences – inside and outside the ring – are choreographed and shot well, but there’s hardly an element of surprise. The one where Liger fights a bunch of mafia women also drips with sexist humour. Puri appears to have started with the intention of making a sports film but changed his mind midway to make a hotchpotch of romance and gangster genres. The result is a script that’s gone to the dogs.

Liger was supposedly shot in Telugu and Hindi simultaneously, but you can clearly make out that the dubbing is out of sync for most characters. Tricks like avoiding close-ups can only work to a certain extent. Neither fully Telugu nor fully Hindi, you can sit through this crossbreed only if you take several catnaps in between.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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