‘Ligar’ movie review: This Puri Jagannadh film starring Vijay Deverakonda is a mess

This film by Puri Jagannath and Vijay Deverakonda is an amalgamation of sports, action and drama with nothing to impress.

This film by Puri Jagannath and Vijay Deverakonda is an amalgamation of sports, action and drama with nothing to impress.

in the early minutes of Liger, a voiceover describes the title character as a slumdog from the streets of Mumbai who aims 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. LigerHelmed by Puri Jagannath and helmed by Vijay Deverakonda, however, turns out to be a lazily written film that moves from one song/stunt sequence to another.

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.

Puri gives a hindrance to the liger – a stutter. He can deliver multiple punches when he strings a sentence together. Predictable sequences follow in which Liger is ridiculed by MMA students and has to fight to earn his respect.

Liger

Cast: Vijay Deverakonda, Ananya Panday, Ramya Krishnan

Direction: Puri Jagannadhi

Language: Dubbed in Telugu and Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam

Once Liger’s potential in MMA is established, the story introduces the leading lady, portrayed 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 MS 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 girl he shouldn’t fall for and all of those traits is just one of the many cringe-inducing scenes that are passed off as humor.

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, she is woken up by friends who tell her that her 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!

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 the idol of Liger but the climax of the other side of the champion is a joke.

A big disappointment, apart from the story and screenplay, is whose language? 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.

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. Thank God, Liger Doesn’t end on a note that gives room for a sequel.

Liger is playing in theaters now