Synopsis – A story about martial arts, dreams and star crossed lovers. Liger is an MMA fighter who trains hard and rises up the ranks with one goal in mind, to fight like his idol, world renowned MMA fighter Mark Anderson and get noticed by him.
My Take – With acclaimed filmmaker S. S. Rajamouli‘s epic action-drama RRR and the much awaited Kannada origin sequel, K.G.F: Chapter 2 netting Rs. 1111 crores and Rs. 1198 crores worldwide respectively, it is safe to say the current in demand trend of PAN Indian films is here to stay, at least for a while.
Making it the right time to cash in on the stipulation for this Karan Johar production, which sees veteran Telugu director Puri Jagannadh (Pokiri, Temper) return to the Hindi belt, following disastrous commercial turns with Shart: The Challenge (2004) and Bbuddah… Hoga Terra Baap (2011), and marks national heartthrob Telugu superstar Vijay Deverakonda first foray into Bollywood.
And while on paper the film has a lot going for it, acting as a mishmash of sport, action, romance and drama, but no matter how much Deverakonda brings to the table, the poorly written script and even worse execution terribly fails him, and everyone around him. Everything about this Puri Jagannadh directorial is over the top and riddled with cringe throughout. People are animated for no reason, shouting for no reason and excited for no reason.
Nothing works in the film, from its story to the mixed martial arts action to genuine high drama, everything is just beyond mucky, and just lazily moves from one song/stunt sequence to another. There isn’t a single scene in this disastrous film that would suggest that any thought went into its making. And by the end, when boxing legend Mike Tyson arrives to make his much hyped cameo during the laughable incomplete climax, you will be left too numb with the 140 minute assault on your senses to even care.
The story follows Liger (Vijay Deverakonda), who moves from Banaras to Mumbai with his widowed mother, Balamani (Ramya Krishnan), in hopes to get professional training and turn into a MMA champion, just like his deceased father who was nicknamed Lion in the ring. Selling tea on a portable kiosk to make do, the two manage to convince Christopher (Ronit Roy), a former MMA fighter himself, who now runs a dojo himself.
While Liger is constantly ridiculed for his stammering, his determination wins over him. Laying down specific rules for him to follow, especially to stay focused and maintain distance from girls. However, when he crosses paths with Tanya (Ananya Panday), a social media influencer, who begins to pursue him relentlessly after seeing him thrashing ten men, and also happens to be the sister of his nemesis Sanju (Vishu), things begin to complicate.
Throw in a lot of mindless action sequences, arbitrary songs and an ordinary story, this Puri Jagannadh directorial is just an ordeal to sit through. Putting lack of logic aside, the film fails to leave a mark because it’s straightforward and old school in the way it’s written. It follows the usual template of a sports drama, mixed with commercial cinema, just not done well. Add to that the loudness of the film, be it the characters, action in the ring or background music.
Just when you begin to think that the film has discovered its level and will now run with it with some kind of consistency, it catches you by surprise. It devises means to sink even deeper into a quagmire of clumsiness in the very next sequence. The worst aspect of the film isn’t that it is big, bloated and unbearable, but the fact that it is both horribly sexist and outrageously insensitive towards the protagonist’s speech impairment.
The film joins the long list of films that blame women for men getting distracted. With their only purpose in life is to belittle men from their true purpose. The much-hyped combat between Liger and Mark Henderson (Mike Tyson) has its moments mainly of the so dumb kind, but coming at the exhausting end of a shoddily-written film, it is too little and too late.
If only producers Puri Jagannadh, Charmme Kaur and Karan Johar had set aside half of the time and money for the script instead of the promotions, this one could have been at least a decent film.
Without a doubt, Vijay Deverakonda seems to be trying his best to hold the shaky narrative together, but the jaded material doesn’t allow him much leverage. While his stammering his inconsistent throughout, his physical transformation proves he put in a great deal of effort. While the often ridiculed Ananya Panday, recently proved she could her own in Gehraiyaan, here she is handed the worst character to work through. Instead making her seem to be reveling in the superficiality of the writing, the crass dialogues and the script’s animosity towards women.
In supporting roles, Ramya Krishnan doesn’t seem to have come out of her Baahubali mode, as she is roaring and yelling her lungs out in almost every scene. Ronit Roy and Chunky Pandey are decent. Mike Tyson‘s much hyped cameo is also a waste. On the whole, ‘Liger’ is a shoddily written and ineptly executed commercial cinema that is unbearable on all fronts.
Directed – Puri Jagannadh
Run Time – 140 minutes