Neeshita Nyayapati, August 25, 2022, 10:00 PM IST
Liger Story: A chai wala from Mumbai wants to make it big in the sport of MMA. But when he falls in love, his life takes a turn. Liger Review: Puri Jagannadh’s Liger had so much hype surrounding it before release, there’s only two ways it could’ve gone. Either it would go on to become a massive hit or tank spectacularly. Seeing as how the film fails to offer anything novel, beyond Vijay Deverakonda’s new buff body, it’s not hard to guess how it fared. The foul-mouthed, stammering, Liger (Vijay Deverakonda) is brought up by a single mom Balamani (Ramya Krishnan) who wants her son to become an MMA fighter, jeet kune do in particular, much like his father. She takes him to Mumbai to train under a famous coach (Ronit Roy) in hope that he wins the national championships. So this film is a sports drama, right? Nope. Despite being asked to stay focused, Liger falls for a social media influencer called Tanya (Ananya Panday) who pursues him relentlessly after she sees him fight. The only issue? She’s the sister of his nemesis Sanju (Vishu). So, this is the love story of a rich girl and a poor boy, right? Nope. Then there’s Mark Anderson (Mike Tyson), Liger’s childhood hero, who’s brought into the fold in the most outlandish manner. Then this is mindless commercial cinema, right? Yes, unfortunately it’s not a very good one. Puri has never been high on logic but he makes his characters so…‘stupid’, as Mike calls Liger in one scene, you can’t help but wonder why smarter writing wasn’t involved. Despite being the sister of a martial artist, Tanya calls Liger ‘Chinese’ for fighting the way he does, calls his martial art form ‘kung fu’ and is so surprised to see him land kicks. Are we to believe she never saw her own brother fight in a ring or even knows which martial art he practices? Balamani warns her son to stay away from ‘deyyalu’ (demons), categorising women as beautiful temptresses who’ll ruin his life. The way these scenes are written makes you cringe. While it’s good that Puri holds back from going all out on the misogyny (a teeny tiny little bit), as he’s usually prone to do, he can’t help but ruin one well-choreographed fight scene involving women and one which sees Ananya and her friends with crass dialogues. Also, why is a professional MMA fighter surprised that women can krav maga in 2022? Putting lack of logic aside, Liger fails to leave a mark because there’s simply no innovativeness in the way it’s written. The film follows the usual template of a sports drama, mixed with commercial cinema – which is fine, but it just isn’t done well. Sunil Kashyap’s background score and Vishnu Sharma’s camerawork are stylish, but that too doesn’t hold your interest for long. Vijay dances his heart out in Akdi Pakdi and Coka 2.0 but the songs are a misfit in a tale like this one. Rest of the songs, especially the problematic Aafat are a miss, so are some of the fight scenes. Even Liger’s stammering is used as a convenient plot device. Coming to the only good part about this film – Vijay Deverakonda. His dialogues, especially because he stammers, might be a hit-and-miss but the actor sure brings sincerity to his role. Liger, his character, is very one-toned. The way his coach and mom (the latter more than the former) are prone to give long speeches, you wonder if the character will go through any growth, which never happens. Despite being a chai wala from Mumbai, doors conveniently open for him when needed, making his ‘struggle’ not much of it. And despite all that, Vijay doesn’t just look fit and handsome; he makes you want to root for the character. It’s sad the material doesn’t let you do that. Ramya Krishnan is cast as the supportive mother, but she screams a lot. Ananya Panday looks cute but there’s clearly a lot of improvement to be done when it comes to acting. Getup Srinu is hilarious in some scenes, despite the silly dialogues handed to him. Ali, Ronit Roy, Vishu and rest of the cast are plain okay. Mike Tyson’s much-hyped cameo is a let-down but there’s a very meta ear biting scene written in there for fans. No one buys that ending though. It’s ironic that Liger is asked to focus multiple times in the film, but the script itself lacks the same focus. Things just keep happening for no rhyme or reason and Puri fails to deliver a satisfactory conclusion to any of the tracks. Vijay deserved better, so did we. As the filmmakers promised, watt laga diya, but not in a good way.