Liger review: Vijay Deverakonda’s physique and acting chops can’t save this massive mess

liger: Vijay Deverakonda in the movie. (courtesy thedeverakonda)

Cast: Vijay Deverakonda, Mike Tyson, Ananya Panday, Ramya Krishnan, Ronit Roy, Vishu Reddy and Makarand Deshpande

Director: Puri Jagannadh

Evaluation: One star (out of 5)

The highly publicized liger, Vijay Deverakonda’s first Hindi album, is full of surprises. But these are strictly of the genre that the film and the Arjun Reddy the star could have done without it.

The action starts with the bar set so low that you’re sure it can’t go any lower. But it is. It’s the kind of movie liger is. Terrible from the start, the only way it goes is downstairs.

Deverakonda, after transforming physically, plays a kickboxer with a stutter who moves with his widowed mother from Karimnagar from Telangana to the metropolis of Mumbai in a bid to get rich as a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. His mother, Balamani (Ramya Krishnan), sells tea from a portable kiosk to earn a living and enable her son, ligerto pursue his passion.

The main actor struggles with spectacularly sloppy scenes in which the other actors have to shout at the top of their voices to compensate for the monosyllables that the pugnacious hero utters with great difficulty. I wonder what made the star think that Liger was the right film to launch his career in Hindi cinema. He tries hard, but the film is far too wonky to take off and fly away.

It is a bilingual Hindi-Telugu film written and directed by Puri Jagannadh, whose Puri Connects banner financed the film in conjunction with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions. It does not matter in which language one chooses to see it – or to say it – liger is absolutely unwatchable.

The film has been aggressively promoted by its enthusiastic lead actors, Deverakonda and Ananya Panday, over the past few weeks. What did the duo see in Liger that enthused them to criss-cross the country pushing the film with such enthusiasm?

liger has nothing at all – story, emotional depth, compelling mixed martial arts action, or true high-level drama – to congratulate itself on. It’s beyond crap. There isn’t a single scene in the hard-fisted film that would suggest a thought went into its making.

Badly written, badly acted and badly executed, liger never comes close to launching into a full-fledged roar. Even when he tries to growl, all he manages to let out is a mournful moan. The cinematic feel and storytelling dynamic presented here are severely stunted and lost amid plenty of disjointed action.

The script is so poor that the MMA-themed drama pulls off the impossible feat of continuously churning out one scene after another more insane than the last. Just when you start to think the film has found its level and will now work with some sort of consistency, it surprises you. He designs ways to sink even deeper into a quagmire of awkwardness in the very next sequence.

liger centers on a young man who has a severe stutter but thrives when allowed to express himself with his fists of fury. “Fighter” is the only word he can say without stuttering. He seems to be perfectly at ease with his condition, but the world around him does not let him come to terms with it. Someone asks him: How come you look so good and sound so bad?

The worst aspect of liger isn’t it that he’s fat and bloated and insufferable, but the fact that he’s both horribly sexist and outrageously insensitive to the protagonist’s speech impairment.

liger believes that God created women to remind men that there is something called hell. He calls them dolls or demons and neither is meant to be a term of endearment. People around him laugh at his stutter. Even his mother sees a fault in it.

The lady tells her son that everyone in this world has flaws but if he manages to achieve his goal, his speech will start to sound like a song. To rub it off, the script, with utter disregard for common sense, has Balamani saying that a short man would look taller or a dark-skinned man would look fairer if he succeeded in life in his chosen field of activity.

The hero is named liger because her mother insists she is a tigress and her late husband, a famous MMA fighter who died in the ring, was a lion. She makes the boy understand that it is up to him to fulfill his father’s unfulfilled dream of becoming a national champion.

ligerThe mother of begs a famous trainer of Jeet Kune Do (Ronit Roy) to treat her son. Liger idolizes legendary MMA fighter Mark Anderson (Mike Tyson, in his Indian debut, has an extended cameo that cringes like everything else in liger), whose portrait hangs on the wall of his modest home.

Tanya (Ananya Panday), the younger sister of rival fighter Sanju (Vishu Reddy), falls in love with Liger, leading to all sorts of complications involving the guy’s mother and the girl’s brother.

At some point in the second half, the action shifts to the United States of A, where an Indian entrepreneur (Chunky Panday) adds to the film’s already high silliness quotient.

Tyson appears as the film begins to wind down and nothing the former world heavyweight champion does can give the film any weight. On the contrary, he only drags it down to the level of his own shoelaces.

In fact, there it is liger begins to hover the moment it has run its course. It’s a huge waste of a movie that Vijay Deverakonda’s physique and action chops can’t salvage. As for the other actors in the cast, they fight their way through and compete to outdo each other.

liger is a movie to avoid.

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