Liger plays to a silly gallery

Vijay Deverakonda plays an ace MMA boxer in Liger. Photo: Hype PR

There are many films that play unabashedly to the gallery. Some fail, some don’t. But what can be expected if the gallery played to is also itself silly?

From beginning to end, it is a rare film that fails to have even an iota of emotional connect. Liger is that singular exception even in today’s mediocrity-suffused era. Absurd situations, outdated cinematic style, regressive thoughts, silly coincidences and huge doses of plastic emotions fill up screen time enough for me to feel resigned to watch till the end—whenever and wherever it will come. After all, a critic must watch the entire film!

Liger (Vijay Deverakonda, without whom this film would have been inconceivable—his sincerity and earnestness is truly admirable considering the atrocious material) is a boxer’s son. His father has just fallen short of winning the National championship and has passed on, and his fiery, dominating mother (Ramya Krishnan) wants her son to gratify dad’s incomplete dream.

She takes Liger to the ‘best’ MMA coach, Christopher (Ronit Roy) and even dominates him, saying she will not pay his fees as they cannot afford the money! Out of “emotional” reasons, the man even agrees! Mysteriously, mother and son live in a cute seaside place with decent amenities.

Christopher’s men are all the stupid type, and they are inexplicably hostile to Liger. Christopher tells Liger to focus and learn self-control when they provoke him. (Aside: Why did the scriptwriters and director not follow this dictum?) It is only when Liger beats all of them when they attack him together that they suddenly became his fast friends, cheering for a man whose ability and agility had no real contribution from Christopher—the supposedly best coach has only trained a bunch of morons!

A parallel track is of the leader of a rival team of MMA boxers, again all morosn except for their chief, Sanju (Vishu Reddy), who happens to be the brother of a pretty but rather silly damsel, Taniya (Ananya Panday), who has fallen for Liger. This track also leads to a ridiculous juncture, including a point where Taniya unknowingly insults Liger’s mother without realizing who she is. But then, mommy dearest has always said nasty things about young girls too, with long sermonizing monologues that warn Liger against distractions to his focus on his goals.

Taniya finds Liger’s congenital stammer very cute, but later tells him that she did not know of it as he was drunk. Of course, after many fantasizing songs of abominable quality, she, in the real ‘reel’ life, had barely allowed the poor guy to talk anyway. Liger retires from the love ‘game’ hurt, and so concentrates on his championship. He becomes the National MMA champion easily, as if the other contestants did not matter. And he defeats Sanju, who turns out to be the other semi-finalist!

Now everyone becomes ambitious! India must shine at a global MMA competition in Las Vegas. The government is not very helpful, so Rs. 2 million must be arranged. And suddenly, an old acquaintance-cum-admirer of Liger, Ali (Ali), offers him a rich sponsor (Chunky Panday), who flies them in his private jet to the venue and takes care of all expenses. And whaddayaknow! This tycoon turns out to be Taniya’s and Sanju’s father and is so patriotic that he dismisses his son losing and extracts a promise that Liger will make the Indian flag fly high at the event.

There is also a back-story to Taniya dumping Liger, but just as the finale of the championship is scheduled, she is kidnapped for money by a gang fronted by female Krav Maga sportswomen. Their boss turns out to be Liger’s childhood MMA idol, Mark Anderson (Mike Tyson, reduced to an intolerably silly cameo). And do you know why a MMA icon kidnapw the daughter of a filthy-rich Indian?  Well, Taniya’s father had taken a loan (“by check from the underworld!” as he puts it!) to build a 5-star hotel (now we have heard it all!!!) and the gang expects the repayment in cash.

The finale of the competition is forgotten by all as a video there shows everyone how Liger defeats even Mark, who is also impressed enough to take a selfie with the lovebirds.

Sheesh!!! Now is this a script? And let me tell you, in this narration above, I have not put forward the other ridiculous things that keep happening throughout this 140 minute mess. The ‘film’ is made at a ridiculous cost that has gone majorly (besides on the hero’s fees) on foreign locations (as in songs more than just Las Vegas), action, VFX and incredibly needless sets, again mostly for the excruciatingly noisy items passing off as songs. Technically, the film is good, but when did that ever, on its own, make for a film’s quality and acceptability?

Ananya Panday looks shockingly haggard in many scenes and her dad Chunky Panday looks correspondingly dashing and young! Ramya Krishnan passes off glowering, grimacing and growling as fiery acting and Ronit Roy is dour.

Last but not the least, this tiring marathon’s only tiny amusement factor is this: Sanju looks like Farhan Akhtar on a bad day, one of the fighters seems to be Remo D’Souza’s long-lost brother, and Vijay himself often looks a cross between Hrithik Roshan and Shahid Kapoor.

‘Liger’ of course, means a cross between a lion and a tiger. But in the context of this bore-a-thon, the name emerges as meaningless as the film.

Rating: *1/2

Dharma Productions & Puri Connects presents Liger Produced by: Karan Johar, Puri Jagannadh, Charmme Kaur, Apoorva Mehta & Hiroo Yash Johar Directed by: Puri Jagganadh  Written by: Puri Jagannadh & Vishnu Pandey (Hindi) Music: Vikram Montrose, Tanishk Bagchi, Lijo George-DJ Chetas, Sunil Kashyap & Jaani Starring: Vijay Deverakonda, Ananya Pandey, Ramya Krishnan, Ronit Roy, Chunky Panday, Mike Tyson, Vishu Reddy, Ali, Makarand Deshpande, Getup Srinu & others




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