‘LIGER’ REVIEW | 26 August, 2022

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Dharma Productions and Puri Connects’ Liger (UA) is an action love story. Liger (Vijay Deverakonda) comes with his mother (Ramya Krishnan) to Bombay from Banaras with a mission. Liger wants to be a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) champion. His late father’s dream of being an MMA champ could not be fulfilled as he had had a premature death.

Liger is trained by the best MMA teacher (Ronit Roy) and has an edge because he is an exceptional fighter. His mother constantly reminds him to remain focused, and towards that end, to never get attracted to any girl. But as luck would have it, Liger falls in love with Tanya (Ananya Panday) who woos him like a lady obsessed with him. This, in spite of the fact that he stammers while talking.

However, there comes a stage when the love story of Liger and Tanya comes to an end. Obviously, Liger is crestfallen. Anyway, it’s now time for the national and then the international MMA championship. Does Liger realise his dream of being the world champion? What happens to Liger and Tanya’s love story?

Puri Jagannadh has written a routine story which has a great amount of action, a fair amount of romance and some light moments and drama. His screenplay in the first half is quite good but the post-interval portion does not have the excitement or thrill of the first half despite being filled with the championship fights. One drawback of the screenplay is the track of Liger’s mother constantly reminding him to stay away from girls in general and Tanya in particular so that his focus does not get diluted. Since the mother has made plenty of sacrifices for Liger, she is as much the heroine for the viewers as Liger is the hero. Hence when Tanya walks out on Liger, the viewers do not feel as terrible as they should because they somewhere feel happy for the mother even while sympathising for Liger. Since both, Liger and his mother, are noble souls for whom the audience is rooting, the break-up between Liger and Tanya becomes a point of confusion for the audience rather than an emotional high. Explained differently, the viewers are unable to decide whether Tanya and Liger’s break-up is cause to cry (for Liger) or to celebrate (because his mother has led them to believe that he would become a world champion if and only if he is cent per cent focussed; the break-up is the first step towards his absolute focus). Similarly, the dash of patriotism infused in the second half of the drama does not have the desired impact. Although the track of Mark Anderson (Mike Tyson) could have been a highlight, it is not very interesting as it looks like a gimmick.

While some light moments definitely evoke laughter/smiles, emotions are not too impactful or effective. This is probably because the character of Liger does not come across as being too vulnerable, emotionally or even otherwise. While the audiences like Liger, their heart does not bleed for him and they do not weep for him if only because his love story lacks the intensity required from Liger’s side. In other words, he seems to be more than strong enough to be capable of handling the break-up. The climax is a letdown. Prashant Pandey’s dialogues are very good but only at places rather than consistently being so.

Vijay Deverakonda breathes fire into his character. He plays Liger effectively but having said that, it must be added that except for stammering and beating up people, he does not get much scope to perform or show his talent. That is why his debut Hindi vehicle does not become a landmark one for him. Ananya Panday plays the dumb bimbette with conviction. She makes Tanya the frivolous character she is supposed to be. Ramya Krishnan performs brilliantly as Liger’s mother. However, her track of being anti-love does not go too well with the mood of the emotional thread of the film. Ronit Roy lends decent support as the MMA coach but he too does not get much scope. Chunkey Panday is adequate in a brief but important role. Mike Tyson adds star value. Vish leaves a lovely mark as Sanju. Temper Vamsi and Getup Srinu (both as co-students with Liger) make their presence amply felt. Ali (as the person whom Liger saves right in the beginning) and Makarand Deshpande are adequate. Atul Parchure has his moments as the police officer in the train. Jasjot Bhasin, Gaurav Nain, Akshay Chandela, Hunny Lekhwani, Reshav Bharadwaj, Ankit Mishra, Aashu Joshi, Shakati Parashar and Abhishek Mishra (all as friends of Sanju), Ansh Shekhawat, Rashika Pradhan, Ruhi Sharma, Sofiya Khan and Rishika Kapoor (all as friends of Tanya), Keyur Ajay Bedi, Prince Mishra, Vineeth Viswanathan, Ranjan Singhania, Hariom Mishra and Aditya Kumar Pani (all as friends of Liger) lend the desired support.

Puri Jagannadh’s direction is good but his routine drama in the second half is a dampener. Music (Tanishk Bagchi, Lijo George-DJ Chetas, Jaani, Vikram Montrose, Sunil Kashyap and Mark K. Robin) is good but what was needed were chartbusting songs. Two numbers are very appealing. Lyrics (Tanishk Bagchi, Rashmi Virag, Mohsin Shaikh, Azeem Dayani, Farhad Bhiwandiwala, Shekhar Astitwa, Puri Jagannadh, Vikram Montrose, Jaani, Lijo George and Kunaal Verma) are quite good. Song picturisations (‘Akada pakadi’, ‘Vaat laga denge’ and ‘Coka Coka’ by Baba Bhaskar; ‘Manchali’ and ‘Aafat’ by Piyush-Shazia) are quite eye-filling. Sunil Kashyap’s background music and Arul Dev’s additional background score are excellent. Vishnu Sarma’s cinematography is superb. Kecha Khamphakdee and Andy Long’s action and stunts afford terrific thrill. They will be loved by the masses. Production designing (Jonny Shaik) and art direction (by Roshan Modak, Mohammed Ahmed Shaikh and Roman Das) are of a fantastic standard. Junaid Siddiqui’s editing should’ve been sharper and crisper.

On the whole, Liger has a fairly good first half but not a matching second half and it will, therefore, not get the love of the public commensurate with the bigness of the film. It is a film mostly for the masses and the small centres.

Released on 25-8-’22 at Inox (1 show; in daily 10 shows from 26-8-’22) and some cinemas and on 26-8-’22 at Regal (daily 4 shows) and other cinemas of Bombay thru AA Films. Publicity: excellent. Opening: fair. …….Also released all over. Opening was so-so at places, below the mark at many places, and good at a few places.