So, first off, in case you were wondering, ‘Liger’ is what you get when a lion and a tiger mate. Got it? Not really? Never mind, here’s a ready reckoner of what to expect from the new Vijay Deverakonda flick, directed by Puri Jagannadh, made in Hindi and Telugu. Ready? Here you go. A kickboxer (Vijay Deverakonda) adorned by a series of boxer shorts and a bronzed, muscled chest, has a couple of markers — a mother (Ramya Krishnanstill in her shouty‘Bahubali’ mode), and a stutter. The mom is a latter-day Mother India type, full of fire and brimstone. The speech impairment may make Liger a slow speaker, but there’s nothing wrong with his cross-breed stripes. He jabs and kicks, feints and lunges, as he readies himself for his big break, which will allow him and his mentor (Ronit Roy) to make India proud in the global arena.
That was the nutshell. Breaking it open, the age-old themes of fierce-mother-loving-son twinning with macho chest-thumping sporty patriotism is used to roll out a cringe-fest of mammoth proportions. What do you want first: character upon character dissing the stutterer for, wait, stuttering (yes, that’s right), or the romantic interest who is all set to compete for the most vapid, vacuous female character (Ananya Panday) in recent times, or a mother who roars louder than her son? It boggles the mind that filmmakers still think today’s audiences are willing to swallow utter rubbish in the name of entertainment. Where do they live?
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing more pleasurable than a masala movie done right. But there’s nothing new or fresh about the ingredients that go into the making of this film: mixed martial arts, snarling boxers, tough-as-nail trainers, and the hero who will pulp everyone single-handedly has been around of years. for years. This excuse-for-a-plot is filled with all kinds of outlandish situations; the treatment is beyond pathetic. The insensitive poking-fun-at-the-guy who stutters is downright distasteful (at one time he’s called a ‘stammering buffoon’ in the English subtitle), and the creation of the leading lady is not just a sexist misfire, it is positively Neanderthal. Who in their right minds will have a female character say, ‘guys look at girls from bottom-up’, AND have the heroine simper at this line? Anyone heard of misogyny?
You feel bad for Ronit Roy, who can, given a chance, be a treat. Last seen, he was comprehensively wasted in the terrible ‘Shamshera’. Here, he is stuck in the cliched mode of the flint-eyed teacher who has the best interests of his student at heart. Ditto for Chunky Panday, who used to be the best thing in his bad 90s movies. What is he even doing here? Can someone give these guys roles worthy of their talent?
The action, in the ring, is about the only thing that seems to have been shot with focus, but it is creakingly unoriginal. Other bouts are shoved in at random intervals to show off our hero’s moves: one includes a bevy of female Krav Maga experts (don’t ask), and another takes us to a ranch (told you, don’t ask), where Liger gets to face off with his idol, MMA artist Mark Anderson (Mike Tyson hamming it up happily). Deverakonda, never straying too far from his Arjun Reddy character, is all hot-eyed and limber and loose-limbed, and makes us watch. But to have a character praise his performance as ‘full paisa-vasool’? Basically, that’s ‘Liger’ high-fiving ‘Liger’. Seriously?
Liger movie cast: Vijay Deverakonda, Ananya Panday, Ramya Krishnan, Ronit Roy, Chunkey Pandey
Liger movie director: Puri Jagannadh
Liger movie rating: 1 star