Liger Movie Review: A Crossbreed Of Amateur And Embarrassing

Director Puri Jagannath wants to tell us the classic underdog sports story through Liger, but he never cares to pause and make us feel
Liger Movie Review: A Crossbreed Of Amateur And Embarrassing

Director: Puri Jagannadh

Writers: Puri Jagannadh (Telugu dialogue), Prashant Pandey (Hindi dialogue), AR Sreedhar (co-writer)

I'm unable to decide whether to begin this review with how amateur Liger is or how embarrassing it is. Tanya (Ananya Pandey) is nearly groped by Liger (Vijay Devarakonda) in a cafe. She goes to his Jeet Kune Do center to confront him, along with her friends. He happens to be fighting some of his fellow students at the time, and seeing him fight, she falls in love. Remember how she was almost groped? She doesn't.

This is the basis for Liger's drama. Liger loves Tanya while his mother Balamani (Ramya Krishna) wants him to focus on winning the national championship and believes that women are a distraction to her son. Tanya also happens to be the sister of Vish, Liger's biggest rival in the field of martial arts.

Puri Jagannath's Liger is a masterclass in how to get nothing right. The love story is set up on such shaky grounds that you never care for it. Not only do the leads have no chemistry, but worse they feel like siblings. The film assumes the protagonist automatically has our empathy because he is differently-abled. And worse, the movie constantly mocks him in the crudest of ways, thinking the physical punches he throws are enough punishment for those who mock him.

Jagannath wants to tell us the classic underdog sports story, but he never cares to pause and make us feel. He runs and runs through the screenplay beats, to the point of the film feeling like nonsense. We never care for Liger, whose father was apparently a big boxer himself. We never feel the dynamic between Liger and his coach (Ronit Roy), who is reduced to speaking cliches. Liger never learns any martial arts because he is seemingly perfect at every martial art even before training. Then there is a thread about patriotism and flying the Indian flag high, which becomes a plot point for the last half hour. My favourite part about the film is probably one of the worst screenplay threads I've ever seen — the one involving Mike Tyson playing a version of himself called Mark Anderson. Liger worships Mark, and in the end, has to fight his idol to rescue Tanya. That sounds like a great masala premise, but whatever Jagannadh and Devarakonda do with this story,  wouldn't get past student-level short film competitions. 

If this review is feeling disjointed and and stream-of-consciousness-heavy, that's because Liger itself feels like that. It's pedestrian on so many levels that I am not sure how to analyse the badness of it all. I'm not sure if I've processed how truly amateur it is. Liger's stammer is inconsistent, and so is the plot. I am wondering if this is the first cut of the footage that was released instead of the actual film. 

Jagannadh has been down in the dumps for a while now, but he is still known for Pokiri (2006), which had the greatest climax portions in the history of Telugu cinema. And Liger has no climax. I'm not exaggerating. When the titles rolled, some in the audience yelled back at the projector room and most of us were left confused. Is that it? Hell, if the man just remade Amma Naana O Tamil Ammayi (2003), which had boxing as its central theme, the film still would have worked wonders. But what we get are the worst of Jagannadh's touches — the sexism, the cynicism, abrupt editing patterns, weak heroines, dialogues that make you wince — you name it. 

Vijay Devarakonda's catapult to stardom coincided with Telugu cinema's rise within the nation. He is supposed to be the perfect crossbreed of new-age Telugu cinema that combines old-world masala with modern presentation. But Liger proves all the ways in which Telugu films can mess up masala and Vijay Devarakonda becomes the poster boy for the old world's lack of awareness and the modern cinema's lack of rootedness.

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