The credit in the beginning sets a mood and a tempo with its amazing 90’s type score and visuals. Much of the expectations from Liger are formed courtesy three main actors – Vijay Deverakonda, Ramya Krishnan and Ronit Roy and not to forget the director of Telugu masala entertainers Puri Jagannadh. Puri Jagannadh’s last Hindi outing (2011) was again a massy masala entertainer with none other than Amitabh Bachchan and an intriguing title. There were mixed reactions for ‘Bbuddha Hoga Tera Baap’, but for the Amitabh Bachchan fans that was a superlative film and more importantly a statement that they don’t make men like Amitabh Bachchan anymore. That was that. In fact, his 2006 ‘Pokiri’ was remade in Hindi with Salman Khan in Mahesh Babu’s role, which proved to be a game changer in Salman Khan’s filmography. This makes Puri’s Liger all the more a much-anticipated movie.
Liger begins with Liger (Vijay Devarakonda) and his mother Balamani (Ramya Krishnan) reaching Mumbai and setting up their tea stall. Enters Makarand Deshpande, a local goon to claim his ‘area’ and refrain Liger from settling. This kick starts the action-packed beginning with Vijay Deverakonda thrashing the goons and winning over Makarand. But that is not the story. Liger is the son of an MMA fighter Balram whom his peers considered as Lion of the sport. Liger and his mother have shifted only to get their dream of being a National MMA champion. This dream has Christopher (Ronit Roy) a master of his Dojo where he trains students in MMA. After much persuasion and drama and a back story, Christopher takes Liger under his wings albeit with conditions – Liger must focus and refrain from being involved with girls. Soon, Tanya (Ananya Panday) makes her entry and Liger’s conditions are thrown out of the window and the inevitable happens. However, after a few street fights and combats in the Dojo, Christopher is now convinced that Liger has the capability of reaching and participating the National championship.
Liger becomes a national champion and it brings hopes of him to target at the international competition. Liger who has developed a rivalry with Tanya’s brother Sanju (Vish) is now dumped by Tanya, reasoning that he ‘stammers’ and has no class!! As also Liger and his friends and teacher face yet another challenge of not being supported by the sports authority to sponsor Liger for the international competition. So, a huge sum will be needed to participate.
Does Liger achieve the feat of becoming an International MMA champion and does he win over Tanya again forms the rest of the narrative, which obviously incudes a climax with the much-hyped debut of Mike Tyson playing Mark Anderson.
Vijay Devarakonda has an impressive screen presence and does a decent job as someone who loves martial arts and is good at it too. Some may find his stammering act irritating but guess he manages to do it well and convincingly. For the Hindi cinema audience Vijay Deverakonda may give hints of Suniel Shetty in a few fleeting shots. Liger belongs to Vijay Deverakona.
Ananya Pandey as Tanya tries her best in the role of a rich girl looking to be a social media star. Tanya’s character had scope of being a strong element in Liger’s progress, but the screen time was instead consumed in songs that did not add much value to the otherwise strong narrative of a slumdog rising from the streets.
Ramya Krishnan as Liger’s mother (who calls herself a tigress, hence Liger) looks good and continues to carry her personality as Sivagaami (of Baahubaali). Though the character is loud nonetheless, a strong link in the proceedings, it helps evoke some emotion.
Ronit Roy as a Dojo master and Liger’s mentor looks the character. His no-nonsense and stern demeanour presented in the first half makes an impressive watch. Ali is decent as Ali Bhai so is Getup Sreenu who evokes a few laughs in the beginning.
Mike Tyson appears in the climax of the film with a neatly filmed extended cameo. The director has shown great respect for the legendary boxer even in the film’s narrative (not to miss his ‘ear’ incidence making a passing reference too).
Ananya Panday’s father Chunky Panday too has a cameo and plays his real-life role of being Tanya’s father, a rich Indian American. Though he is pleasing to see onscreen but not without his ‘Aakhri Pasta’ histrionics.
Liger, with a wafer-thin plot line had scope to include conflicting characters, an antagonist or a competitor and a highpoint in the climax to watch-out for. Without that the hero Liger, who has dedicated his life into achieving his and parents’ dreams loses sheen. Liger had the scope of being an MMA genre film franchise had it concentrated on the intricacies of the sport and showcased some defining action with a superstar like Vijay Deverakonda, Mike Tyson and a coach in Ronit Roy.
The fight sequences on and off the ring have been choreographed and shot well. The overall music (read songs) is okay but a deterrent for a strong sports movie with good background music in parts. There have been many sports films but trying a hand at mixed martial arts (MMA) is a whole new thing that brings in some freshness.
Director Puri Jagannadh, as a massy masala entertainer, tried his hands with a sports flick and that too MMA could have had a stronger script with such a grand cast including Mike Tyson at his disposal.
Overall, Liger could favour sports and action film lovers and not to forget all those Vijay Deverakonda and Mike Tyson fans with a massy and few pleasing patriotic moments.
Director: Puri Jagannadh
Cast: Vijay Deverakonda, Ananya Panday, Ramya Krishnan, Ronit Roy, Vishu Reddy, Ali, Makarand Deshpande, Getup Srinu, Mike Tyson,
Duration: 140 Mins