Liger worth watching for Vijay Deverakonda’s astonishing body language

It is a knockout performance and one that will give Bollywood’s ruling heroes some sleepless rights. Regrettably, VD’s whiplash performance is not supported by anything in the film, not even the actors barring Ronit Roy who struggles in an underwritten part as Liger’s coach.

Subhash K Jha August 26, 2022 08:59:26 IST
Liger worth watching for Vijay Deverakonda’s astonishing body language

A star is indeed born. Vijay Deverakonda (VD) who stunned Telugu audiences with Arjun Reddy five years ago, finally makes his Bollywood debut .

And what a spectacular debut it is! Playing an MMA (Mixed martial arts) aspirant, VD’s transformation into an untameable fighter is so palpable, it rips the screen apart. Apart from the fighting and dancing skills, both of which are exceptional, VD also sports a trendy stammer for no other reason except to give his character more hurdles on the way to the final victory which is snatched away by the most botched up climax I’ve seen in any cinema.

It is a knockout performance and one that will give Bollywood’s ruling heroes some sleepless rights. Regrettably, VD’s whiplash performance is not supported by anything in the film, not even the actors barring Ronit Roy who struggles in an underwritten part as Liger’s coach.

Ramya Krishnan who was so powerful as Baahubali’s ferocious mother, here just rants and rolls her eyeballs non-stop . There are only two women characters in the film : the Mother and the Sweetheart, the latter played by the incurably annoying Ananya Panday whom Karan Johar cast as a clueless heiress first in Gehraiyaan and now in this film where she does the most stupid things just to earn the label of a ‘chudail’ (demon) that the hero bestows on her.

The characters fits in perfectly with director Puri Jagannadh’s infamous misogyny. All his heroines are portrayed as monumental bimbos. Ananya’s Tanya goes beyond the boundaries of bimbo-ism. She is just plain stupid. So are a lot of other things in the film. But we will come to that later.

It takes Tanya more than half the film to figure out her boyfriend has a speech deficiency.

“You stammer?” she expostulates churlishly as though he had just passed wind in public.

. It wouldn’t be right to say Liger is disappointing. The director has been around long enough to demonstrate his storytelling skills to his utmost abilities in a blistering bevvy of awful films. We have all seen what Puri Jagannadh is capable of. We can’t expect David Dhawan to make Thirteen Lives, can we?

Given the parameters within which Puri’s vision functions, Liger is a smudge of brainless fun. The action sequences are shot with an eye for fluidity rather than flamboyance. An early fight in the city square and one in the gymnasium where Liger fights his colleagues with Tanya cheering on , ‘Super hit, boss, superhit (a touch of wishful thinking woven into the screenplay, ingenious, I tell you!) are priceless.

As the film progresses the screenplay regresses from boyish enthusiasm to infantile heroism to plain garbled garbage. The climax with Mike Tyson is a monstrous botch-up worthy of being examined by a national committee to probe into atrocities against the downtrodden (that being us, the knackered audience).

Why was Tyson brought into the film for a dumb-fest of flying fists? Why are VD and MT (here named Mark Henderson) fighting each other when there is no ground for any conflict between the two?

VD’s gracefully swashbuckling presence keeps the inanity from sinking the film. If Ananya is the face of nepotism in the film industry, Deverakonda is the flip side. Selfmade and a superstar from Frame One, he flies like an eagle and lands on his feet even when the script pushes him in the air into very strange situations.

Deverakonda’s magnetic screen presence deserved a better deal. So did we. Puri Jagannadh has nothing even remotely logical to offer in this tale of the stammering underdog who goes from being a doting son on Mumbai’s beach to a seething fighter on foreign shores fumbling with patriotic bombast.

Someone must have advised Puri that some flag-waving would make his mindless misogyny bearable. What really makes Liger a cut above the director’s other works of subverted pop-heroism, is Deverakonda who is angry again, but in a different dimension from Arjun Reddy.

“Why are you behaving like Kabir Singh?” Ananya Panday asks VD as an in-house joke in an outrageous cultural flip of Arjun Reddy for the Hindi version of Liger.

Why was Ananya Panday behaving like a boozed-out airhead who had nothing better to do than chase followers on Instagram and the hero during off-hours?

Liger Liger, burning bright? Now quite.

Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.

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