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Jul 19, 2011

Tournament

Lal is one of the underestimated directors in Malayalam. His pairing with his childhood friend Siddique gave us some of the game changers of the 1990s. Majority of Malayalam movies made today for the commercial market still follow the formula perfected by Siddique-Lal duo twenty years ago.

Lal’s real name is Paul Michael? Wow! That’s a revelation to me. I did watch the Harihar Nagar sequels he directed on his second coming as a director – To Harihar Nagar and In Ghost House Inn , both were commercial successes. Although aging dudes (Mukesh and co.) in garish garbs, decorative facial hair (purported to be representative of present day youth culture) and fake hair-pieces failed to elicit any laughter or interest in me

Tournament, Lal’s latest offering evoked a different response. It was in fact interesting despite heavily borrowing cinematic techniques from world over. Malayalis were never too big on road trips, which will explain the lack of Malayalam road trip movies till now. As residents of Kerala forced to use Kerala highways to get out of the state we used to heave a sigh of relief when we finally left the pot-hole ridden Kerala section of National Highway behind and entered the smooth tarmac favored by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Does a road movie like Tournament mean our highways are getting better or our railways are getting worse?

Replay or rewinding the movie to explain the story for the viewers, borrowed from Run Lola Run is used in abandon. Using cricket as the binding theme also serves the purpose of using replays to unravel the inner workings of characters. I don’t mind, we live a TiVo world, after all.  Then there is a bit of Gods Must Be Crazy with Indrans and a runaway jeep. There might be other cinematic ‘tributes’ included that I am not aware of.  What pleases me is there are no tributes to mega-serials or there is no pancake –laden Revlon lipped Malayali penkodi traipsing across green fields with a  thulasi kathir in her blow-dried and straightened hair, fluttering her false eyelashes.

In Tournament we have 3 main players and a female lead. Replacing Kunchako Boban, Sudheesh and company(who have interminable no-bid contracts for playing college students in Malluwood), with fresh new actors is a bold move from Lal. That and the script which stays true to the characters are the strength of the movie. I love the way the guy from Thrissur sounds exactly like a guy from Thrissur and the Malayali cricketer brought up in Mysore sounds exactly like my cousins in Bangalore.  Details, God is in the details, usually an area Malayali film makers stay out of. Bravo, Lal!

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