Imagine a world where everyone around lies in wait for you with a bait that you would bite sooner or later? Not much of a pleasant picture when you yourself have got a bait all prepped up and are on the lookout for a prey. Lal's Tournament talks of such a world where most of the men (and women) fight it out tooth and nail with each other on their way to the top.
Tournament tells the story of Balu (John), Viswam (Fahad) and Usman (Pravin) who are all set to leave for a Cricket selection tournament scheduled at Bangalore. Balu has an accident and the other two are disheartened when they find that their flight from Cochin has been cancelled. It's then that their friend Aswathy (Rupamanjari) suggests that they go on a road trip all the way to Bangalore and agrees to join them. There is also Bobby (Manu) who is headed for the tournament whom they meet at the airport and who joins them on their journey.
An interesting idea for sure, and Lal has adopted something called a Play -Replay format through out the film. Which means that after a scene has been played, it is replayed again from a different perspective. Given the story that he has written, this seems to be the best way to explore diverse standpoints as well. The surprise then, is that even with all these structural and thematic novelties in tact, the film gives us no reasons to be ecstatic about it. The culprit is the story itself that is too much make-believe that very few people would be able to actually relate to it.
The film that has been presented as a Road Movie (Lal's voiceover at the beginning tells us that the film is not about the Tournament as such but about the Tour to the Tournament) sticks to the road for most of the time. What makes road movies interesting are the life-changing experiences that the traveler goes through. Lal has employed an on-the-road plot that almost gets rid of each of its characters with a manipulative precision.
The intention is to shock the viewer, but the technique boomerangs after the first two exposes. With the viewer intellect being repeatedly assaulted, it gets ready to take a look at all the possibilities. Soon, the viewer starts disbelieving everything that is being told, and looks at the whole thing as a sham that might possibly trick him.
Almost simultaneously the interest in the film takes a huge drop. There are a few questions that are bound to stick around. Why all this pretension that these people are friends, when they are actually not. Or is it a suggestion that friendships have assumed new dimensions lately? Or, is it just a shrewd plot technique that is intended to keep the viewer on the edge of the seats?
What impresses us most about Tournament is neither the story then, nor the strategy that has been used to narrate it. It's the earnest performances of a group of youngsters who have managed to do remarkably well. It would be difficult to pick out a favorite from the lot, but Prajin who arrives towards the end of the film, does leave a distinct mark. Fahad is charming as ever, Pravin is refreshingly funny, Manu proves that he has got it in him, John makes his short appearance memorable and Rupa makes a confident debut.
It's sad that decent performances do not save a film, and this tour unfortunately doesn't lead anywhere. And the ride that it offers is quite a bumpy one that doesn't allow us to connect with what it has on offer.