We Did What Spielberg Did In ‘Jaws’: Lijo on ‘Jallikattu’ at TIFF

We Did What Spielberg Did In ‘Jaws’: Lijo on ‘Jallikattu’ at TIFF

Indian Cinema

Stutee Ghosh caught up with filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissery at the Toronto International Film Festival where his latest film Jallikattu was premiered recently. Listen in to their chat here:

The poster of <i>Jallikattu.</i>
The poster of Jallikattu.

Hi guys, I am Stutee, right now attending the Toronto International Film Festival and look who I have here. Lijo Jose Pellissery, his film Jallikattu had the world premiere here and it was so well received, how are you feeling, are you a happy director?

Lijo: I am greatly happy... happy.

So have you ever done a selfie interview before?

Lijo: No, this is my first time.

As a director would you approve of the frame? Are you okay with the lighting? Would you like to direct it?

Lijo: I would like to say I am not getting involved in your creative space.

I would like to talk about your creative space and the fact that I have seen the film I have absolutely loved it. But there is something I would like to say, Jallikattu is a difficult film to watch with all the blood and gore and yet it is hard to look away from. So how do you manage to make such amazing films, this adds another one to the list.

Lijo: Once the film is made I would like to stay away from commenting on it or explaining it and I would love to leave it completely for the audience to define and derive their own conclusions and ideas on the film.

A still from <i>Jallikattu.</i>
A still from Jallikattu.
(Photo Courtesy: tiff.net)

This film can have so many different interpretations, at the surface level it is about a buffalo gone crazy and a chase gone wrong, but then your social commentary about how you show the difference between man and animal, the beast and human suddenly completely disintegrates, so tell us about the idea of the film, what triggered it and the whole process of making it.

Lijo: The first time I read the story, I as instantly in love with the idea. It was not as if we followed the story as it is, we just took the crux out of it, which was how the space between human beings and animals is slowly disappearing and it is slowly turning into a chaotic space.

Now that I’ve seen the film, please tell us how did you control the buffalo? How did you shoot with an animal and then make sure that he doesn’t run havoc on your script?

Lijo: I am completely honoured that you and lot many people consider or identify it as a real animal. To create an animal on screen was very challenging for us because with VFX if we go it was massively expensive considering that this is a small cinema from a space like Kerala and it’s a Malayalam film. So we had to go back to basics, the classic way of making it work, like how Steven Spielberg would approach it in Jaws, in 70s when he didn’t have much technical support from VFX or anything else, he had to completely generate it with animatronics as a technique. So I just figured that if he or somebody else has done it in the 70s it is very much possible if we approach it in a nice way in 2017 we will be able to do it better. So it’s a mix of animatronic animal and partially VFX and very less of the real animal.

A still from <i>Jallikattu.</i>
A still from Jallikattu.
(Photo Courtesy: tiff.net)

The way you use sound in this film and generally, here sounds precedes visuals and there is a rhythm to the movie from the first scene which is almost hypnotic, because there is human breathing and that mixes with a lot of other things, so tell us a little about this, your creative vision involving the whole thing.

Lijo: I am very particular about how the sound and music is designed in a film and with this film what we did was, we used very less of the actual score, the actual instrumental music we used more of acappela tone of it with thumps, like taps on the skin and running around and it’s more earthy and more human when you look at it.

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A still from <i>Jallikattu.</i>
A still from Jallikattu.
(Photo Courtesy: tiff.net)

And another win for you, your actors don’t look like actors.

Lijo: That’s because most of them are not actors.

So how do you go about choosing them, how did you go about casting them.

Lijo: We did have a screen test and we took a lot of people from in and around that space Kattapana and all we did was not to train them much. I didn’t want them to feel that they are in front of a camera and they are doing a huge job, I mean we are doing a much more smaller job compared to a lot of other people so just to make them comfortable on camera was the only thing what I am doing and it works for me.

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