‘Jallikattu’ Is an Unrelenting Spectacle of Frenzy and Chaos

A review of Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu which premiered at TIFF 2019.

Updated10 Sep 2019, 11:28 AM IST
Movie Reviews
3 min read

‘Jallikattu’ Is an Unrelenting Spectacle of Frenzy and Chaos

The 44th Toronto International Film Festival currently on promises 11 incredible days of cinema from across the globe. A truly inclusive festival committed to diversity and gender equality, there are stories and voices from almost 84 countries being represented here.

Now, film festivals can be overwhelming and yours truly is dealing with a severe bout of some irrepressible FOMO! This “fear of missing out” is real especially when 333 films are being screened. How does one even decide on what to see and make a choice?

I started my TIFF journey with what I’ll call a very worthy watch. The world premiere of the Malayalam film Jallikattu proved to be an absolute winner. Directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery, Jallikattu hits the ground running. Sounds generally precede visuals here and the first 10 minutes are hypnotic. The rhythmic slow thumping that reaches a feverish pitch. From the human breath to a butcher’s knife being sharpened, to the sounds of crawling insects - the beats and rhythm are uniquely its own and almost form a sensory net that one is too mesmerised to escape.

Slowly, the layers peel out and caste and class differences surface. The supposed coming together of the villagers has fissures that go deep and as the difference between the beast and the human, the hunted and the hunter disintegrates, we can’t help but be stunned by the staggering visuals and music on screen.

On the surface what meets the eye is just a simple story about a buffalo chase that did not go as planned. Everyone wants a piece of the meat literally and the destruction that the buffalo causes and the anger of the villagers brings everyone together. The world ‘Jallikattu’ of course brings to mind the traditional spectacle in Tamil Nadu, which involves a bull that is released into a crowed as people try and hold on to it somehow, even as the bull ferociously attempts to escape. The violence that one associates with this bull chase has been drawn upon by Lijo Jose Pellissery with a tapestry so bloody and stark that the uncomfortable gnawing feeling never leaves us entirely.

Slowly, the layers peel out and caste and class differences surface. The supposed coming together of the villagers has fissures that go deep and as the difference between the beast and the human, the hunted and the hunter disintegrates, we can’t help but be stunned by the staggering visuals and music on screen. Prashant Pillai’s music score and Girish Gangadharan’s camera work are synchronised with the frenzy and chaos taking hold of the on screen proceedings.

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

Jallikattu is unrelenting and there in lies its power. The chase sequences in particular hugely impactful turning the viewer into a participant trying to anticipate the outcome even as what unfolds is the complete blurring of lines between the man and animal. This is powerful cinema and social commentary at its best! An indictment of the human race where man considers himself superior not just to each other but even to other life forms.

As man’s primal nature takes foreground Jallikattu makes a brave point about the complete degradation of man and civilisation

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Published: 08 Sep 2019, 05:28 PM IST
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