Lijo Jose Pellissery has his own definitions of movie making, which is a bold stand and many a time has nothing to do with the norms. And still, his conviction of each project is what keeps the subjects and treatments endearing for the viewer.
“Jallikatu” had a spectacular premiere at Toronto International film festival and later was screened at Busan film festival before it was released worldwide.
It is about a remote village in Thrissur which is obsessed with buffalo meat. Every day, a buffalo is slaughtered to satisfy the lust for meat. One fine morning, the buffalo gets away from the shed in which it was about to be slaughtered. It runs amok in the village creating havoc. The butcher, his assistant and later an estranged butcher (now with a rifle) all try to catch the buffalo as the villagers join in the frenzy. What happens in the next two days may give a lot of insight into how the human animal behaves, but is also a journey into the human mind which is passionately wild, inconsistently savage and outright ruthless.
Come to think of it, if the same was played out in a city, nature, which is core to man’s existence, would not have played the part it has and the message would not have been as hard hitting.
The cinematography by Gireesh Gangadharan has given all due respect to nature which sadly has not been getting any from fellow humans. The closeup shots of the flora reminded me of the portrayal of forest in Mani Rathnam’s “Raavan”. And fire torches burning at night never looked more beautiful. An everyday village has added charm to the lights and darkness. The rubber plantations, cardamom grooves and tapioca farms which are examples of man illegally encroaching into forests seem temporarily liberated with the animal running among them. There are many still shots in the movie which capture the village like a sponge and add loads of symbolism in the process. A halo made by the opening of a well above the Buffalo trapped in it at the interval is a fine example.
The raw images are matched equally well by the background score by Prasanth Pillai and the screenplay by R Jayakumar and Hareesh S. Although there is no end in sight to patriarchy, the movie shares glimpses of some strong women too. The humour throughout is intelligent. And among the performers, it is Jaffer Idukki who gets the most laughs. Chemban Vinod eases into his role. Antony Varghese, Sabumon and Santhy Balachandran follow the lead.
The natural process of human beings improving through thousands of years of evolution has been put under the scanner. A mob is a strange creature and a larger monster than all its individuals combined. After the human pyramid, I felt the last scene showing neanderthals was unnecessary as the message was evident.
I read some reviews which referred to the movie as being pretentious, vague and lacking content or soul. Some of this may have been true if the run-time was over two hours and the screenplay had strayed into the lives of characters not relevant for chasing the buffalo. But there are no missteps here. The frenzy is thought-provoking and demands the viewers to step aside from their pretences.
Questioning evolution is no small feat and keeping the primal need for food at its crux is even more remarkable. And as if questioning Darwin was not enough, we have entertainment without compromising intellect and some raw thoughts to ponder upon.