JALLIKATTU: A REVITALIZING TALE!
The malignant visage of toxic masculinity, the triviality of the wafer-thin peel called humanity, the haunting eyes of injustice that sway over mobocracy, the myth of evolution which is deficient yet concealed, the unfurling of the beast within- like a clock ticking down; and a lot more cloaked up utter verities unfold as Lijo Jose Pellissery casts his acclaimed spells in the one and a half-hour long magic ride: Jallikattu. Magic fits in as a pertinent description since this exhilarating cine adventure leaves us both laughing and gasping, not to say vividly intrigued.
Named after the traditional bull-chasing sport of Tamil Nadu, Jallikattu turns out to be rather more astounding as it became India’s official entry to the 93rd Academy Awards, leaving every single Keralite relish the adrenaline gush-up as such an honor found the Malayali-land after nine long years. The fascinating fact that Jallikattu neither has a proper hero character (except for the bull of course) nor does it follow the conventional three-act structure of narrative fictions; reaffirm Pellissery’s unswerving identity as a non-compromising avant-garde director. Besides, this movie rescinds the delusion that scenic spectacles leave behind no room for a cinephile to dig up layered meanings. Jallikattu stands out as nothing less than a kaleidoscope unwrapping more awe with each turn.
AN OUTREACH TO HUMANITY
A small beautiful village in rural Kerala peacefully winding the spring as the day begins. A butcher shop which is evidently the centre of activities on that pleasant Sunday morning. Kalan Varkey and Antony, all prepped to quench people’s meat obsession as yet another ‘Lord’s day’ pops in. That’s when the viewer finds herself soaked into the ticking rhythm of the movie. But the very next flash, you perhaps would lose a beat as the clock ticking escalates into drum beats in line with the events unfolding. Guess what! The recalcitrant buffalo ran amok skedaddling the slaughter scene, twisting the episode into a vile uproar.
As expected, the savagery beast goes berserk, toppling and wrecking shops, fields and settlements; forcing the men to form groups and charge in action to chase it down. In the rush, fight and its violent beauty, the movie successfully makes the audience hasten along with the crowd, unveiling the vicious mob’s interiors nakedly right in front of our eyes. It depicts how people present their true selves in a crowd instead of ‘as an individual’. Within a short stretch of time, the maniacal mob - ironically made up of all the ‘civilized’ men - takes everything in control; equally because the authorities supposed to ensure law and order shreds down the responsibility. The question is how and why a mob becomes maniacal? The answer lies in the cognizance of the ‘thin veil of humanity’. While being in a crowd, utterly aware that one is unfettered from individual judgments and scrutiny, when it is too difficult to locate anyone individually; that’s when the veil erodes letting the beast within, to jump out.
Jallikattu patently shows how in a mob, the ideas of the one with the most ludicrous brain, become that of the entire mob, thus committing notorious deeds. This is precisely what happened when people like Antony and Kuttachen took the baton, moreover manipulated the event into a means to power-seeking selfish ends. Dawning with visuals of toxic masculinity, transgressing through images of minacious lust pictured by Antony and Sophy, the vigorous thirst for power and domination, and the dark violent ardour to chase down the animal; all add up to peeling off the narrow wrap of humanity, thereby exposing absolute wilderness and animal instincts that sleep within every human being. At this juncture, the whole uproar fits in the description, ‘animal vs. beast’; although who is who turns out to be difficult to determine.
When an old man says, "രണ്ട് കാലേൽ ഓടുന്നെന്നേ ഉള്ളു. മൃഗമാ മൃഗം" (All of them are animals; though they walk on two legs), our conscience firmly compels us to rethink and reassess if we ever truly evolved from the beasts we once were. Any person who watches the pinnacle point of the movie, when the outrageous horde of men dashes with screams and tools to the dreadfully worn out buffalo, will not be able to discover even a single variance it has, with the endmost scene of untamed primitive cavemen feeding on raw meat. The moment when Antony backstabs Kuttachen out of an old animosity when the latter was brawling to break free of the buffalo, a dialogue from Vysakh’s ‘Pulimurugan’ would possibly resonate in our thoughts, “I don’t fear the vicious animals in the wild, they can be defeated. But I fear the humans out there in the light; they backstab and hence should be feared”.
A buffalo, a violent mob, an unquenchable lust for its meat. If you find it oddly metaphorical to the cow vigilante violence in India coupled with the unending dingy episodes of mob lynching, then you just did taste Lijo Jose Pellissery’s brilliance. No matter if it really is the intended politics behind Jallikattu or not, the movie unquestionably triumphs in manifesting the inherent peril, the country in particular and the human civilization in general is facing at this very moment. Besides, as seen in the movie, if the authorities incessantly back off from their obligations leaving the mobs, to be the judge and the executioner, it’s only a matter of time before we break through the pale periphery of humanity unleashing unimaginable upshots. Nevertheless, I honestly don’t know what is worse than humans killing humans segregated by religion, in the name of animals and finally in the process, becoming one. Jallikattu deserves faithful appreciation as it even condemned religious authorities, implicitly yet accurately through the church scenes and corresponding dialogues.
THE ARTISTIC BRILLIANCE
Not merely a matter for intellectual nourishment; Jallikattu justly stands out as a feast for eyes and a euphoric deal for the ears as well. From the exceptionally captivating visual spectacles to the ironically intoxicating sound effects, Jayadev Tiruveaipati (Visual Effects) and Ranganath Ravee (Sound Design) cannot go short of mention. The beats of wilderness in perfect sync with ancientness, replicating the prey-predator duel, clearly exhibit the unbending artist in Prashant Pillai. The preponderant role played by animatronics and VFX, qualifies to be commented as no actual buffalo was used in the filming of this buffalo-centric picture. Moreover, the art of motion-picture photography through the expertise of Gireesh Gangadharan, and the editing excellence of Deepu Joseph added an exemplary charm to the movie.
Quite similar to Pellissery’s former movies, Jallikattu too did not endorse star cast. Santhy Balachandran, Antony Varghese, Chemban Vinod, Sabumon along with everyone who found a place on the screen weren’t exceptional names; yet they audibly did justice, though with a few exceptions. The beautiful frames of Idukki, amid it's enchanting valleys and gushing streams, coupled with the rural lifestyle of an under-privileged villager, succeeded in connecting the viewer at heart with the characters. The evident variance in the dressing style wisely captured the implicit social and economic disparity haunting mankind even in this modern era. Perhaps you found the movie, in particular the climax, not as pleasing as Hareesh’s ‘Maoist’ (the short story on which Jallikattu is based); but it doesn’t blunt the glitter this movie fabricated.
For generations to come, Jallikattu will remain as a revitalizing parable blatantly warning about the retract human civilization could erroneously take, into the doltish hostile creatures we once were; for us, it stands as an epiphany into the buried dark selves within us, which if not tamed, could get us killed. The rearmost image of a lone bull approaching an old man at his death’s door, symbolizes Yama on his way, to ensure that demise is inevitable. So why not live and die as a ‘human’?