Jallikattu — Carving a Spectacle from Chaos
Jallikattu is a 2019 Malayalam movie directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery based on a short story from S Hareesh. The movie stars Chemban Vinod Jose (by now an established constant in Lijo’s films), Antony Varghese and Sabumon Abdusamad in title roles. A buffalo escapes in a village early in the morning and manages to wreck havoc for all of the next day. How the humans react to this incident is explored in the short runtime of 90 minutes.
We have seen how Lijo Jose Pallissery mastered the art of directing chaos in action and his love for long tracking shots in Angamaly Diaries. Now get ready to watch him attempt the same on a grander scale throughout a movie armed with Girish Gangadharan’s beautiful cinematography and Prateesh Pillai’s disturbing and captivating music.
It is hard to even imagine the amount of preparation and dedication from the cast and crew to pull off some of these shots. The camera is either in the middle of the action or really distant from it. Even while following around hundereds of people, the camera manages to keep ones attention and maneuver the chaos just as a real person would. The ones that view from distance are almost poetic and evoke a sense of adrenaline rush for the viewers.
There is not much to be mentioned here, there are no character arcs to be completed, there are no likeable characters or song sequences.
Instead Lijo and Hareesh decide to focus the viewers attention on the lives of ordinary people in short bursts. We travel through their houses; we hear what they say on and off camera, in long dialogues or short quips; we watch what they signal towards each other, sometimes intentional others inadvertent. The screenplay is cleverly making use of the human compulsion to figure what these humans around us experience along with our natural temptation to follow the crowds. They do succeed partly, but in long sequences, the lack of a central storyline or tension is rather telling.
Chemban Vinod and Sabumon are absolutely gold in their raw characters and emote their roles with ease along most of the movie. Antony Varghese who has the meatiest role in the movie (to be even compared to the role of a Hero if this movie had one) is a disappointment in crucial phases.
The rest of the characters have worked with what they have, which is not quite a lot. They are, by design a part of the larger crowd and are not to be named. You can remember them not by name, but as that person you know from somewhere.
The virtual effects and animatronics whenever the bull is on screen is rather perfect and does not disturb the composition of the shot. All credits to the team on this.
There are two metaphoric scenes at the end to what has unfolded in the village. While the first follows the story arc, the second just bounces out of nowhere and is plain directed to spoonfeed the audience to believing they saw something larger than life. This could have been avoided or moved to the beginning for a much better experience.
Jallikattu is what entails a theatre experience in the age of streaming services which play the movie same month as it’s theatre release. You absolutely will not be able to play it on family television just because of the expletives. You will not enjoy it on your private computer or mobile because of the melancholy. It is just in theatre that you won’t have an escape from Lijo’s creation and end up experiencing it first hand.
PS: If you are looking for some accustomed Food Porn from the Pellissery movie, that’s certainly part of this movie too.