Directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery.
Starring Antony Varghese, Sabumon Abdusamad, and Chemban Vinod Jose.
A portrait of a remote village where a buffalo escapes and causes a frenzy of ecstatic violence.
The Malayalam film, Jallikattu begins as a simple tale, but by the end of its frenetic 90-minute chase, it has transformed into something much more intriguing. As the movie opens we see the daily life of a small village in India. Night turns into day, the local butcher Varkey (Chemban Vinod Jose) gets to work, carving and slicing and finally serving to his eager customers. They pray, they eat, and day turns into night. We catch glimpses of the different lives of the village folk. No matter how different their situations though, the meat on the table is always crucial to their lives.
This opening sequence is also the first taste of the fantastically chaotic editing of Deepu Joseph. It mixes brilliantly with the sounds of this inhabited world, from the scratching of knives to the chopping of flesh, as well as Prashant Pillai’s intense thudding score, to create a symphony of everyday life.
Soon this idyllic life is turned upside, as Varkey attempts a buffalo slaughter, but the buffalo wriggles free and escapes. Panic-stricken the villagers rise up to try to stop the buffalo from wreaking havoc. The ensuing chase takes up the majority of the runtime, and it is to the credit of writer S. Hareesh and director Lijo Jose Pellissery, alongside the aforementioned snappy editing of Joseph, that the film never drags. It is an expertly paced tale with some great effects work, and despite its seemingly thin plot, its creative exploration of the chase means it is well worth its 90-minute runtime.
There are a number of side plots that are briefly touched on, including a farmer whose crops are ruined by the marauding animal, and a man organising his daughter’s engagement, but they are little more than asides for the main attraction. At the centre of the chase are two men, our protagonist Antony (Antony Varghese) and his enemy the local hero Kuttachan (Sabumon Abdusamad), who jostle for the right to capture the buffalo. In some effective flashbacks, we see how the division between these two men was created.
As the chase goes on with no end in sight, with property destroyed and people injured, the stakes rise and the tension amps up. Any subtlety is forgotten as the film heads towards its climax, with themes around the inherent animalistic brutality of man being thrust front and centre. This however does not detract from the spectacle of the wonderfully bananas final half hour in which the mob mentality of the chasing pack finally reaches tipping point.
Reminiscent of Game of Thrones’ Battle of the Bastards in its claustrophobia, this utterly chaotic ending means that Jallikattu is not an easy film to forget. It is not very often we see a director so successfully execute an offbeat and unusual vision, and for that reason Jallikattu must be recommended.
Jallikattu is screening at Fantastic Film Festival Australia in Sydney on Friday 21st February, and in Melbourne on Saturday 22nd February. The Festival will run until Wednesday 4th March. For more information please check out the website: https://www.fantasticfilmfestival.com.au/
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★