All about the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival 2019

Lijo Jose Pellissery’s rural fable 'Jallikattu' runs riot in Toronto

On point: A still from the film Jallikattu shows the fine line between man and beast. Photo: Special Arrangement  

The Indian buffalo had a great run on the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) red carpet with Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu finding an engaged, inquisitive and appreciative audience at its world premiere on Friday. It was attended, besides Pellissery, by writer S. Hareesh, cinematographer Gireesh Gangadharan, composer Prashant Pillai and actors Anthony Varghese, Chemban Vinod Jose and Santhy Balachandran.

A seemingly simple tale of a buffalo escaping the butcher, running amok and being chased by the entire village, has Pellissery himself going berserk with sound design and imagery. All in an artistically astounding way.

Pellissery’s frames have wild frenzy written all over them and they careen on distinctive, catchy, adrenaline pumping, thumping percussive beats and incidental sounds, be it the insects in the jungle or even the human breath. From the energetic opening sequence — a tapestry of the morning vignettes in the village — to the muddy magnificence of human chaos in the apocalyptic finale, his cinematic gaze is sweeping and audacious, overpowering and mesmeric.

On the face of it there is nothing political about the film yet Pellissery is perhaps at his most political, with Jallikattu, offering a biting comment on the human condition and civilisation’s regression.

The men in the film might be united in their mission to get the better of the animal but are divided by petty rivalries.


It’s not just a battle of man against animal but man against man as well. What is the difference then between men and beasts? Isn’t man a savage brute himself? The film, despite being propelled by a delicious, wicked strain of humour, is ultimately an unrelenting build-up towards exposing the many facets of the essential human hollowness and mob mentality.

In 2008 Umesh Kulkarni made a fablesque Marathi comedy Valu, about the power play involved in taming an aggressive bull in a remote Maharashtra village. Pellissery goes more acute and pointed, deeper and philosophical with his cinematic parable. And leaves one asking the crucial question: isn’t it high time for man to rein in the animal within?

Sarandon sanguine

What would it mean to win another Oscar? When asked at the press conference of her latest film, Blackbird, actor Susan Sarandon said she was happy to be part of the [Oscars] club, to have been recognised by her peers. But she felt things have now become corporate with lot of money and hard-nosed campaigning involved behind the awards.

“There are many performances and little films that don’t have the means to reach out,” she said, to be able to compete against the big films that have “the Harvey Weinsteins of the world pushing”. “This is just the way it is. You have to realise that there are so many people who deserve to be recognised and aren’t,” she said.

“There are so many talented female actors out there… We are all part of the club in which we respect each other, cheer each other on, respect each other”.

(The writer is in Toronto at the invitation of TIFF)

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 4:45:39 PM |

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