‘Jallikattu’ review: An immersive, primal experience that words cannot replicate

‘Jallikattu’: A spectacular and unnerving primal experience   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

When Lijo Jose Pellissery gives one an uncomfortable ushering into Jallikattu — with a series of frenetically-paced cuts of the faces and eyes of the principal characters, set to a pulsating score interspersed with their measured breaths — it is a kind of teaser of what’s in store.

Across the film, the cuts are often too fast to make sense of, making you feel as if you are one of those hurtling down the hill, in pursuit of an unhinged buffalo. It is not an accident, for it is the very purpose of Lijo here, to disorient, dislocate and then land a smashing punch, to an audience who is left wondering what just hit them.

The storyline isn’t elaborate: a buffalo escapes from butcher Varkey’s (Chemban Vinod Jose) hold, when he is about to slaughter it. The beast runs helter-skelter, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Before long, the entire village, located in the wild high ranges, is out to trap the elusive buffalo.

  • Starring: Chemban Vinod Jose, Antony Varghese, Sabumon, Santhy Balachandran
  • Direction: Lijo Jose Pellissery

With every mile that it covers, the buffalo unravels the animosities, the violence and the selfish interests simmering beneath in the village, which is calm on its surface. Amid the din of the chase, an old-timer reminisces how the entire landscape was once filled with animals. He points at the men running and comments, “It’s just that they tread on two limbs. They are all still animals”. Later, in a muddy pit, covered in wet mud, the animal and the humans become one. After a point, it is almost as if they are not chasing the buffalo, but the monstrosity within, which surfaces in their interactions with the women in the movie, who do not take part in this mad chase.


Sometimes, Lijo does try a little too hard to drive home this point, but with each of these attempts producing some gobsmacking visuals —like the stunning tower of men piled one above the other —no one is complaining.

Lijo here largely stays true to writer S.Hareesh’s acclaimed story Maoist. But, rendering on screen the wild energy that one feels when reading the story is no mean feat, which Lijo pulls off here. He is aided by some deft camerawork, which in sync with the sound design, transports you to the high ranges. Cinematographer Gireesh Gangadharan must have lost a few extra pounds from all the running.

By the end of the buffalo chase, the languages disappear, and the chasing men begin to roar and scream... almost in a throwback to the primitive ages. If only one such guttural scream could replace the review, for this immersive, sensory experience is something which words cannot replicate.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 10:05:16 AM |

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