The loud ticking of a clock is followed by an array of scenes — of an eye opening here, another eye opening there and a third one next. From close proximity the camera rises to hover over hills still enveloped in the darkness of night with a couple of yellow bulbs shining in between from the houses below. As dawn breaks, the blue sky comes into view smudged with pink hues.
The beautiful opening scene of ‘Jallikattu’ transports viewers to life in this hamlet of Idukki, but does little to prepare them for the chaos that will soon engulf the village.
Throwing all convention to the wind, Malayalam director Lijo Pellissery goes on a wild ride, with a bull ushering in a new experience for viewers who are left marvelling at its racy screenplay, intense moments, jaw-dropping visuals, uncanny music and earthy sound design.
‘Jallikattu’ is based on award-winning writer S. Hareesh’s short story ‘Maoist.’ Hareesh has written the screenplay for the movie along with R Jayakumar.
The sleepy town of Meppara in Idukki wakes up when a buffalo at a slaughter house kicks off its ropes and runs free. On its run — snorting heavily and charging madly — the bull sets a house on fire and next tramples on protected medicinal plants in the garden of an environmentalist.
How do you now catch this bull?
Interestingly, though pivoted around a bull, there are not too many shots of the animal. Yet, its constant and intimidating presence is ensured by snorts and heavy stomping as it vanishes among the trees and bushes. Following it is a crowd of men armed with torches and weapons as a sense of fear lurks all around. A rowdy group of men from the nearby village arrive to make hay while the sun shines. Male chauvinism rides high with ego and pettiness rising.
Exploiting the situation is a young woman who elopes with her lover on the eve of her engagement to another man.
When the bull falls into a well, Anthony, the butcher’s assistant (Anthony Verghese) is lowered inside to bring it up. The crowd peering into the well with their head torches is a marvellous scene. Standing forlorn is the bull and your heart aches for the animal.
It’s a simple story drawn from life but elevated by its engaging screenplay that is raw and realistic. Gireesh Gangadharan’s frames are poetry in motion — the frenzied crowd holding flaming torches in hand in pursuit of the bull captured from a bird’s eye is spectacular.
Dancing the perfect tango is the accompanying background score by Prashant Pillai, his drum beats adding to the frenzy.
Art director Gokul Das has done a commendable job; nowhere does the bull look like a model. Sound designer Renganaath Ravee’s sound palette is a symphony created from life giving the viewer a sense of being in the scene of action.
With a cast that includes the versatile Chemban Vinod Jose as the butcher and Anthony Verghese, Sabumon Abdusamad and Santhy Balachandran, ‘Jallikattu’ is a must watch.
Throughout its 90-minute screenplay, ‘Jallikattu’ exudes an infectious energy that leaves one exhilarated and in admiration of the spectacular team work.
The climax is a master piece in execution. The human pyramid as men clamber over each other for that ‘piece of meat’ hits you hard and leaves you pondering:
Who is the beast actually?
Ironically as curtains come down, there is a bull (symbolising the arrival of deity Yama) waiting outside an old man’s home — he is on the last leg of his life.
Don’t miss it!
‘Jallikattu’ is now showing across the UAE.