The plot of ‘Jallikattu‘ can be summed up in a single sentence, “A buffalo escapes the clutches of a butcher, incentivizing the entire male strata of the region to capture it.” The rationale behind every individual’s pursuit of apprehending the poor animal is variable and derivative of their sensibilities, voyeuristic appetite, greed, ego battles, idleness, and numerous folktales. United by their act but divided by their agenda, the residents disclose their clumsiness as their masquerade of boastful skill and strength is rendered naked. Humor is discovered when you witness these men trying to make hay while the sun shines.
Thematically speaking, the team of Lijo, Jayakumar, and Hareesh encapsulate the ghastly attitudes of humans, residing silently or violently within them, in a film that runs for 95 minutes. Not only does ‘Jallikattu‘ explore the heritage from which we borrow certain structures of our present but also recognizes the line beyond which the civil definitions crumble and unbridled force takes precedence.
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Well, of course, human continues to be human with all his biases and lust. There’s nothing to be compared with the ways of animals. Animals do not have rituals. Animals do not seek vengeance or live to serve their pride. Animals only perform the fundamental functions to qualify as organisms. It is only within the ability of humans to build structures, submit to rationality and then ignore everything when it suits their interests. It is only within the ability of humans to come out as absolute beasts, even at times when their behaviors are ironical to their circumstances. You will find them making collective noise when silence is demanded. They’ll move to cause disturbance when peace is required. Jallikattu is a comment on these follies.
The events build a pyramid with the film’s protagonist, the buffalo, at its zenith but the acts of its agents replace the buffalo from the central focus and eventually cause this pyramid to collapse. The VFX team deserves applause for their effort while Lijo masterfully ensures that the animal occupies his frames as less as possible. Some of the interpretations are very explicit. However, the beauty of Jallikattu gets refined with the multiple interpretations and allegories it allows it’s audience to derive. There certainly are political undertones that are subjected to the jurisdiction of one’s thought process.
The climactic episode is unrealistically exaggerated as the film reroutes to sketch a metaphor. And surprisingly, the atmosphere allows it to work. The most sensitive period of the film that could have been its weakest section rewards you with a potent conclusion that is guaranteed to leave a prolonged aftertaste.
The magnitude of this mayhem is inflated by the relentlessly vigorous sound design by Renganaath Ravee aided by Kannan Ganpat. Prashant Pillai attaches an alarming score to the screenplay to deliberately create a sense of discomfort and at the same time, mock the unceremonial progression in which people are joining like sheep at the drop of hat. But the most astounding aspect of this film rests in the way it has been captured and brought to the screens. Gireesh Gangadharan’s cinematography boasts of expertise and retains the essence of Lijo’s vision. While Lijo’s last directorial venture Ee.Maa.Yau. had muted colors, there is a luster in the night light of Jallikattu. Jallikattu, as a film, is primarily driven by its technical finesse.
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The entire cast, irrespective of the length of their individual screentime, adds to the film’s brilliance. They’re what they were required to be, convincing and complementary to the screenplay.
Seldom comes a film that challenges your intellect in a manner that you start to doubt if you are capable of analyzing or interpreting the film in its entirety. Jallikattu doesn’t expose itself in front of the audience but snatches them from the real world along with their senses. Much like a cosmic microwave background that epitomizes chaos, Jallikattu radiates insurmountable energy from each of its frames and yet, manages to establish an ordered allegory as it concludes.