UMA DA CUNHA | 2 SEPTEMBER, 2019
TIFF Spotlight: Malayalam film Jallikattu
Malayalam film ‘Jallikattu’ heads for Toronto International Film Festival
Lijo Jose Pellissery’s latest film ‘Jallikattu’, set in a remote village in his hometown, Trissur, is about a buffalo’s frantic attempt to free itself from the frenzied ferocity of those want to capture it. The film, both in its visceral imagery and style, and in the story it unfurls with sizzling energy, denotes mankind’s innate and relentless savagery, one that equals that of the animal world. Based on a story by S. Hareesh, the film refers to a traditional spectacle in which individuals attempt to capture a bull.
‘Jallikattu’ is Lijo Jose Pellissery’s seventh directorial feature. At 40, Lijo is among the younger directors working in India to hit the limelight. He comes from Kerala, a region in South India, that has steadily spearheaded the country’s independent cinema, led by directors as noteworthy as Adoor Goplakrishnan, the late G Aravindan, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan and the quixotic genius John Abraham, who passed away at the age of 50. Lijo enters the fray here with a stamp and identity in filmmaking that is fresh, energising, slyly sarcastic, and entirely seductive. All his seven feature films have consistently struck a markedly unconventional note. Along with direction, Lijo has also acted in films made by his associates and, at times, his own films.
While, Lijo holds a Master's degree in business administration from Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Plantation Management, he was inducted into cinema from his early days courtesy his father being active in Malayalam films and co-owning a theatre group. This led to Lijo working as an assistant to advertising filmmaker Manoj Pillai. Soon after, he started making short films of his own. His film, ’3’, was one of a trio shortlisted for the Best Film award at the 2007 PIX Short Film Festival. Being singled out with an award most likely led Lijo to making his directorial debut in 2010 with ‘Nayakan’, in which he also essayed the role of a smuggler. The film is based on a Kathakali artist who enters the underworld to avenge his family’s death. His next as a director was the crime-drama, ‘City of God’ (2011), one of the early new generation films of Malayalam cinema, a multi-starrer featuring Indrajith Sukumaran, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Parvathy, Swetha Menon and Rima Kallingal. It tells the story of Tamil migrant workers and a team of land mafia criminals in the city of Kochi. It used hyperlink cinema as its narrative structure and was a critical but alas, not a commercial success.
His third film, the black comedy ‘Amen’ (2013), was his first box office hit. It revolved around a couple in love, who face all sorts of personal and social problems in their attempts to marry each other.
‘Double Barrel’, his fourth film, was an experimental comedy thriller involving gangsters in Goa. Lijo has been quoted as saying, “It is a film with an urban setting. Watching it will give one a feeling of reading a comic book — an enjoyable one, which we used to read when we were in fourth or fifth standard. The entire film has been made like a comic book. Be it the characters, the narration, the actions, dialogue delivery, romance, villain, vamp, and so on”.
Lijo’s fifth film, ‘Angamaly Diaries’ (2017), hit the jackpot. The film has been acclaimed as an excellent portrayal of Angamaly, a small town in Kerala, and its people. As also for its sizzling climax contained in an 11-minute single shot. It starred over 90 debut actors and earned him nationwide praise. The following year, 2018, saw his ‘Ee.Ma.Yau’, which underlines a fascination with death and its impact on human lives. The film begins with a shot of two men, metaphorically Satan and God, playing cards, nonchalantly waiting for news of any death. The film won many an honour, notably the Best Director Award at the 48th Kerala State Film Awards and the Silver Peacock for Best Director at the 49th International Film Festival of India.
But ‘Jallikattu’ seems to be the start of something completely different; an international journey. The film features in TIFF’s Contemporary World Cinema section, a section dedicated to screening ‘Compelling stories, global perspectives’. Its riveting cinematography is by Gireesh Gangadharan. The music is composed by Prashant Pillai and its sound design by Renganath Ravee. The cast is led by his regular collaborators Anthony Varghese, Chemban Vinod Jose, Sabumon Abdusamad and Santhy Balachandran.
The 91-minute ‘Jallikattu’features in TIFF’s Contemporary World Cinema.