Jallikattu movie cast: Antony Varghese, Chemban Vinod Jose, Santhy Balachandran
Jallikattu movie director: Lijo Jose Pellissery
Jallikattu movie rating: 3.5 stars
A water buffalo is on the loose in a Kerala village, and there is, naturally, an uproar. Groups of men gather to go after the beast. The game is on, and we are let into trademark Lijo Jose Pellissery territory: a layered exposition of masculinity and toxicity, and a savage comment on how power structures keep both men and women captive, and bound to their roles.
The buffalo is a technological marvel. It looks fully real, as it goes crashing through the village roads, and the undergrowth. As the chase heats up and becomes more intense, Pellissery keeps taking moments to create real characters, who display wiles and bile, old animosities and new lustful connections, as we are led towards the question that the film wants to ask: is there any difference between humans and animals? Who is more humane?
That people are complicated is a truism. As is what you see sometimes is not what you get. Jallikattu works as both real-time exploration of the human psyche as well as a parable, and we are left both laughing and gasping, as the animal seems to be one-up on the collective smarts of the humans.
Many familiar faces from the director’s previous movies (Angamaly Diaries, Ee Ma Yau) are here: the good-looking Varghese, the impactful Jose, and many others. And like he did in his older ones, he manages to create both a carnival and a burlesque in this universe where absurdities pile up and up, leading to a climax, which feels just right even while overstating its case, just a tad.
Jallikattu is an exhilarating ride, which also makes you think. At the end of the day, as the cliche goes, is life all about a chase, as we search for grace?