Ketchup Cut: Jallikattu, a movie defined by its amazing visuals and symbolism

Smrithi Mohan
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Check out how Indian films' new-age maverick Lijo Jose Pellisery was able to capture human emotions in the most cinematic way with Jallikattu.

The Indian cinema has evolved over the years to the state where the art of Indian storytelling is not just defined by a single language. It is all about engaging, quality content being produced and appreciated in its true form. Audiences have expanded their idea of movies and have become accepting of new regional artists. The surge of movies being recognized across languages is an overwhelming example of their openness to enjoy new content. As a series, the second movie in discussion for #KetchupCut is Jallikattu.

A movie that developed from a short story, Maoist, talking about a village gone rogue over a buffalo that got away creating havoc among the villagers. Something that seems so simple was turned into a paragon of modern-day contemporary cinema for cinephiles across the globe.

About the movie:

Director – Lijo Jose Pellissery

Cast – Antony Varghese, Chemban Vinod Jose, Santhy Balachandran, Sabumon Abdusamad, Jaffar Idukki

Writer – S. Hareesh and R. Jayakumar

Where to stream – Amazon Prime Videos

Jallikattu is about unfolding the mayhem caused by a buffalo ordered by Varkey (Chemban Vinod Jose) the village butcher, for a villager's daughter's engagement party. The animal somehow escapes the butcher as his men (Antony Varghese and Rajkumar) mess up their job. This results in the village going under lockdown and the men of the village arranging a horde to recapture it after it causes destruction and terror.

Ketchup Cut:

The movie that turned heads stands as the epitome of what the director himself describes as "everything that the world should not be." Who would have thought that the need to keep up with the pride of a typical Kerala Christian wedding of serving good buffalo meat, would go on to develop into a galloping plot that would gain praises from movie lovers across the sea? It is the simplicity of the idea that makes this movie one of the best. It is almost impossible for one to have a favorite scene from a movie of this grandeur, but one that brings the whole plot together is definitely the climax scene - The Human Pyramid.

The scene is all about showing the difference between man and beast dissolving. It represents the phrase from the movie 'Avanmaru randu kallel odunundelum, mrigham aa mrigham!’ which meaning ‘They may walk around on two legs but they are animals.’ The movie is all about exploring the elixir of human nature and how men do things they do in a given situation. The film takes a complete Tarantino turn in the end with the unexpected chaos and drama. Audiences get to see the stories of different characters from the film come to a close as each person piles upon another. All it took was anarchy of a bull to take over the village for every man's inner beast to come out. It is about being instinctive and responding without putting any mind to it.

We get to witness and take a dive into the disparaging idea of small-town Indian manhood. The women are definitely strong in the film with an opinion of their own, but it is more about the men and their attitude. It is the tension between Aṇthony and Kuttachan (Sabumon Abdusamad) that adds the oomph to the story's plot. They represent the toxic masculinity and the 'revenge I shall take' attitude of the human race. Anthony screaming his way into the puddle and stabbing the bull to claim his victory of having captured the beast is the moment we see men turn into an animal. The shouts turned into grunts and then into screams. The smallest nuance of capturing a man's feet next to that of a bull is cathartic enough for any human being to know what the story is all about. It is not just the graph of men but also sounds that make the experience of watching the movie whole. A graph going from a dot to the peak. The director has tried to maintain an arc going from silence to chaos and then back to silence again.

The director Lijo Jose Pellissery has tried showing a man’s greediness on screen in the most beautiful and cinematic manner. But he surely doesn't want to feed the idea to the audience. He wants his audience to take whatever sense they can make of the story. Just like it takes patience and pure artistry to serve a perfectly tender cut of meat, the director was able to careful plate an exceptional piece of work with the help of his cinematographer Girish Gangadharan and sound designer Prashant Pillai. You know the director understands one of the most important aspects of cinema, 'the visuals.' His previous movie Amen is also a great example of that. Lijo was able to bring the same magic of giving the audience a grand climax in his other movies. Not to forget the madness part in his movies like Angamaly Diaries and Double Barrel.

About Jallikattu:

As quoted in The Hindu while talking about the visual genius of the film the cinematographer Girish Gangadharan said, “We discussed a lot about shot compositions and what sort of sequences we should plan and so on. Since it was about the man vs animal conflict, he (director Lijo) wanted me to keep the visuals as wild as possible.”

Sharing his side of the idea Lijo said in an interview for" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener"> Film Companion, "Because those were the keywords that we had in our discussions initially when we discussed Jallikattu. It is mostly about how wild it is, how raw it can be, what are the setting, background and all those things that we can bring in to make it look deep in the jungle and wild."

Fun Facts:

​‘Jallikattu’ is the third Malayalam film to be selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars

The movie has no actual ‘hero.’ It revolves around many characters.

There is no real buffalo in the film. In fact, the crew used an animatronic buffalo to have a better understanding of the scenes. One of the crew member had to carry the dummy to help the director with the scene.

Awards and Recognition:

  • National Film Awards, India 2021 - Winner Silver Lotus Award for Best Cinematography
  • Kerala State Film Awards - Winner of Best Director and Best Sound Mixing
  • International Film Festival Of India - Won Best Director award
  • Asian Film Awards 2020 - Nominated in Best Cinematographer and Best Composer categories
  • Aurangabad International Film Festival 2020 - Won Best Sound
  • FIPRESCI: India Grand Prix 2020 - Nominated for Best Indian Feature Film
  • Indian Film Festival Of Melbourne 2020 - Nominated for Beyond Bollywood Award
  • Montréal Festival of New Cinema 2019 - Nominee for Temps Ø People's Choice Award
  • Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA 2021 - Nominee for Golden Reel Award in Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing - Foreign Language Feature
  • Philadelphia Film Festival 2019 - Jury Nominee for Best Narrative Feature
  • Satellite Awards 2021 - Nominee for Best Motion Picture, International Film

What was your favourite moment from the film? Let us know in the comments.

Also Read - Ketchup Cut: Manchester by the Sea, a realistic approach to death

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