JALLIKATTU – Audacity Personified
What I have understood about myself as a consumer of cinema is that I have a tendency to get attracted to concept-driven films. Whenever I think of the word AUDACITY, here are a few filmmakers and their films that come to my mind:
- Stanley Kubrick and 2001 A Space Odyssey;
- S. Rajamouli and Bahubali;
- Francis Ford Coppola and Apocalypse Now
and… Lijo Jose Pellissery and Jallikattu.
The film plays out like a fable. Paradoxically, it is both a reflection of our apparent reality and a reminder of a future possibility. The buffalo’s escape is an allegory of an idea, a change, something that has the ability to turn our society on its head and expose its ugly side.
I remember having absolute chills during the penultimate sequence in which thousands of flesh-thirsty men climbed on top of each other to claim their share of the “beast” that, they believed, they had just captured. I think it was the emotional peak of the film. Allow me to use the lazy metaphor of an onion and its peels to articulate how this film is so much more than what it seems.
The striking visual and meta-ness of the “Mountain of Men” was extremely powerful, and symbolic. Another haunting visual was that of two footprints – a human’s and a buffalo’s presented adjacent to each other. A friendly reminder that both species have an “equal footing” on the land they survive and thrive on.
With just the right amount of indulgence in personal character arcs, the film makes a point that is so brutal, that it made me question the very nature of humanity and its purpose. The film seemed to reiterate the point made in Yuval Noah Harari’s book – Sapiens, that the only things that are primal to human nature are sex and violence. Despite the apparent progress of the human race; despite democracy and capitalism, our impulse is still that of the hunter-gatherer. This film made me go down the rabbit hole of a philosophical inquiry and come to the following conclusions:
- That human existence is a mere coincidence;
- That there is absolutely no evidence that humans have become more intelligent with time;
- That morality and egalitarianism are human-made concepts;
- And that the history of humans is actually the history of men.
Thanks to the rhythmic quality of the film’s editing and the appropriate placement of the background score, the film felt like a musical. And not a happy one at that!
I feel like wrapping this up with a quote by Manto –
“Meri kahaniyaan ek aaina hai jisme samaaj apne aap ko dekh sake. Aur agar kisi buri surat waale ko aaine se hi shikayat ho, toh isme mera kya kasoor.”