“Jallikattu” Bucks the Trend as India’s Oscars Pick for Best International Film

The gorgeously chaotic Malayalam film is the polar opposite of last year’s popular but unoriginal star-studded selection.

"Jallikattu" 2019. (Friday Film House)

Dilani Rabindran


December 2, 2020


5 min

There was a palpable air of excitement at the packed world premiere of Jallikattu at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF19). Malayalam speakers, along with other South Asians, were visibly excited for Lijo Jose Pellissery’s latest exploration of human relationships — or in this case, how an animal tests those relationships.

The film is based on the satirical short story “Maoist” (2016) by award-winning Malayali novelist and screenwriter S. Hareesh, who also helped adapt the screenplay. It centers on a buffalo that frees itself the night before its scheduled slaughter, creating havoc as it runs through a village in Kerala’s Idukki district. The title also refers to the South Indian event jallikattu, during which a bull is released into a crowd of people and participants must grab onto the bull for as long as possible.

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