ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-


Violence and Vigilantism

Jallikattu makes a compelling argument for the intersectionality of animal and human rights.

The film Jallikattu (2019), directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery, is set in a picturesque, nondescript forest village in Kerala. It tells the story of Kalan Varkey and his desire for social mobility that motivates his family to migrate from the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. Varkey is treated as an outsider in a close-knit community. When his family first arrived at the village, years earlier, his father took up the only available job of a butcher—a job that is not openly denounced by anyone but generally looked down upon. The film explores the power relations within the community, specifically how Varkey is perceived and treated by other community members. Varkey takes over the family business after his father’s demise, making it his source of livelihood. Since food preferences are closely tied to one’s culture and religion, one would assume that as the sole butcher and meat supplier, he enjoyed a favourable social standing in a predominantly Christian community where beef is staple. On the surface, it seems that the villagers are content with his service. However, there is an undercurrent of distrust and dislike, albeit restricted to hushed tones and gossip. The setting and culture of the community are seemingly constructed as homogeneous, but a hierarchy based on class—wealth, status, and profession—is evident.

In a key scene that highlights the network of illegal trafficking of cattle across the border, a truck reaches the heart of the forest in the dead of night. Public health concerns are taken seriously and rules related to slaughter are stringent in Kerala. Yet, they are circumvented to meet the local demands that drive these nefarious activities. A truck with a bull usually arrives at night and the animal is slaughtered. In a rare instance, before Varkey is able to deliver the fatal blow and kill the bull, the bull escapes. The nameless bull runs amok in the village, leaving behind a path of destruction and devastation. Varkey is blamed for the debacle. Simultaneously, the often unspoken unease and air of suspicion surrounding Varkey resurface.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

Pay INR 50.00

(Readers in India)

Pay $ 6.00

(Readers outside India)

Updated On : 20th Jul, 2022
Back to Top