Directed by Vivian Radhakrishnan, the series has behind-the-scenes moments of ‘Jallikattu’, India’s official entry for Oscars 2021

It has been three years since Lijo Jose Pellissery came up with an exhilarating cinematic experience with Jallikattu (2019). With a simple storyline — a buffalo escapes from a slaughterhouse and an entire village tries to chase it down — the maverick director explored the vagaries of the human mind in its raw form, blurring differences between man and beast. The film was India’s official entry for Oscars 2021.

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Bringing home all the action behind the making of this globally-acclaimed movie is an eight-part documentary series, Molten Mirror, directed by Vivian Radhakrishnan. A 14-minute “introductory episode” has been released on YouTube to give a sneak peek into the series.

Vivian says: “The series is neither about the film nor about the genius of Lijo Jose Pellissery. We are showing how an art [form] takes shape, by covering different aspects such as cinematography, art, sound, artistes, junior artistes, the terrain, location, the people… The effort put in by each department has been phenomenal,” says Vivian.

Turning point

It was Lijo himself who brought him onboard Jallikattu. A fashion designer/photographer and filmmaker, Vivian says that the offer came at a crucial phase of his life. He had made two movies, both with new faces, but could not release them. “I was so disappointed that I had decided to leave the field. But then I had showed the second film’s trailer to Lijo chettan and that eventually changed my destiny,” says Vivian.

A shot from Lijo Jose Pellissery’s ‘Jallikattu’

Vivian says that he had no plans to turn a filmmaker until a few years ago. “I worked with a company in Bengaluru for some time before launching a unisex clothing brand, Dirty Heads, in 2013. I picked up photography to promote the brand. In the meantime, I had watched Second Show [directed by Srinath Rajendran] and was inspired by its making. I decided to try my hand in films. A friend who watched my first movie (Onnaam Bhaagam, 2017) advised me to see movies by Anurag Kashyap and that eventually led me to works of Rajeev Ravi and Lijo chettan,” he adds.

Vivian Radhakrishnan

There was no plan to make a series when he joined the set of Jallikattu. “Lijo chettan’s brief was to document the making in such a way that it would be useful for wannabe filmmakers and technicians. But once the work started, we knew that a documentary may not do justice to such a seminal work. We had around 40,000 video clips to start with!” says the 34-year-old from Shoranur. While the film had 42 days of shoot, Vivian worked on it for nearly 60 days.

Behind the scenes

Shot in and around Kattappana in Idukki, the film had local people stepping in as junior artistes. There were around 2,000 of them, mainly in the scenes towards the climax. “Coordinating the sequences with the crowd was not easy and we have captured those moments, raw and real,” he adds.

A scene from Lijo Jose Pellissery’s ‘Jallikattu’

The introductory episode has some of these artistes talking about shooting in freezing cold, that too during the wee hours. Their endurance was put to test, especially towards the stunning climax where they form a human pyramid, soaked in mud from head to toe. Many were left with bruises, some fell ill…. The fight sequences and making animatronic buffaloes have also been covered in the episodes. “Lijo chettan gave me the freedom to capture his mood swings as well!” Vivian adds.

The series has been in the making for nearly three years. Instead of taking bytes of the director, cast and crew, Vivian, who is also the cinematographer of the series, has used snippets from their interviews given to various media. Kiran Nath Kailas is the editor and Arun Nath Kailas has written the narrative script.

Lijo Jose Pellissery

Vivian says that the series has changed his perspective towards life and cinema. Now he plans to make more documentaries and has already zeroed in on a few subjects taken from life. “I have never looked at human behaviour and people in general at such close quarters. I am thrilled that we have made heroes out of ordinary people.”

A shot from Lijo Jose Pellissery’s ‘Jallikattu’

He is excited that the episode is getting appreciation from all quarters. “[Director] Karthik Subbaraj messaged that after watching the episode he is watching the film again. We wish to pitch it to OTT platforms. Lijo chettan always says that, if you do something it should be new, otherwise don’t do it. I stick to that,” he says.

Check out the introductory episode on YouTube.

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