Dubai producers jubilant over Jallikattu's Oscar entry

Lijo Jose Pellissery, Chemban Vinod, Naushad Salahudin (executive producer), O Thomas Panicker (Producer)
Lijo Jose Pellissery, Chemban Vinod, Naushad Salahudin (executive producer), O Thomas Panicker (Producer)

By Sami Ha Zen

Published: Thu 26 Nov 2020, 4:26 PM

Last updated: Thu 26 Nov 2020, 4:27 PM

When Malayalam action film Jallikattu's director, Lijo Jose Pellissery, told producers O Thomas Panicker and Naushad Salahudin — both Dubai-based Indian expats — that the movie, released in 2019, will reach the Oscars, they didn't quite believe him. That was until Wednesday when it was named as India's official entry to Oscars this year in the Best International Feature Film category. "It was too big a dream, but by God's grace, here we are, one step closer," they told City Times on Thursday.

The movie, based on writer S.Hareesh’s story Maoist, explores the baser instincts of human beings in a small Kerala hamlet when a buffalo escapes from the butcher and runs amok.

Closely connected to the Malayalam film industry with two of his uncles being veteran producers, Thomas is an art lover expecting to push beyond the limits of where the visual medium is today. "We wanted to do something beyond the usual 'commercial-success-formula' movies. Money-making was not our motive. We were looking for an original artist and we found that in Lijo," he explained.

Noushad, executive producer of Jallikattu, reminisced how the film began its journey. "When we first heard the script, we knew this had to be made. Also, in the process, a long-term friendship was made. We are now set to produce our next movie Churuli, together," he said.

While Jallikattu had caused quite a stir in the industry with its dark narrative, both the producers are happy they let the director flow with his stream of thoughts. "We wanted to create something very radical that poses questions on the very existence of man. Unlike the norm, we were strongly involved in the whole process throughout, not just as producers, but as art lovers. In fact, when Lijo wanted to change the climax scene of the movie, he was worried. But we told him to go ahead and shoot however he wanted. Such kind of support is a must in creating quality content," said Noushad.

"Most Malayalam movies with good content have Gulf-based producers, particularly from the UAE. Dreams of creative people are often made tangible, with support from expats in the region, something which is not often highlighted while talking about the industry," he added.

While the Oscar entry is just the beginning to the large marketing campaign ahead of winning in the Best Foreign Film category, the producers are busy in talks with film consultants on how to take things forward. "Since this is an unprecedented year with pandemic hitting the globe, the traditional Oscar stage will be set to look different. We believe it will be a more level playfield for us and we are hoping to get nominated," said Noushad.

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