Actor Kamal Haasan inaugurated a photo-exhibition on Jallikattu by Suresh Jayaprakash, a photo journalist attached to Malayalam Manorama, at Lalit Kala Akademi on Monday.
The actor, who has been vocal about restarting the ‘tradition’, reportedly said that it must not be confused with bull-fighting in Spain.
Lensman Mr. Suresh J. said that he had been covering the popular event for the last 15 years. “I went to Alanganallur in 1998 and have gone there every year. It is an event that reminds us of the rich history and tradition of the south,” he said.
A popular sport of Tamil classical period showcasing the raw power of a bull against that of a single man, Jallikattu or bull-baiting has caught the attention of the world for a long time now. A professional and passionate photographer with grit and determination, J Suresh too got enthused by this ancient sport and had been following it from 1998 onwards. He fell in love with this ancient sport during his visits to Madurai and started following it keenly across Tamil Nadu. Zealously following it in the last one and a half decades, Suresh could freeze some of the awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping frames of the sport in his collection.
He is now planning a photo exhibition titled ‘Veera Vilayatu’ (The Game of Valour) in the first week of November 2015 showcasing the rare pictures of action from scenes of Jallikattu spanning a period from 1998 onwards covering the length and breadth of Tamil Nadu.
On his close encounters with various episodes from bulls’ training to bull-baiting, Suresh says:
“Generally, bull owners would not allow others near their bulls. I had the rare chance to witness some of the rare occasions connected with this sport. And, I know how much effort it takes to groom a bull for this sporting event. Special diet for the bull; their training like making them swim across the river; and horning their skills by pushing them against mud were some of the special moments.
“When thousands throng the Jallikattu venues, it is always a herculean task to get a proper place to grab those visuals. To get the apt angle, you have to go there around 6.30 a.m. Even if you find a place to capture the best picture, people may obstruct your view. Then there is the long wait for the start. I may be sitting or standing on a wooden twig, but then it will take hours to start. Usually the event starts at around 10:30 a.m. and will continue up to 5 p.m. In between, one cannot move out even to grab some food or a cold drink. If you do so, you will lose your vantage position, which you were zealously guarding for hours. Nobody would like to move out. If you uncork your water bottle, there will be requests from other viewers to share it. It is a daunting task to stand there for hours together under the scorching sun at 40 degrees Celsius temperature. I had experienced sunstroke several times. Many a time, I have fainted. Once, I was chased away by a bull that ran towards the side ways.
“To get better and unusual angles, I have crossed the arena many times. I have a collection of pictures of bulls being released from small cell-like area where its nose rope is cut. It is the most dangerous place to stand. I have come face to face with bulls. Sometimes, the bulls run of the arena and will go to nearby villages. I also have a collection of pictures on the efforts to bring back ferocious bulls without nose rope, which is a daunting task. Taking such pictures is a matter of death and life.
On the uniqueness of the sports:
“More than a sport, Jallikattu is part of a culture. I have made every effort to showcase the raw power of a bull against that of a single man and an enthusiastic crowd. The moments may be lighter or violent, but the atmosphere is charged. The unity, the effort and the spirit of the people are awesome and appreciable.
On the success of his project:
“I think it is because of the sheer amount of work I have put in. I haven’t spent this much time and energy on any other project. Going places and convincing people connected with the sports was really a difficult task. Yearly hundreds of photographers cover this event. But I am sure, some of the rarest frames are with me.”