Movies related to the life-struggles of marginalised communities are rare in the mainstream Indian cinema. Jai Bhim, a Tamil language movie, is one of the movies that raises the issue of discrimination faced by the tribal communities of our country. It can also be considered as one of the most important socio-political Tamil movies of 2021. It is directed by TJ Gnanavel, a Tamil journalist and produced by Jyothika and Suriya under 2D Entertainment. Suriya is one of the powerful actors in the movie who played the role of Justice K. Chandru who was a practicing lawyer in 1993; other stars are Lijomol Jose who played the role of Sengani and K. Manikandan played the role of Sengani’s husband.
The movie was released on November 2, 2021, on Amazon Prime Video. It is, reportedly, a real life incident that took place in Tamil Nadu in the year 1993. Rajakannu, who is a snake catcher from Irula Tribe, is falsely accused of theft, arrested, suffered from police brutality, and eventually dies in police custody. The police tries to cover up the truth which leads a social worker named Parvati and Rajakannu’s wife, to seek the help of the then practicing lawyer & advocate Chandru to seek justice for her husband. Along with the story, one can see how the Dalits are ill-treated in the society and are devoid of basic human rights.
Below are some facts about the movie Jai Bhim:
1. The title of the movie ‘Jai Bhim’which translates to “Victory for Bhim” or “Long Live Bhim”, is a slogan and agreeting used by the followers of renowned social leader and first Law & Justice Minister of Independent India, B.R. Ambedkar who was a scholar, a radicalthinker and a leader of the Dalits.
2. The movie gives us the picture ofdaily-life, food habits, occupations, customs, rituals, and culture of theIrula tribe. Irula Tribe is one of India’s oldest indigenous communities dwelling in the borders of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. They are experts intraditional herbal medicines and healing practices; also they are snakecatchers and labourers. Today, like many tribal communities, Irula Tribe also continues to suffer oppression and discrimination by the upper castes.
3. After the release of ‘Jai Bhim’, the film received overwhelming responses from the viewers and also attracted opposition from the Vanniyar Sangam caste group (whose political party name is PattaliMakkal Katchi or PMK). According to them, the film has “hurt the sentiments” of their community and portrayed them as the villains. They claimed that in the movie, Gurumoorthy the sub-inspector, who abuses the innocent people, defames late Pattali Makkal Katchi leader Kaduvetti Guru. PMK leader, Anubumani Ramadoss said in a statement that in a scene in the movie, an Agni Kundan (apot of fire), a symbol of Vanniyars was seen in the calendar in the residence of the sub-inspector. It led them to issue a legal notice and demanding a compensation of ₹ 5 Crore. They also barged into a theatre in Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu and forcibly stopped the screening of the movie. The district secretary Panneerselvam announced a reward of 1 lakh to anyone willing to attack Suriya, which led him to get arrested.
Director Gnanavel, later, apologised for the controversy. Supporters of the movie has argued that the makers of the film are being “unfairly targeted for speaking upon a critical social justice issue”. Besides that, the movie found backing from Tamil Nadu state’s governing party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) with chief minister MK Stalin praising Suriya in the film.
4. Another controversy that also erupted was the scene where Prakash Raj’s character Perumalsamy slapped a man for “speaking in Hindi” and asked him to speak in Tamil. Some criticised it as “anti-Hindu” and some stated that it was “unnecessary”. Prakash Raj responded that “they” did not “see and feel terrible about the injustice” but only saw the slap which in real “exposes their agenda”.
5. Suriya, who played the role of Justice Krishnaswami Chandru in the movie, was provided police protection at his Chennai home after the threat from Panneerselvam. Justice K.Chandru is a retired Indian judge from Madras High Court which is in Tamil Nadu. He has been an activist, mainly known for his judgements that influenced the betterment of the lives of many Dalits. Supporting the movie, he said the movie has a certification from the censor board. Actor Suriya thanked his fans by saying “I’ve never witnessed this before! … Heartfelt thanks for standing by us.”
6. At present, Jai Bhim’s rating in IMDB is 9.6 with 73k voters overtaking classics such as The Shawshank Redemption and The Godfather. Along with that, it has now officially entered the Golden Globe 2022 as a nomination under the category of “Best Non-English Language film”.
The movie Jai Bhim has successfully portrayed the condition of marginalised communities in the Indian Society. It has also succeeded in creating awareness and intends to bring a substantial impacted positive social effect in the society. We need more movies like Jai Bhim in our struggle for a better world.