Once in a blue moon, Kollywood produces a Tamil cinema that transcends the usual cliché, one well crafted & thus worthy of our pride. Jai Bhim (ஜெய் பீம்) by Director T. J. Gnanavel and starring Suriya is the latest to be added to that short line-up. Apart from the significant social issue described (which has been extensively covered in the media), as a cinema, it offers measured acting (which is a surprise) from Suriya, master story-telling with the right order of suspense and reveals, a brilliant cast crew, attention to detail (a rarity), and a brisk pace to keep you engaged throughout. Released on Amazon Prime Video, the film gets a high rating of Delicious.
The film hits you hard in the first ten minutes itself. Seeing the scores of innocent tribal men being traded as if they are a commodity by a democratic state’s police force, and then of the tribals hunting rats in farmlands for their nutrition was unbearable for me to watch. I stopped, it was the next day the feeling passed and I could continue the film. The feeling returned later too when a pregnant lady was mercilessly trashed inside the jail or chilli powder being sprinkled in the eyes of the accused – it is ashaming to have such lockup tortures continuing to happen in real life like in the 2020 Sathankulam case in Thoothukudi. Though there was unmissable political and social symbolism in the film left by the makers, they didn’t appear to be fallacious.
The lead couple from the Irula tribe was played with a lot of hard work that was clearly visible by Lijomol Jose (appearing as Sengeni) and K. Manikandan (as the husband of Sengeni, Rajakannu). Though this was a big-hero film, it was this on-screen pair who owned the narrative and scored past the goal. The screenplay didn’t lose its focus from the courtroom drama by adding masala and that made it stand out. The art director and cinematographer have managed to bring to life the early 1990s and the objects from the time, kudos to them. Normally I have a hard time watching films over two hours, this one was so engaging that I failed to notice the close to the three hours running time.
In America, following the Black Lives Matter movement, Netflix released this brilliant science-fiction film Two Distant Strangers (2020) that disturbed me a lot. In Tamil, in recent years there were films like Visaranai (2016), Merku Thodarchi Malai (2018) & Karnan (2021), and this film sits on a level higher to them. Jai Bhim is based on the true story of one of the cases fought by Justice K. Chandru of Madras High Court for the rights of a marginalised couple – it presents caste oppression and police brutality in a unified screenplay.
A must-watch film, don’t miss.