India is a beautiful country; rich in culture and cuisine. Unfortunately, one of the disparaging sides of India is its immutable caste system that, for generations, has systematically disenfranchised the less-fortunate sections of their society.
This atrocious system has been the central theme of many Indian films for a long time. The latest, and arguably the best, addition to this list is director TJ Gnanavel's 'Jai Bhim'.
'Jai Bhim' tactfully portrayed the flaws of a deranged system by highlighting the gut-wrenching realities of the lives of the so-called 'untouchables'.
The movie dramatises a true event from 1995, where Chandru, a young fearless lawyer, fought against the stereotypical system to bring justice to a tribal woman named Senganni.
Recently released in five languages on Amazon Prime, 'Jai Bhim' has already garnered high appreciation for its script, direction, acting and more.
Holding a mirror in front of society
'Jai Bhim', in essence, is an amalgamation of a commercial film with nuanced social commentary.
In the very first scene of the film, we see the police wrongfully accusing 'scheduled caste' members of theft and other petty crimes and selling them off to the highest bidders, setting a dark undertone to the story from the get-go.
In the next scene, we see members of the Irula tribe working in the beautiful meadows of a South Indian village, smoking out the rats that destroy crops. This is where we meet two of the lead characters of the movie - Rajakannu (K Manikandan) and Senganni (Lijomol Jose). The couple works from fingers to bone to earn a decent livelihood.
Unfortunately, they could not afford to live in anything but a mud house that was so flimsy that it collapsed when exposed to heavy downpour.
Rajakannu, like many other members of these tribes, was skilled in trapping rats and snakes. In one such case, he was called to the house of a powerful, local politician to catch a snake.
A few days later, the house was robbed and valuables were stolen. Rajakannu became the prime suspect of the robbery. From that point onwards, Rajakannu and Senganni's lives turned upside down.
Throughout the movie we see utter insensitivity towards the outcastes by the so called upper castes. However, from the moment police started investigating the suspects of the robbery we witnessed a blind, discriminatory and corrupt judicial system.
As they tortured Rajakannu, alleging he was the only suspect, the bigoted and cruel cops blurred the line between investigation and bestiality.
Not only Rajakannu, but also Senganni and their companions were tormented in the jail as if they were nothing more than street cockroaches. The gore in those moments is enough to make anyone howl, and it poses the question: Has fairness ever existed in the world?
Seeing her husband's suffering for a crime he did not commit and the news of his sudden escape led Senganni to quest for justice all over the town. No lawyers supported her as social barriers kept Senganni away to see the light of even the bare minimum of justice.
Finally, we see the light at the end of the tunnel as the audacious yet humble advocate Chandru decides to take her case and stand against the whole justice system of Madras. The fiery anger in his eyes reflected his quest for justice against the oppressors, the corrupt and the powerful.
The role of Chandru is played by prominent South Indian actor Suriya who mesmerises us through his honest performance and also inspires us to learn more about the real incident. His portrayal of Chandru's struggles and triumphs against the Indian Criminal Justice Systems brings up that justice indeed prevails in the end.
Apart from Suriya the other cast members gave a stellar performance as well. Prakash Raj, the famous Indian actor was also part of this story who shone differently through his performance.
The excellent cinematography of S R Kathir detailed the suspense of different scenes. The cherry on the top was the melodious tamil songs, as sweet and fresh as the sugarcane.
Despite the fact that the film is almost three hours long, you will never consider skipping any moment.
TJ Gnanavel's outstanding script deserves much more praise, as only a few writers are capable of making a courtroom drama both impactful and entertaining at the same time.
There are similar riveting Tamil movies such as Visaranai (2015) and Nandhi (2021), and Jai Bhim has added another layer of excellence in the Tamil film industry.
However, because this type of film reaches a large percentage of the population, it is tremendously effective in raising public awareness of the atrocities committed against lower castes. Hence, the film industry should be creating more artworks like 'Jai Bhim'.
This film also makes us optimistic as we see beyond all the corrupted powerful people there are still people like Chandru who have dignity. So do watch this enticing story this weekend to get entertainment and education at the same time.