‘Jai Bhim’ movie review:

‘Jai Bhim’ movie review: Suriya is sincere, and the film is straightforward.

‘Jai Bhim’ movie review: There is a goosebumps-inducing scene in this almost three-hour-long film where a tribal woman — also the protagonist — turns her back on power, refusing to bend down to the system of supremacy that has literally plundered the benefits of their labour.

Looking at it just through the lens of masala traditions in Tamil film, it’s simply a “mass” scenario made for a Dalit character to let her to stare her oppressors in the eyes and say, “You cannot break me.”

Senggeni (Lijomol Jose), the wife of Rajakannu (Manikandan, in yet another superb performance), is given this stirring moment by her lawyer Chandru, who is waging a lonely struggle in the road to justice for her husband’s custodial torture and death (Suriya).

Or, more precisely, because of the support of a major Tamil film actor. Does it accurately represent reality? No. But, as a self-congratulatory, collective scene, does it work? Yes. It’s also a very fantastic stretch that expresses the intention that went into conceptualising such a location in the first place, owing to Sean Roldan’s pummeling music. However, something appears to be broken.

Jai Bhim trailer

However, something appears to be broken. At some level, either the desired impact on us or the scene building feels shallow.

This superficiality, however, stems from the awareness of having a Tamil movie star portraying a Saviour and leading from the front, rather than from Jai Bhim himself. Thanks to Suriya and, to a lesser extent, Tha Se Gnanavel, the film happily avoids succumbing to the Saviour Complex. Suriya, on the other hand, appears to be more of an ally in this scene.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the above image is a testament to the small sacrifices that must be made in order to mainstream stories of injustice and exploitation — all of which have now emerged from the Dalit movement.

Is it possible for us to forgive and forget this stream of awareness in exchange for these trade-offs? This is an excellent spot to pause for reflection. In the instance of Jai Bhim, the answer is both yes and no. However, these are issues that exist outside of the film.

Jai Bhim, on the other hand, is one of Tamil cinema’s most daring films. Most people would confuse its audacity with the film’s heinous violence, which depicts the worst of police brutality and incarceration torture (let me spare the details, but some of these scenes are really disturbing). But that isn’t the case. Consider the way it starts, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

A police officer segregates suspects depending on their caste in the first scene. “Nee endha aalu (who are you?)” he inquires. If they are Dalits or members of the tribal community, they are separated from the rest of the suspects, who are from the dominant and intermediate castes.

False allegations are levelled against Dalits; they are kidnapped and used by personnel in authority in order to settle open cases.

Perhaps more importantly, there has never been a contemporary Tamil film in which the names of powerful caste groups have been publicly disclosed, fearing the repercussions.

“Unga kudusai-ya kollutha evalavu neram aagum (how long do you think it’ll take for us to light your house on fire),” a member of the ruling caste group can be heard saying. But Jai Bhim does not ignore all of this. The politics here aren’t watered down; they’re forthright and take a hard look at things. It punches up rather than down.

This is a documentary that dissects the separate components of caste, law enforcement, and the legal system and puts them on trial.

The way Dalits and people from tribal tribes are exploited for their labour is another something Tha Se Gnanavel gets correctly. Rajakannu supports himself by producing bricks for his captors, but he is unable to construct a home for himself.

He is summoned if there are rats (or snakes) in the fields, but he is not permitted to touch or converse with a member of the dominant caste – he is shooed away by a woman when he claims they are from the same village.

We get to watch the numerous ways caste takes shape in Rajakannu’s life for about 40 minutes, and the irony plays out nicely, even though this may seem little callous.

When Rajakannu, along with three others, is taken into jail forcibly, Jai Bhim becomes a courtroom drama. Despite the length of the film, there is never a dull moment, and there is always something going on.

Even the courtroom scenes, which in another film may suffer from familiarity, brim with an unwavering vitality. Suriya portrays Chandru, a social activist-turned-lawyer who is based on a real-life person.

Suriya’s eyes are filled with seething rage throughout the film. But Suriya’s rage doesn’t turn him into a tyrant; it also demonstrates his dignity.

This concludes the merits. Let’s move on to the elephant in the room: If anything, Jai Bhim is a sombre but important addition to the lengthy line of oppression-themed films that, come to think of it, may not make it past the OTT crowd to reach its intended audience – in this case, the mostly disregarded Irular population.

Are we feigning self-congratulation by just bringing them to the notice of the general public? What can we do to close this gap?