Based on the 1993 legal battle, which focused on the cruelties that the communities marginalized by caste face. The highly criticized Jai Bhim gained more controversy upon release than most films in the south.
From police protection to political upheaval, the movie, despite its strong social message and excellent reviews, has been shadowed in controversy after controversy.
Jain Bhim’s story centres on Rajakannu from the Irular tribe, who is wrongly accused of theft, arrested by the police, and beaten to death under police custody. The movie goes on the showcase the aftermath of his death after his wife Sengeni seeks the aid of advocate Chandru ( Suriya) to uncover the truth behind his treatment and bring justice to the people of the community.
The film focuses highly on the appalling treatment of people, often framed for crimes they did not commit and tortured under police custody and even lack the means to apply for essential government documentations. With the number one slot online, the film is produced by actor Suriya and directed by TJ Gnanavel.
The “slap scene triggered the Anti Hindu Twitter row.”
The film reportedly has a scene where actor Prakash raj is seen slapping a man for speaking ‘Speaking Hindi’. This created the first controversy, which saw a lot of backlashes on Twitter. People criticized this scene and asked for it to be removed as it propagated anti-Hindu agendas
While some defended the character stating that he slapped the person who was speaking in Hindi because the latter was evading difficult questions despite knowing the Tamil language.
Actor Prakash Raj responded to the controversy and said to News9 that people seeing the movie do not understand the agony of the tribal people, that they overlook the injustice and trauma but instead see the slap and use it to their plan.
Inappropriate Conceptualization of the Vanniyar community
Following the film’s release, PMK party chief Dr Ambumani Ramadoss wrote a letter to actor Suriya posing a series of questions about Jai Bhim.
He stated that south Indian movies often express hatred towards one particular community and are mostly made to insult the Vanniyar community. This is not freedom of expression but hatred towards a specific community.
The PMK leader also added that the film shows the ‘Agni Kundam’ (a pot of fire), a symbol associated with the Vanniyar caste in south India; he stated that the symbol was seen printed in the calendar at the house of the police officer who in the film tortures Rajakannu. He also added that the name used for the inspector in the movie resembles the late PMK leader J guru while the officer was in reality named Anthonysamy
Following the controversy, actor Suriya was provided with police protection and stated that he didn’t need to insult anyone for the sake of the film’s publicity. “When people who are not interested in the welfare of the poor gain authority, they tend to behave in exactly the same manner, irrespective of their caste, religion, language or region.
Through this film, we have raised questions against authority. I request you to not confine it to politics over names,” Suriya said.