Right in the opening scene, when a set of jail convicts are asked their respective castes before the next action follows, you know that this film’s intent is not to entertain, but to educate. Or rather to enlighten. Or better, to shake you. As a film, Jai Bhim for most parts is not just disturbing but deeply unsettling.
Jai Bhim, as the title suggests is not about Ambedkar or the movement championed by his followers. It is about the oppression of the under privileged for which Ambedkar fought all his life and how an individual probably inspired by Ambedkar takes up the causes of the oppressed communities to deliver justice through the legal system. The film magnifies and shows the evils of the caste system and how the protectors of the law namely the police themselves inflict more damage to an already caste inflicted society.
Jai Bhim as we are told, is based on a real life incident that happened in Tamil Nadu in 1995 and centres around a vigilante lawyer Chandru, played superbly by Surya. While the 1st half takes us into the lives of the tribal community and their day today sufferings and hence highly disturbing, the 2nd half is more like a court room drama in parts and an investigation thriller in parts.
It is a case where an innocent man belonging to a tribal caste is framed conveniently by the police and brutally tortured in custody along with two of his acquaintances. How the seemingly “Open and Shut” case as argued by the police is turned around and justice is done through the efforts of lawyer Chandru forms the story.
In the sense, you can say it is a sequel of sorts to Mari Selvaraj’s film Karnan in which again, people belonging to the underprivileged class are subjected to custodial torture the difference being, while in Karnan, the oppressed eventually fight back taking the law into their own hands in a matter of revenge seeking, in Jai Bhim, justice is sought through the legal process.
As the writer and Director, Gnanavel is fully in control of the proceedings as far as screenplay goes. He marshals the team around him that includes the cast and the technical crew very well. One cannot miss the extent of background research done in bringing the nativity around the lives of the tribal community very authentically.
Surya plays the role of a lawyer subtly well shunning mass heroisms thankfully. Along with him, Manikandan who plays the main tribal character lives the part. So is Lijomol Jose, who plays his wife. The camera work is top notch and in particular the steady cam shots used to capture the custodial torture scenes amplify the “effect”.
As I mentioned in my review of Sardar Uddham, anything in excess tends to cause a repel effect. In this film also, I thought that the scenes involving police excesses were excessive causing a repulsive churn in the stomach after a while. Though I feel that the Director’s intent could be just that. Of late, films are all too lengthy and here again I thought that the director could have cut it short by 10-15 minutes. Also in films now, the role of the opposing lawyer is so stereotyped and follows a set pattern.
Overall, Jai Bhim is kind of a film that makes you feel for the subject. It is not a watch and forget film. Kudos to Surya and Jyotika for bankrolling such an intense subject all the way with Surya also being part as the protagonist. Jai Bhim is a good watch. Watch it as it holds a mirror to the same society we are all part of.