Based on a real-life incident of1993, Jai Bhim is a Surya starrer that deals with how Rajakannu from the Irular tribe is wrongly accused of theft and dies in police custody, following which his wife Sengeni approaches advocate Chandru to help her in the case to get justice.
The film gained massive appreciation from fans and fellow actors of the community, which made it surpass the IMDb ratings of the Shawshank Redemption and Godfather. There was also a downside to the film as controversies started springing up on a few of its scenes. Owing to the violent responses to the controversies, Actor Suriya Sivakumar was provided with police protection on 16 November, at his residence in Chennai’s T Nagar.
Here are all the controversies that the film has been tainted with:
- Anti-Hindi sentiments from a ‘slap’
The first of the many controversies began from a particular scene in the movie where Prakash Raj playing a cop, slaps a man for speaking in Hindi and urges him to speak in Tamil. A section of people criticized this on social media, calling this a portrayal of “anti-Hindi” sentiments.
However, another section of social media defended the scene, saying that the man knew both Hindi and Tamil and was using Hindi to avoid difficult questions from the cop.
The actor Prakash Raj on 7 November, responded to the controversy and said that the outrage ‘exposes the agenda’ of those criticizing it. He said, “After watching a film like Jai Bhim, they did not see the agony of the tribal people, they did not see and feel terrible about the injustice, but they only saw the slap. That is all they understood. This exposes their agenda.”
- PMK’s allegations: Vanniyars aren’t portrayed properly
The controversy that followed was sparked by Dr. Anbumanai Ramadoss, PMK chief, who wrote a letter asking questions about Jai Bhim.
He said that in a scene in the film, the symbol of Vanniyars, an Agni Kundam was printed on a calendar in the very policeman’s house, who tortures Rajakannu.
The PMK leader also added that the movie had retained the original names for most characters but for the sub-inspector who had beaten Rajakannu to death, it was changed to Gurumoorthy which reminded people of the late PMK leader J Guru.
He alleged that many films insult the Vanniyar community and Jai Bhim is no exception. He called this, not freedom of expression but hatred towards a community.
Anbumani said, “Regardless of who is involved, when repression is unleashed on people it is not acceptable and we all will fight together against it.”
- Suriya’s response to the letter
A day after this letter was published, actor Suriya issued a response in which he affirmed that neither his team nor he had any intention of offending any community.
“Neither my team nor I have ever harbored any intention at any point in time to insult any individual or community as mentioned by you in your letter. I hope you are aware that corrections were carried out as soon as some people pointed out mistakes.”
Talking about how a film is not a documentary, he agreed with the PMK leader’s opinion that no community must be insulted in the name of creative freedom. “In the same spirit, I believe you too will accept that creative freedom must be protected from threats,” his statement read.
“When people who are not interested in the welfare of the poor gain authority, they tend to behave in 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.
The actor added that he didn’t need to insult anybody for the sake of publicity.
- PMK’s cadre stops screening of the movie
The political controversy escalated when on 14th November, a group of PMK cadres forcibly stopped the screening of the movie in a theatre in the Mayiladuthurai district. The district secretary Paneerselvam’s announcement of a reward of 1 lakh for those how to attack Suriya when he enters the district made the Tamil Nadu police book him under five sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This includes non-bailable sections.
The legal notice also asked those behind the film to “cease from making or publishing any false, malicious and defamatory remarks against (the Vanniyar) community and its people.” They also demanded Rs 5 crore as compensation for “denigrating the community”.
- #WeStandWithSuriya Trends on Twitter
Meanwhile, support has been pouring in for Suriya and the makers of Jai Bhim from both fans and film stars alike.
Director Vetri Maaran of Asuran and Vada Chennai fame tweeted, “It’s only natural these films cause angst amongst those who don’t want the status quo to change. #WeStandWithSuriya.”
Actor Siddharth tweeted, “We stood with Kamal Haasan. We stood with Vijay. We stand with Suriya. “We” represents anyone who believes it is cowardice to threaten an artist or the exhibition of artistic creation over differences of opinion or personal animosity.” I stand with the makers of #JaiBhim”.
Other support and tweets too floated in.
- Suriya deposits 10 lakhs for the real-life wife of Rajakannu
Actor Suriya on Sunday stated that he has deposited Rs 10 lakh to the wife of Rajakannu.
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) founder Thol Thirumavalavan appreciated the film. Suriya responded that he was happy that the VCK was continuously fighting for tribals, who are a minority in Tamil Nadu.
“As you have said, we are happy that Chief Minister MK Stalin has taken immediate action on the long-term problems faced by tribals.
The reason for making Jai Bhim is to shed light on their problems and bringing them under the spotlight is possible only through art. Only government and political movements can create actual social change,” he said.
The actor tweeted on 17 November thanking his fans for their “overwhelming” support.
“Dear all, this love for Jai Bhim is overwhelming. I’ve never witnessed this before! Can’t express in words how thankful I am for the trust and reassurance you all have given us. Heartfelt thanks for standing by us,” he wrote.