Streaming on Amazon Prime 2nd November 2021
Before dissecting Jai Bhim it is necessary to give a huge round of applause to the pair of Surya and Jyotika for producing a film of this sort. Director T.S Gnanvel uses Surya’s role of a firebrand lawyer to talk about the horrors of custodial torture and the deep- seated rot in our criminal system. The role of Surya is based on the real life lawyer Chandru who fought for the downtrodden. The director makes sure that the actor’s star power doesn’t over power the narrative. It also helps that Surya blends in with the narrative. He delivers his lines with absolute conviction and makes you believe that he really believes in them. The breakthrough performance though comes from Lijo Mol Jose as Sengani.
The film begins off in the year 1994. You have a couple who belong to a tribal community called Irulas, it is a tribal community in Chennai. They are living a life of dignity and have dreams of a successful future. One day theft happens in the president’s house and Sengani’s husband Rajkannu (Manikandan) is framed as a thief. From here on we see the open showcase of police brutality, atrocities and the game of power that crushes the marginalized. The scenes of the police atrocities are blood-curdling but they still need to be watched for the way it showcases the reality. The other important members of the cast include Prakash Raj and Rao Ramesh. Prakash Raj on one hand is the righteous police officer who becomes an ally for Surya later on; Rao Ramesh on the other hand is the lawyer who will go to any lengths to protect the evil police officers.
The best part of Jai Bhim is how the director builds up the characters of the couple. There is no big rush to introduce the character of Surya. As a result you journey with these characters and when tragedy strikes your heart goes out for them. However, the issue here is not confined to the couple only. The bigger picture is how so many men and women of that community are subjected to all this. Their only fault being born as Irulas.
There are many scenes in the film which shake your conscience. A scene which deserves a particular mention is the opening act. You see the police officers literally segregating people based on caste. This scene sets the tone for what is to follow.
Sean Roldan’s music tells a story of its own. The songs are not mere fillers but they move the story forward. The best example of this is the song which is used to establish what the character of Surya stands for.
Jai Bhim has also got some subtle humor. Most of this comes from MS Bhaskar who plays a Brahmin lawyer. His character is of someone who subscribes only to faith and has no ideology. We mostly see him pass comments on the proceedings. Some of his comments raise chuckles.
The cinematographer SR Karthir also deserves appreciation for the way he captures the atmospherics of both the court scenes and also the Irula village.
The biggest achievement of Jai Bhim is how T.J Gnanavel is successful in achieving the balancing act. He is able to do equal justice to the characters of both Sengani and Chandru.
Out of the rest Rao Ramesh makes a meal out of his negative role. He is successful in making you hate him. His scenes with Surya elevate the courtroom proceedings.
By the end of Jai Bhim you will clap for the real life Chandru and want to find out more about him.