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Jai Bhim review: Suriya's film is a hard-hitting story of police brutality and the fight for the oppressed

Release Date: 02 Nov 2021 / Rated: A / 02hr 44min

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Haricharan Pudipeddi

While the story is set in 1995, the film points out how nothing much has changed even today in the lives of these people.

TJ Gnanavel’s Jai Bhim (2021) will go down as one of the most important films in Suriya’s career. I use the term 'most important' consciously, because this is one of those rare occasions where the star has not flexed his muscles or displayed his heroism, letting his co-stars steal the spotlight instead. In other words, Suriya has been the guiding light of Jai Bhim, which has been produced under his own banner, and deserves to be lauded for backing such a powerful film about police brutality and the fight for the oppressed.

Jai Bhim opens with a controversial scene and you couldn’t ask for a more hard-hitting impact at the very beginning. We see a group of people just released from a local jail. Their family members are waiting patiently to receive them. As they walk out, they are stopped to inquire about their caste. Those from the so-called lower castes are asked to stay back, booked in pending cases and handed over to the local police who pay the prison officer to take them away.

Cut to the film’s central characters — Sengenni (Lijomol Jose) and Rajakannu (Manikandan), a young couple from the Irular tribe, a hunting community. When Rajakannu is convicted in a false case of robbery and later goes missing in police custody; his wife seeks the help of advocate Chandru (Suriya).

Jai Bhim talks about the state of the oppressed and though the story is set in 1995, the film points out how even today nothing much has changed when it comes to the lives of these people.

In Jai Bhim, the men in khaki are bestowed with power, which in turn makes them The System and nobody, from the most influential person to a daily-wage earner, can escape its clutches. Within The System, power varies from the high-ranking official to the lowest in the hierarchy. An inspector can't question his superior when told to do something and there is no right or wrong in the way it is done.

The film is an honest, spine-chilling take on these powerful people and how they abuse their power to get their jobs done. In the process, they use their power on the oppressed, the voiceless people.

Jai Bhim and Vetrimaaran’s award-winning film Visaranai (2016) have so much in common. Both films are primarily about police brutality and the flawed justice system in India. Jai Bhim also talks about caste-based discrimination without trying to sugarcoat it. One of the highlights of Jai Bhim is the court sequences which have been shot in realistic fashion.

Suriya brings so much of earnestness to his performance and plays the role of a lawyer with maturity, ensuring that his star image never comes in the way. It’s Manikandan who stuns you with a gut-wrenching performance. Most of his scenes take place in the interrogation room and he brings out the helplessness of his character effectively. Lijomol as the lone woman facing off an entire system is one of the best casting choices in recent times in Tamil cinema.

Jai Bhim will be premiered on Amazon Prime Video on 2 November.


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