The Vanniyar Sangam, on Monday, issued a legal notice to actor Suriya, his wife and actor-producer Jyotika, director T.J. Gnanavel and Amazon Prime, the makers of the movie Jai Bhim, seeking unconditional apology and demanding removal of scenes which allegedly shows the Vanniyar community in Tamil Nadu in poor light. They also demanded a compensation of Rs. 5 crore “within a period of seven days from the time and date of receipt of this notice.”
In the notice, Pu. Tha. Arulmozhi, president of Vanniyar Sangam, which was founded by Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), founder Dr. S. Ramadoss in the1980s, asked the makers of the movie to refrain from publishing malicious and defamatory remarks against the community. The notice has been sent by advocate K Baalu, who heads the PMK’s legal wing.
Observing that one of the cops in the movie, who tortures innocent tribals, has been given a Vanniyar name, the notice stated: “While the real names of all the other characters have been used in the film, the name of the sub-inspector has been deliberately changed and is called Gurumoorthy. In the real story, the sub-inspector who is involved in the custodial death of the undertrial was called Anthonysamy, who was Christian by religion.”
According to the Vanniyar Sangam, the name Gurumoorthy indirectly represents Kaduvetti J. Guru, former PMK strongman, who died a year ago.
The notice claimed as “malicious” the scene in which a calendar with the image of ‘agni kundam’, a symbol associated with the community, is shown. “The makers had kept the image in the calendar deliberately to defame the Vanniyars,” the forum said, and demanded that the calendar with the image be removed from the frame.
In a YouTube interview, former PMK strongman Kaduvetti Guru’s relative threatened that “if Suriya doesn’t apologise, we will burn theatres when his films are released.”
Earlier, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, Rajya Sabha MP and son of PMK founder leader Dr. S. Ramadoss, sent a series of questions to Suriya along the line of legal notice. After Anbumani’s questions to the actor and the makers of Jai Bhim, leaders from the Vanniyar community openly threatened Suriya and demanded an apology.
In his reply to Anbumani Ramadoss, Suriya said the core theme of the movie was how Justice K. Chandru fought a legal battle for the marginalised against those in power, and how justice was delivered. Taking social media, the actor said in a statement, “Through the film, questions have been raised against those in power. It should not be turned into a political issue.”
Suriya made it clear that neither he nor the Jai Bhaim team had any intention of insulting any community. “I hope you are aware that corrections were carried out as soon as some people pointed out mistakes.” The actor signed off his statement saying, "Let us all continue in our respective paths for equality and brotherhood to grow."
This is not the first time Ramadoss and his PMK targets an actor. The PMK had criticised Rajinikanth for "glamorising" smoking in his 2002 movie Baba. In a public meeting in August 2002, Ramadoss senior made caustic remarks against Rajinikanth. Cinema distributors had feared that there would be an attack by the members of the party. In retribution, Rajinikanth, in 2004, asked his fans to ensure the defeat of PMK in the assembly polls in all the six constituencies the party contested. The party lost the polls.
In 2015, the party slammed Dhanush for playing a ruffian who smokes and gets involved in fights in the movie Maari. PMK asked him to quit onscreen smoking. The party had claimed that this was part of their fight against tobacco and smoking.
Meanwhile, BJP’s H Raja, who is known for courting controversies, too criticised Suriya and called him “selfish". In a tweet he said, "The person who says that our children shouldn't study three languages (under NEP) will release his movie (Jai Bhim) in five languages. Let's understand the selfish lot."
While Baba and Maari, did not receive critical acclaim, Jai Bhim has been a super hit both among viewers and critics, crossing several million views in the very first week of its release.