Jai Bhim review: Suriya shines in this gripping milestone in Tamil cinema

Jai Bhim is a hard-hitting, powerful and brutal real-life story


As the film opens, a few tribal men emerge one after the other from a prison. They are herded into a police van and taken away. The men are then charged with crimes they did not commit. The IG of Police, responding to pressure from his political bosses, resolves to close all pending cases in Tamil Nadu. The tribals fall easy prey to the police inspector’s ploy.

The film is set in Kammapuram, a village in the Virudhachalam district, 225km north of Chennai. Rajakannu, a man from the tribal community, is taken into custody by the police for a theft case. He is then found dead. Jai Bhim is set in this backdrop. Rajakannu (played by Manikandan) and his wife Senkanni (played by Lijomol Jose) are Irula tribes living in one of the most backward regions of the state. One day, Rajakannu goes out to work for one of the village heads. His job is to catch a snake in the latter's home (Irula tribes are known as expert snake catchers). Days later, a burglary happens in the residence. Police go on the lookout for Rajakannu. They take his wife and other relatives into custody, and they are tortured. After the police find Rajakannu, they ask him to confess to the crime, and torture him once again. After that, the police officers state that Rajakannu and his two other relatives escaped from the lockup. 

The film then moves on to the struggles of Senkanni in the courtroom. Advocate Chandru (Suriya) takes up the case. What happens to the case and Rajakannu makes up the rest of the story. 

Director Tha. Se. Gnanavel should definitely be appreciated for taking up the cause of Irula tribes, who are a semi-nomadic ethnic group without even a community certificate or recognition from the government. Bringing it into mainstream cinema is altogether a new effort. Gnanavel has carefully sculpted each scene, as he tells the story by standing in the shoes of those affected. In the scenes where the Irula tribes are picked up by the police, the audience themselves feel like as if they are being taken away by the police for enquiry. The dialogues and acting are very emotive.

In the beginning, it might seem like a documentary, talking about the tribes, but after the first half an hour, the movie takes a different turn when Senkanni comes to fight for her rights and find her husband. It may be called a courtroom drama. But the crux is caste atrocities and police brutality.

Lijomol Jose as Senkanni, in her lonely battle for justice, delivers a stunning performance. And when she turns her back and refuses to bow to the system of dominance and power, her execution is stellar.

Suriya is also a brilliant watch. He moves out of this comfort zone as an actor and lives the character of advocate Chandru. If you had watched Suriya as an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to launch an airline in Soorarai Pottru, Jai Bhim is a different beast entirely. Gnanavel has played out every scene and every frame emphatically, driving home a point on police high-handedness and how it affects the lives of common people. 

Two other strong aspects of the film are cinematography and background music. The songs travel with the story to make the script that much stronger. 

There is bold depiction of police brutality and custodial torture in Jai Bhim. Sometimes, the boldness can become slightly disturbing. But Jai Bhim is not a film that can be forgotten after emerging out of the theatres. It creates a deep scar. It is not your usual film, but a milestone in Tamil cinema. 

Rating: 4/5


Cast: Suriya, Rajisha Vijayan, Prakash Raj, Lijo Mol Jose, Manikandan, Rao Ramesh


Director: Tha. Se Gnanavel


Released on: Amazon Prime 

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