Title: Jai Bhim
Cast: Suriya, Prakash Raj and others
Director: TJ Gnanavel
How do you portray an activist-lawyer in a legal procedural that is also a social drama? Director TJ Gnanavel shows the way. For all the slow-motion shots and subtle elevation of Suriya’s Lawyer Chandru, the film doesn’t fall into the ‘Vakeel Saab’ (the Telugu remake of ‘Pink’) trap. Chandru (who is a real-life lawyer) has got no anger issues. He is sharp-witted and yet doesn’t waste his time delivering punchlines. His focus is on securing justice for victims whose plight reminds us of filmmaker Vetrimaaran’s acclaimed drama ‘Visaranai’, once again a Tamil film.
The story is set in 1995 and takes off after introducing us to the Irular community that inhabits a village. The President of the village is feudalistic and deems tribal community unfit of his empathy because he admittedly doesn’t owe them his position. Rajakannu (Manikandan), a poor tribal, is rounded up along with his acquaintances Mosakutty and Irutappan when a jewel gets stolen at the President’s house. While the three men are innocent, they are traumatized and subjected to unspeakable custodial torture (the scenes are sure to shock you and leave you teary-eyed). Senganni (Lijomol Jose as Rajakannu’s wife) and Mythra (Rajinisha Vijayan as a teacher who schools illiterate tribals) approach Chandru, urging him to fight for the victims.
The film’s sincere performances are its knockout feature. Suriya’s restrained performance is animated by the setting and the earnest mood. Prakash Raj as IG Perumalswamy is easily the next best performer despite the fact that he hasn’t got as many scenes as Lijomol. Rao Ramesh, who is mostly known for his awesome performances in Telugu films, is fabulous in a negative role.
Since the drama takes the form of an investigative thriller when it is not being a courtroom procedural, the viewer is hooked even if he finds the social commentary (most of it understated) quite familiar. The film is made all the more immersive by SR Kathir’s cinematography, while Sean Roldan’s music is impressive as well.
Without jumping into Chandru’s introduction headlong, ‘Jai Bhim’ first gives a taste of the simple and honest lives that the likes of Rajakannu lead as snake-catchers et al. It’s also highly commendable that the film neatly shows, without resorting to complicated monologues, how a Habeas Corpus petition hearing metamorphosed into a trial in 1995. Lines such as ‘It’s no mere judgement, it’s hope’ capture the essence of the fight that Chandru is waging against the insensitive system.
Suriya was not supposed to play Chandru but it’s good that he got on board. Dialogues like ‘He looks into the wrongdoings of the cops’ wouldn’t have sounded as effective with a non-star playing the defense lawyer. ‘Vakeel Saab’ overdid the elevation of Pawan Kalyan’s lawyer character this April. ‘Jai Bhim’, without attempting to be a superstar vehicle, packs a punch with elan.