Review: 'Jai Bhim' Leads The Viewer Away From Real Causes And Real Heroes
The overtly Hindu names on the side of the victim have been changed. The overtly Hindu names on the side of the perpetrators have been retained. And the Christian name of the main accused has been changed to a Hindu-sounding name.
That though, is only the tip of the deception-iceberg that is 'Jai Bhim'.
The deer of Maricha was beautiful. It was, in fact, more beautiful and alluring than a natural deer itself. But even so, it was an ominous beauty meant to lead the target to disaster and misery.
Jai Bhim provides an excellent case study for how the deer of Maricha operates through the mass visual media.
To begin with, it is a well-crafted movie.
The film centres around the fight for justice for a Scheduled Tribe community, whose member was wrongly accused of theft and gets brutalised by the police in lockup. A young Communist lawyer fights the case and wins against all odds.
It has been shown clearly in the Tamil social media space that the police officer who commits the crime as shown in the movie is a Vanniyar (with a clear caste-federation calendar in the background). He has been given the name 'Gurumurthi' – this is a not-so-subtle reference to the dominant and aggressive Vanniyar leader Kadu-Vetti Guru. The Censor Board, which had earlier blurred the portrait of a freedom fighter belonging to the Vanniyar community in the movie Draupadi, had allowed this negative depiction of a Vanniyar in the more emotionally crafted Jai Bhim.
In the real case, the police officer who committed the brutality was not a Hindu. His name was Anthonysamy – a Christian.
So why this change?
To this, some even ask—why make much of a name change?
The actor in the movie, Surya, even claimed that the calendar (the giveaway of the caste identity) was a mistake and nothing else. But a dialogue in the movie betrays the true intent behind it. The inspector, 'Guru', is shown to enjoy caste support. It is also shown that to counter this caste mobilisation, the Communists launch a counter 'people's movement'.
If the person is not Guru but Anthonysamy then what does the statement about the accused having the backing of the community mean?
The deceptions do not end here.
In the original case, the wife of the victim, who fought for justice, was Parvati. Her name has been changed. The name of one of the co-accused (victim) was Govindaraju. That too has been changed in the movie.
The overtly Hindu names on the side of the victim have been changed. The overtly Hindu names on the side of the perpetrators have been retained. And the Christian name of the main accused has been changed to a Hindu-sounding name. (Details of the original case can be seen here).
The role of the judge character is minimal, though in the case the movie is based on, the judge played an important role. The habeas corpus writ petition in the real case was dealt with by Justice P S Mishra. The man was a Gandhian and incidentally a Brahmin, and was a man of integrity and humanism. A prominent mentor of Justice Mishra was Jayaprakash Narayan. But then, highlighting these aspects of the judge in any way would be contrary to the narrative the movie was trying to build.
Also, in the original case, the community which the victims belonged to was the Kurava. Even this has been changed to the Irula community.
Pretty soon we know why.
As the end credits start rolling, we see a bunch of Claretian missionaries of the Catholic Church being thanked. These are a branch of missionaries who are into evangelizing the Irula communities. They use the schemes of the central government, like the 'Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana’ and make Irulas the beneficiaries; but all of this is executed through the hands of missionaries.
The Irula community are people with strong ties to Hindu Dharma. In 2008, this writer reviewed a book on Irulars. Irulars, while being a tribal community, had close relations with non-tribals too. They worship Sapta-Matrika, Rangaswamy and Siva. The rice pounded by them used to be offered to Siva in the famous temple of Alangadu.
But with the arrival of the mills and the weakening of traditional relations with the advent of British, they were declared a 'criminal tribe'.
In post-independent India those who fought for Irular rights included Kamaraj, Rajaji and Pasumpon Thevar.
Yet, a history of ‘caste-Hindu’ indifference as well as abuse of the tribal communities had to be constructed. And the discrimination practiced by the state machinery was somehow blamed on the ‘caste-Hindu’ structure.
What can be a better medium to further this narrative than a popular movie?
Already, a lot of Hindu social activists and organisations are working silently with the tribal communities. But their work is never based on victimhood narratives or on creating enmity between communities. On the other hand, Christian proselytising predicates itself on such narrative-building which puts the ‘oppressive caste-Hindus’ against the 'liberating missionaries-and-or-Marxists'.
Now think why the Kuravas were changed to Irulas. The memory of them being declared as an 'ST' by Modi government in 2016 may still be fresh. The recommendation to classify Narikuravas as a 'Scheduled Tribe' was initiated by Dr MGR in the '80s. But as late as 2013, the UPA, which was forced to bring a bill because of the agitations of the community, could not pass it.
It was the Modi government which ultimately fulfilled the long-standing demand of three important but highly marginalised tribal communities.
Clearly, every aspect that could create even a sense of social harmony has been avoided in the movie.
For a product of the Chennai film industry, the movie is extraordinarily well crafted – though compared to the similar ‘lawyer getting justice for the marginalised’ genre in Hollywood, its Chennai counterpart is still in infancy.
Ultimately though, Jai Bhim leads the viewer away from reality, from the real causes and from the real heroes. Unfortunately, when good people do not propagate the truth, such distortions are bound to spread and believed to be the truth instead.
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