Jai Bhim: How Did It Snowball Into A Caste Controversy?

Image Credits: Twitter/Tribal Army 

The Logical Indian Crew

Jai Bhim: How Did It Snowball Into A Caste Controversy?

The Vanniyar community comprises of more than 25% of Tamil Nadu's population. Due to this, they have a powerful presence in the state's political dynamics, with Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) at the forefront channelling the community's rights by demanding 20% reservation.

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Recently, Tamil actor Suriya has been in the news. His movie, 'Jai Bhim', became the talk of the town for its social commentary on Tamil Nadu's caste dynamics. It revolves around a case in 1993 handled by the former Madras High Court judge, Justice K Chandru. A member of the Irular tribe was wrongly accused of theft, subjected to brutal torture in police custody that led to his demise. The now-controversial film highlights the atrocities backward communities go through in the state.

It became the talk of the town soon after its release. The film received rave reviews, where Suriya's portrayal of the hero advocate was lauded. Along with this, 'Jai Bhim' was ranked above 'The Shawshank Redemption' and 'The Godfather' on IMDb.The accolades were soon overshadowed with merciless condemnation.

Jai Bhim Versus Vanniyars

A backward community from Northern Tamil Nadu called 'Vanniyar' slammed it for showing their tribe in the wrong light. According to the Hindustan Times, Vanniyar Sangam issued a notice against the film's makers and Amazon Prime, seeking damages of ₹5 crores within seven days.

The problem arose because of the policeman's name. The sub-inspector's name is Gurumurthy in the film. The notice states that it is related to a prominent Vanniyar leader J Guru, tarnishing the community's image. "Deliberately, you have changed the name of the sub-inspector of police, who tortured victim in police custody," Hindustan Times quoted the notice.

However, this conflict took an ugly turn. Vanniyar political outfit, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), stormed a theatre in Tamil Nadu's Mayiladuthirai district to stop the screening. A bounty of ₹1lakh was put on Suriya's head as a reward for whoever attacked him. The actor's T Nagar residence in Chennai now has police protection.

Who Are The Vanniyars?

The Vanniyar community are incredibly prevalent in Northern Tamil Nadu. Historically, they are seen as agricultural labourers. Today, they form more than 25% of the state's population and have immense political influence. The PMK is a political party formed out of the caste that is popular in the state.

Formerly known as 'Palli', Vanniyars derive their name from 'Vahni', which yields to the Tamil word 'Vanni', meaning fire.

In the 1980s, the Vanniyar Sangam started state-wide agitation, demanding 20% reservation for the community. It was only after this that it went from being a Backward Tribe to being a part of Most Backward Classes (MBC). However, they are infamously known for inciting violent protests against Dalits on several occasions.

Not Shying Away From Uncomfortable Topics

Using films to shed light on serious issues is nothing new for the Tamil film industry. Dhanush starrer 'Karnan' is loosely based upon the caste riots in the state in 1995.

Vetrimaaran's 'Visaranai' (interrogation) is a film about police brutality where three migrant workers are apprehended for a crime they did not commit. Released in 2016, it became India's official entry to the Academy Awards that year. For a film industry that strongly glorifies the police force's actions, this was seen as a breath of fresh air that asked uncomfortable questions to the filmgoing audience.

Over the years, filmmakers like Vetrmaaran, Pa Ranjith, Mari Selvaraj, etc., have paved the way to represent the backward communities in a different light. Showing their plight on-screen acquaints people with their troubles. Being the mirror of society, cinema plays a huge role in telling an impactful story to the people. The need of the hour is tolerance. The Jai Bhim controversy paints a bigger and unfortunate picture about how the country perceives media content.

Also Read: Scheduled Caste Panel Demands 'Strict Action' Against Villagers For Banning Dalit Sikh's Cremation


Contributors Suggest Correction
Writer : Akanksha Saxena
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Editor : Ankita Singh
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Creatives : Akanksha Saxena