Tamil film Jai Bhim, streaming on Amazon Prime Video, begins with a repulsive scene of a police officer differentiating suspects on the basis of their caste. Dalits are picked and slapped with false charges to bring closure to pending complaints.
Rajakannu, enacted by Manikandan, is falsely accused of theft in the house of an upper caste. And then we are subjected to very disturbing violent scenes of police brutality and custodial torture meted out to the so-called lower caste people. Manikandan gives such a brilliant performance that we take it for real the sufferings.
Senggeni, the pregnant wife of Rajakannu, boldly takes upon her to fight for justice and the release of her husband. Malayalam actor Lijomol Jose, portraying Senggeni, gives an underplayed but endearing performance bringing to life struggles of a woman from a tribal community in seeking justice
There are two other better known Malayalam actors, Rajisha Vijayan and Sibi Thomas, in supporting roles.
Lijomol Jose is not weighed down by the presence of a star like Suriya who comes to the aid of her character Senggeni as a saviour in the form of her lawyer Chandru. Suriya gives a dignified performance. There are no superstar scenes.
The story moves forward with Chandru filing a habeus corpus petition on behalf of Senggeni to produce the body alive or dead of her husband Rajakannu who was said to be missing from police custody.
The police fabricate a false case to hide the truth about the missing Rajakannu. To unravel the truth lawyer Chandru doubles up as crime investigator.
The familiar court room drama rolls out. But the progress holds our attention despite the movie becoming a bit too lengthy by then. Credit goes to the director Gnanavel for an honest account based on true incidents of a close-to three-decade old case. Has there been a real upliftment of the downtrodden since then? Not really. The Dalits, the underdogs of our times, continue to suffer from institutionalised caste system and its inherent biases and this movie brilliantly portrays this bitter fact.