Jai Bhim is a 2021 Indian Tamil-language legal drama film directed by T. J. Gnanavel and produced by Jyothika and Suriya under 2D Entertainment. The film stars Suriya, with Lijomol Jose, K. Manikandan, Rajisha Vijayan, Prakash Raj, Rao Ramesh and others in supporting roles. Based on a true incident in 1993, which involves a case fought by Justice K. Chandru, it follows Senggeni and Rajakannu, a couple from the Irular tribe.
When a tribal man is arrested for a case of alleged theft, his wife turns to a human-rights lawyer to help bring justice.
IMDb Rating 9.6/10
Movie Jai Bhim
Language Tamil (Hindi Dubbed)
Starring by Suriya.
Directed by T. J Gnanavel
Released Date 2 November 2021
In a scene in Jai Bhim, a group of tribals man meet a police office who is heading an inquiry commission about the disappearance of three missing tribals who were being interrogated by the police about a theft case. One man tells him that he was once arrested by cops just for greeting them. Another tells him about how he was arrested just because he tried to slink away fearing them. A woman narrates how her husband was forced to ‘confess’ to a crime which he had not committed after the cops started molesting her. A young boy mentions that the police picked him up just because they could not get his father, and how that one incident made him a perennial suspect at school. These people are clearly damned if they did, and damned if they didn’t.
This scene is an echo of the scene that opens the film. We see many prisoners being let out of prison. A few cops from the surrounding police stations are waiting. As each prisoner comes out, he is asked for his caste. If they mention a dominant caste’s name, they are asked to leave. But those who belong to a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe, they are told to stand in a corner, only for the waiting cops to pick them up as suspects in the many cases that remain unsolved in their station. When some of them complain that there are too few for them to foist cases on, they are told that they could accuses a few of committing more than one crime.
With scenes like these, Jai Bhim powerfully captures the abuse and humiliation that is heaped upon the underprivileged by those in power and the kind of defiance it will take to get them justice. Like Visaaranai and the recent Kavalthurai Ungal Nanban, the film is also a fierce criticism of police brutality. The plot revolves around Rajakannu (Manikandan) and Sengani (Lijomol Jose), a couple who live at Konamalai near Viluppuram. They belong to the Irular tribe, and despite their poverty – they still cannot afford a brick house – they are contented and happy. Especially with their daughter Alli going to school and a second child on its way.
But their happiness is dashed when cops come in search of Rajakannu over a robbery. The poor man has become the main suspect just because he happened to be the one who had visited the house where the robbery happened that day to catch a snake. Unable to find him, the police pick up the pregnant Sengani and a few other men from the tribe, including Rajakannu’s brother Irutappan. Sengani is later let go – not before being beaten and kicked multiple times – but for Rajakannu and a couple of others, there is no respite from the harrowing violence unleashed upon by the men in khakhi. When Sengani hears that the three men have escaped and their whereabouts unknown, she reached out to Chandru (Suriya), a righteous lawyer who fights for the downtrodden. But can they uncover the truth with an entire system standing against them?
Jai Bhim is an unexpected sophomore effort from TJ Gnanavel, who had previously directed the uneven drama Kootathil Oruvan. This is a film that is raw, real and brutal, with gritty filmmaking enhancing the solid writing. It effectively portrays the wrongs that are done to the underprivileged without seeming exploitative or overly melodramatic. Despite being one of the oldest communities in the country, these tribes do not even have any proof to show that they are its citizens and cannot even own a piece of the land. When Mythra (Rajisha Vijayan), a teacher who is part of an adult literacy programme, tries to get them a voter id, the local big shot, who belongs to a dominant caste, retorts, “Isn’t it enough we have to request the lower castes to vote for us? Should we also go to the homes of these fellows?”
Gnanavel gives us some terrific moments of defiance. Lijomol Jose is quietly powerful as Sengani, who gets a couple of rousing scenes when she turns down efforts at a compromise from cops. Manikandan, too, is effective and stands out in the scene when he urges his men to not give in as that will result in their community being branded as criminals. The director also portrays the intimacy between Sengani and Rajakannu in a charming manner.
The film is based on a real-life incident involving Justice K Chandru, from his days as a lawyer. Suriya plays this role with the right amount of intensity and earnestness, which helps the character seem grounded even while the film and Sean Roldan’s score try to build him up as a can-do-no-wrong superhero. In fact, his introduction scene wouldn’t be out of place in a masala movie. But after Soorarai Pottru, this is another notable film for the star as a performer.
And his scenes with Prakash Raj, who plays the inquiry commission head, Perumalsamy, give us calm and composed dialogue that act as a counterpoint to the flinching violence and the moving melodrama. The latter lends the role with a great deal of dignity to a character who believes one has to take up a little bit of authoritarianism to protect democracy. So, we have a lawyer who considers the police as the worst and a cop who finds lawyers the worst working together to ensure justice is done. Through these scenes, Gnanavel – as one of the judges in the film mentions – shows how justice can be upheld when law and order work hand in hand.
There are only a couple of missteps. After a point, the violence begins to feel like torture porn, even though the film presents these episodes as flashbacks of events that happened over a day or two. And in a narrative sense, Chandru’s efforts to unravel the mystery and his battle in court feels somewhat easier because there are no strong antagonists. Both Rao Ramesh as the advocate general and Guru Somasundaram as the public prosecutor never come across as formidable foes for Chandru in court. That said, as Chandru unravels one cover-up after another, the film makes us realise the extent to which unchecked power can go to maintain status quo.
But these doesn’t lessen the emotional impact of the film, which, along with films like Visaaranai, Kirumi and Kavalthurai Ungal Nanban, is a much-needed antidote to restore the balance in portrayals of the police in an industry overrun by the Singams and the Saamys.
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