Robert Nozick warned: Individuals have rights and these are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their right). So strong and far-reaching are these rights that they raise the question of what, if anything the State and its officials do.
The conscious, if symbolic, shift from a colonial system of governance to a Constitutional form seemingly marked the entry of India into a contemporary understood civilised world of democracy. What we inherit is hard to overcome. Thus, our democracy has visible vestiges of an accountable power.
There is an ever-disappearing line between the use, abuse and misuse of power and here even a little power corrupts absolutely.Increasingly, here and elsewhere, life is but a number and if you belong to the socio-economically downtrodden, you are not even a whole number.
Director TJ Gnanavel offers a wonderful cinematic experience to those who see cinema as a social document. Reminiscent of Govind Nihlani’s ‘Aakrosh’ and the 1981 Revathi-starrer ‘Ankuram’, interestingly, this could be a one-of-its kind film dealing with the life of a real-time lawyer who went on to become a judge of the High Court and a highly-respected and distinguished one at that.
‘Jai Bhim’ deals with the trials and tribulations of a family whose bread winner Rajanna (Manikandan), a tribal, is falsely implicated on charges of theft. He belongs to the local Irular tribe. In the meanwhile, Rajanna leaves his wife Sinathalli (Lijomol Jose), pregnant with his third child, and other members of his family in search of employment at a brick kiln. Falsely implicated in the theft case, Rajanna, along with two other locals, are detained by the local police. Sinathalli is sent on a wild goose chase to find her husband and know his safety.
She finally reaches out to Chandru (Surya), a lawyer who is also a civil liberties activist and thus seen as a nuisance by the establishment. Against great odds and in the midst of systemic aggression, he has a huge battle ahead of him. Fortunately for him, the habeas corpus writ petition comes up before a panel (Justice PS Mishra in the real case) willing to take a humanistic view of the matter. However, full credit to the filmmaker for ensuring that it is kept as a political thriller ensuring at all times that the viewer is engrossed in the narrative. Kudos to the filmmaker for telling a human rights violation tale in times like these. Kudos to the local establishment which did not raise challenges for the filmmaker and to the Certification Authority for permitting its exhibition. There is hope.
Everyone in the cast – from Lijomol, Manikandan, Prakash Raj (as IG Perumal Swami), Rao Ramesh (as Advocate General), Shanker Sundaram, Sanjay Swaroop – gave their best. It is so welcoming to see a star, renouncing all his stardom, take on a realistic role and give the film a certain space at the box office. Full marks to Surya for agreeing to and then delivering a studied performance as the angry lawyer. Justice Chandru (retd.) must be a happy man. A great move indeed, which needs to be encouraged.
For content, for cause, for credibility and for sheer quality, kudos to ‘Jai Bhim’. Go for it. As a viewer, we, too, have a responsibility to encourage good cinema. …