Saturday, November 20, 2021

Jai Bhim

 Rating services are used to help us viewers decide where to spend our money or our time.  Some of us pride ourselves on ignoring them.  Well I am not one of them and am impressed with the very high ones although sometimes disappointed.  "Jai Bhim" (2021) has an IMDB rating higher than "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994) and I got my hopes up.  Good news, it deserves its rating and is available on Prime.  Last year my top film was also a Tamil one, "Peranbu"(2020):      

The adjective that most comes to mind is "powerful."  Throughout the film the main characters are referred to as tribal or Dalit (Untouchables). At first the script did resemble a folk tale, however it just set up the story.  Shocking to my western sensibilities was that they were shown hunting and preparing to eat rats.  Rasakunnu, a Dalit was called away from heavy labor to catch a snake that had intruded into an upper middle class home.  It was fascinating how he subdued the cobra like snake and when he prepared to release it he explained that they helped keep rats under control.  This experience was the basis for him later being accused of stealing jewelry.  The lady of the house couldn't find her jewelry and quickly the low caste snake catcher was the prime suspect.

He had left to do some work, but his wife and daughter were snatched in the middle of the night to be brutally questioned as to his whereabouts.  He was found and also brutally tortured and we later learned he never confessed.  Then I admit to some confusion as he disappeared from the story, but, we heard that he had escaped with two others and nobody could find him.  His pregnant wife with help from a village teacher sought help, but met rejections.  She finally found a crusading lawyer, Chandru (based on a real life character) who insisted she must tell him the truth.  The evidence as he first learned it was was very imposing with witnesses, and finger prints and more incriminating evidence would be brought forth.  What is discouraging is the legal establishment is very dismissive of his case.  Chandru had little regard for police and is able to disprove much.  However it turns out his client was caught in a lie and he is very fed up and plans to drop the case.  The teacher confesses it was her idea to with hold some evidence.  The lawyer follows up the new information with a long distance rail trip and it turns out to be a turning point.

There are no end of obstacles.  Corruption and brutality are big factors.  The police at one stage are concerned that their reputation is being sullied.  At one point the lawyer does work with a high police officer to show that many false confessions  are resulted from torture.  The torture is often to cover up corruption and pressure from higher ups.  India, like many other nations still suffers human injustices, but has come a long way. and this case would seem to have been a step in the right direction.  Check out an earlier blog on torture and its effects on the rest of us:

Of all the films I can recall this one has the most realistic dead body.  Dead bodies just generally lie there, with some sort of distortion, not breathing on camera, but pretty much like any other.  There was some sort of doubt whether this body was really dead.  Another body was revealed not to be dead by poring some chilies in his eyes.  However the second body which was shown closeup to the eye did not flinch.  I am sure it really wasn't chilies, but it was very realistic.

Another film from India about human rights was "Article 15" (2019).  Check

Films like this are not flukes.  Here are some short bits on some of the contributors.  Hopefully this will not be the only chance to view their work.

T. J. Gnanaval is the director and writer.  This is only his fourth script and his second directed film.

Jyothika, one of two producers, has a long career as an actress.   She started film acting in 1998, including  "Thambi" (2019) and "Ponmagal Vandhal" (2020) winning some national awards along the way.  "Jai Bhim" is her fourth as a producer.  Married to Suriya--see below.

Sean Roldan wrote the music.  He had developed a reputation for Carnatic music.  His birth name, Raghavendra Raj Rao comes from a family with a strong reputation with classical Indian music and wanted to break with the association.  In 2011 he picked Sean as a shortened version of Saniyam his maternal grandfather, a well known Tamil writer and grabbed Roldan from a Google search.   He started both playback singing and composing for films in 2014.  Much of the background music was performed by the Grand Philharmonic Orchestra in London.

Cinematography was handled by S. R. Kathir and was edited by Philoman Raj.

Suriya played the lawyer Chandru.  He made his first film, "Nerrukku Ner" (1997) produced by Mani Ratnam who gave him his stage name.  He started hits by 2002 and achieving national awards.  He was the original "Ghajini" (2005), a Tamil role later made famous by Bollywood star Aamir Khan.  He also starred in  "24"(2018) and " Soorarai Pottru" (2020) which was one of my top movies for last year.  He has produced 15 films to date with more scheduled.  He is married to Jyotika (see above) and they had been involved together with numerous films, including this one as Suriya joined his wife as producer.  Copying his father, he started the Agaram Foundation to provide funds for education in Tamil Nadu.  He has also helped the education of Sri Lankan Tamil students.  Another project of his is saving tigers.

Lijo Mol Jose played Senggeni, the wife of Raskannu.  This is her 10th movie having done movies in Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam.

Manikandan plays the unfortunate Raskannu, had done 9 previous films including "Vikram Vedha" (2017).  He also has written scripts including  "Vikram Vedha" and "Thambi" (2019).

Rajisha Vijayan played the teacher, Maithra who assisted Senggeni in her legal strategies.  She has mostly been in Maylayalam films including "June" (2019).

"Jai Bhim" was separately filmed in three languages.  Understand often the same scene is re shot in a different language.  In some cases different actors might be used.  I watched the Tamil version.

If you are too westernized you might find parts a bit too folksy and others may find it too long.  However if you like movies to make a point it really is a very powerful.

As usual I like to bolden first mention of movies I have seen.  Partly vanity, but also to assure you a familiarity with the cast and crew.

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