Jai Bhim: Sparking a crucial debate

Films such as Jai Bhim has flipped the gaze on caste-oppressed communities, chronicled their assertion — while courting commercial success and critical plaudits
Jai Bhim shows the struggle of a marginalised tribe, the Irulars, against police violence and custodial torture, helped by a young lawyer PREMIUM
Jai Bhim shows the struggle of a marginalised tribe, the Irulars, against police violence and custodial torture, helped by a young lawyer
Updated on Nov 09, 2021 07:21 PM IST
Copy Link
ByHT Editorial

Are films primarily modes of entertainment or do they hold the power to effect social change? The success of the Tamil movie, Jai Bhim, has brought this debate back into focus. Jai Bhim is the latest in a recent string of socially conscious movies on caste from Tamil Nadu, a list that includes Pariyerum Perumal (2018), Asuran (2019) and 2021’s Sarpatta Parambarai, among others. Together, this oeuvre has flipped the gaze on caste-oppressed communities, chronicled their assertion and oppressive caste groups and structures — while courting commercial success and critical plaudits.

Jai Bhim shows the struggle of a marginalised tribe, the Irulars, against police violence and custodial torture, helped by a young lawyer. The film makes three important points. One, though the British-era Criminal Tribes Act has long been repealed, its effect on police attitudes remains pervasive and authorities continue to use the “habitual offender” moniker to criminalise some groups. Two, custodial violence and brutality is not only rife, but also the harshest against marginalised people. And three, despite hurdles, anti-caste ground activism can move the needle on justice.

As films like Aakrosh (1980) and My Brother Nikhil (2005) have shown, films can spark a conversation on ignored issues, but often don’t have the power to implement structural changes. Four decades after India was shocked by Aakrosh, the precarity of peasants and labourers is, in some ways, even more dire. Yet, as other hits like Sairat (2015) show, jolting society out of its slumber can also help some people (in this case, inter- caste couples). In the short-term, at least, that is enough.

Enjoy unlimited digital access with HT Premium

Subscribe Now to continue reading
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Topics
Close Story
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, December 05, 2021