Vanniyar Sangam takes Jai Bhim to court, alleges defamation, seeks punishment

Nov 23, 2021 05:03 PM IST

Vanniyar Sangam’s president T Arulmozhi has filed a private complaint before the second judicial magistrate in Tamil Nadu’s Chidambaram district against the film’s main actor Suriya, who also produced the movie with his wife Jyothika

Vanniyar Sangam, the parent body of the Tamil Nadu-based political party PMK, an ally of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has taken legal action against the makers of the Tamil-language film Jai Bhim, alleging that it portrays the Vanniyar community in bad light.

A sanitation worker walks past a poster of actor Suriya from the film Jai Bhim in Chennai. (AFP/File)
A sanitation worker walks past a poster of actor Suriya from the film Jai Bhim in Chennai. (AFP/File)

Vanniyar Sangam’s president T Arulmozhi has filed a private complaint before the second judicial magistrate in Tamil Nadu’s Chidambaram district against the film’s main actor Suriya, who jointly produced the movie along with his wife Jyothika under the banner 2D Entertainment. The complaint also names director TJ Gnanavel and OTT platform Amazon Prime Video, which released the legal drama earlier this month.

In the complaint, Arulmozhi urges the court to proceed against the accused for airing offensive scenes and also to punish them under sections 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), 153A (1) (promoting enmity between different groups), 499 (defamation), 500 (punishment for defamation), 503 (criminal intimidation), 504 (intentional insult with intent to breach peace) and 505 (statements conducing public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code.

The organisation had earlier sent a legal notice to the makers of the film, claiming that the Vanniyar community was wrongly portrayed in the movie.

The case was eventually filed after Jai Bhim’s makers didn’t tender an unconditional apology as demanded by Vanniyar Sangam.

Also Read: Suriya thanks fans ‘for standing by us’ amid police protection at Chennai house

“The accused persons’ reckless depiction of the Vanniyar community in poor light, with villainous and criminal bent of mind, has delivered an irreparable dent to the hitherto earned high reputation of the community with one deadly blow… [with the] accused film wiping out all goodwill the Vanniyar community has enjoyed so far from all other communities,” the petition filed on Tuesday said.

“Accused persons have created communal issues, criminal intimidation between the people, and also provoke breach of peace by inciting violence among the people in the state of Tamil Nadu,” the petition said.

The petition also says that a Chidambaram police station had refused to register a complaint filed on the same issue earlier, after which a complaint was filed in Cuddalore. But no action was taken.

The film Jai Bhim fictionalises a real-life case of a tribal man, Rajakannu, who was falsely implicated in a theft case and died in custody following police torture in 1993. The film narrates how his wife and retired high court justice K Chandru fought for justice.

The case Rajakannu vs. State of Tamil Nadu eventually resulted in three policemen being sentenced to 14 years of rigorous imprisonment for Rajakannu’s death.

Among the multiple issues raised, the petition argues that the movie retains the real names of all the characters but changed the name of the sub-inspector who had tortured the victim in police custody from his real name Anthonysamy to Gurumurthy.

The petition claims he was “repeatedly referred to as guru”, which could seemingly be a reference to the community’s late leader J Guru.

“The accused have projected the said wicked person, a wrongdoer, as if he belonged to the Vanniyar community, thereby imputing that the members of the Vanniyar community are prone to commit wrong and illegal things, while in real life, the said sub-inspector did not belong to the Vanniyar community,” the petition says.

The complainant argues that freedom of expression cannot be used to defame a particular community and earn substantial revenue by “distorting facts”.

The complainant also says the film’s dialogue writer Kanmani Gunasekaran returned his remuneration saying facts had been suppressed, and consent was not taken from the real-life widow Parvathy.

In an interview to HT last week, retired Justice Chandru had said that among those alive from the real case, only his name and police officer I Periyasamy’s names have been retained besides the names of the deceased, Rajakannu.

The controversy first erupted when PMK leader and former union minister Anbumani Ramadoss shot off a letter to actor Suriya demanding answers over the film’s controversial narrative.

Suriya clarified that the film was intended to show the real-life struggle of Justice Chandru.

Director Gnanavel also released a statement recently, saying the movie was not intended to target or shame a particular person or a community.

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    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is presently Assistant Editor of the Hindustan Times where she covers Tamil Nadu & Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote prime time news bulletins. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, child and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a journalism fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship at Singapore and the KAS Media Asia- The Caravan for narrative journalism. Divya has a master's in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As an independent journalist Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.

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