Gnanavel said that the calendar was hung to reflect the period of 1995, and the intention was not to show it as a symbol of a particular community.

A poster of Jai Bhim featuring Suriya as Justice Chandru, with legal books in the background
Flix Controversy Sunday, November 21, 2021 - 15:53

Jai Bhim director TJ Gnanavel weighed in on the controversy surrounding the film which has offended Vanniyars, stating that he takes responsibility for the controversy as the director, adding that it is unfair to ask actor Suriya to take responsibility for the same. Gnanavel said the film is based on true events, and that he wanted it to reflect the pain of tribal people who are falsely accused of crimes, and said that abuses of power continue to this day. He added that the communist movement and various human rights organisations continue to fight against injustice. “...we filmed in such a way as to give hope that the security of the common people can be ensured if the police and the judiciary work together,” he said.  He said that he did not expect some of the comments that the film received at all.

Gnanavel added that he did not know that a picture hung on a calendar in the background could be alluding to a community, and that the calendar simply reflected that it was 1995. “It was not our intention to show it as a symbol of a particular community,” he added.

He said that the calendar is only on the screen for a few seconds and went unnoticed by the crew during filming as well as post-production. He added that before the film was released on Amazon Prime, it was viewed by various people, and if it had come to their attention at the time, it would have been changed before the film was released.

“When the film came out on Amazon on the night of November 1 and we found out about the calendar through social media, all efforts were made to change it immediately on the morning of November 2,” he said, adding that the picture was changed immediately, and that he hoped everyone would understand that their intentions when they made the change.

“As a director, I should take responsibility. It is unfair to ask Suriya to take responsibility for this controversy. As a producer and actor, Suriya portrayed the role to shed light on the problems meted out to the tribal community. I would like to apologise to him for all that he has been put through,” he said.

Gnanavel said that the film does not intend to target or shame a particular person or community, and apologised to those offended.

The Vanniyar Sangam has been up in arms against Suriya and had recently approached the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry and the Tamil Nadu Information and Public Relations Department to not consider the movie for any appreciation, recognition or award, claiming that certain scenes were deliberately included to create communal disharmony.

The film distorted truth and twisted facts and displayed a calendar with Agni Kundam - the symbol of Vanniyar Sangam, and named the sub inspector of police who tortured the victim in police custody, as Gurumurthy after a popular leader of the Vanniyar community, alleged Pu Tha Arulmozhi, state president of the Vanniyar Sangam. 

The Vanniyar Sangam also previously sent a legal notice to the film’s makers and sought an unconditional apology. Removal of references to Vanniyar community's revered symbol of raging fire pot, an apology for "damning, tarnishing and damaging the reputation" of the community, desisting from similar "malicious" moves and payment of Rs 5 crore in damages were the demands made in the legal notice.

Vanniyars, or Vanniya Kula Kshatriyas, a Most Backward Community in Tamil Nadu, are dominant in the northern districts of the state. The Vanniyar Sangam's symbol is the raging fire pot.

With inputs from PTI

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