Director Bharathiraja and the Tamil Film Active Producers Association have come out in support of actor Suriya after the Vanniyar community sent a legal notice to the filmmakers over their depiction in the movie. The Vanniyar Sangam on Monday, November 15, sent a legal notice to makers of Jai Bhim, alleging that the movie tarnished the reputation of Vanniyar community and sought an unconditional apology from them. Besides demanding the removal of certain references to the Vanniyar community, it sought an apology for "damning, tarnishing and damaging the reputation" of the community, and a payment of Rs 5 crore in damages.
Backing the actor, the Tamil Film Active Producers Association, of which Bharathiraja is president, issued a statement, which said, “Cinema is a medium that discusses almost all topics, ranging from love, education, social reform etc. People’s experiences are captured and ultimately displayed for them. Cinema predominantly aims to bring betterment. Cinema has influenced and been a catalyst for social change on multiple occasions. It is ultimately left upon people to decide to interpret it the way they want.”
“Jai Bhim is also one such creation that is part of efforts to instigate social change. A movie produced by Jyotika and Suriya and directed by Gnanavel. Viewing him as someone who is against positive change in society or encouraging violence against him, is wrong and sets the wrong example. The best thing to do would be to let an art stand for itself without infringing the creators’ artistic freedom. If this trend goes on, filmmakers will have to wait outside the houses of politicians to seek their approval before they could go ahead with a script and shoot a film,” it added.
The statement also asked groups to reach out to people in the film industry if there were concerns. “If your criticism is accurate, we are welcome to accept and change our mistakes,” the statement added.
The statement came hours after the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce also threw its weight behind Suriya and asked PMK leader and former Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss to refrain from criticising the actor over the film.
Jai Bhim was released recently in languages including Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. The film, though based on a true incident of custodial torture and death of a tribal man in 1995 in Tamil Nadu, had elements of fiction. The crux of the allegations found in the notice is that the Vanniyar community was shown in 'poor light, vilified by naming a police sub inspector as 'Guru' (Gurumurthy). The notice said while the real life names of several people were retained in the film, the Police Sub-Inspector was named Guru, while the original name of the SI who tortured the innocent man to death was Anthonysamy.
Vanniyars, categorised as a Most Backward Community in Tamil Nadu are predominant in the northern districts of the state.