Vanniyar Sangam files complaint in court against Suriya, Gnanavel and Jyothika

Vanniyar Sangam’s Arulmozhi has said that though a criminal complaint has been filed with the police, no action has been taken yet, and so the Vanniyar Sangam has moved the court.
A screengrab from Tamil movie Jai Bhim showing Suriya in lawyer robes
A screengrab from Tamil movie Jai Bhim showing Suriya in lawyer robes
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Vanniyar Sangam President Pu Tha Arulmozhi has filed a private complaint before the Second Judicial Magistrate in Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu seeking action against actor Suriya and director TJ Gnanavel for ‘tarnishing’ the reputation of the Vanniyar community through the recently-released and critically acclaimed Jai Bhim. Arulmozhi has named production house 2D Entertainment as accused number one, Suriya as accused number two, Jyothika as accused three, Gnanavel as accused number four and Amazon as accused number 5.

Arulmozhi has sought action against the Suriya, the filmmakers and Amazon under various sections including defamation, intent to cause riot and intent to breach peace, stating that in the movie, the people belonging to Vanniyar community have been shown in very poor light. Arulmozhi has said that though a criminal complaint has been filed with the police, no action has been taken yet, and so the Vanniyar Sangam has moved the court in Chidambaram. 

“The accused persons’ reckless depiction of the Vanniyar Community in poor light with villainy and criminal bent of mind has delivered an irreparable dent in the hitherto earned high reputation of the community with one deadly blow in accused film wiping out all good will the Vanniyar community has enjoyed so far from all other communities,” the complaint filed in court by Arulmozhi says. 

The main contention in the complaint is that in one of the scenes in Jai Bhim, the symbol of Vanniyar Sangam is shown in the calendar behind the sub-inspector who stood accused of custodial torture. Agni Kundam, or the symbol depicting a fire emerging from a holy pot, is the symbol of Vanniyar Sangam. By doing this, the complaint states, the filmmakers “clearly exhibited the intention of accused persons, having a malafide intention of defaming the members of Vanniyar Sangam and damaging the image and reputation of the entire Vanniyar community.”

“The accused have projected the said wicked person, a wrong doer, as if he belonged to Vanniyar community thereby imputing that the members of the Vanniyar community are prone to commit wrong and illegal things while in real life said Sub Inspector does not belong to Vanniyar Community,” Arulmozhi’s complaint says. 

The complaint contends that the symbolic representations in the movie Jai Bhim is “per se defamatory and intentional act and targeted to defame and cause greater disrepute to the complainant community.”

“There is no need and necessity to show the Vanniyar sangam symbol in the particular scenes and sequences in the movie and the accused...have deliberately and mischievously included it with ulterior motive to assassinate the very reputation and tarnish the sacred image and respect earned by the Vanniyar community as a community of people with a decent conduct, respectable character and good culture in spite of their debilitating poverty and backwardness in all spheres of life,” the complaint reads. 

The complaint notes that after the Vanniyar Sangam objected to the calendar, the ‘Agni Kundam’ symbol in the calendar has been changed, but that the “movie has already been viewed by several lakhs of people and accused have already damaged the image of the community in the eyes of right thinking people. Vanniyar community people are defamed in the eyes of the public,” Arulmozhi has said. 

Arulmozhi has demanded that Suriya, Jyothika, TJ Gnanavel as well as 2D Entertainment and Amazon be booked under Sections 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), 153A(1) (promoting hatred, enmity or ill-will), 499 (defamation), 500 (punishment for defamation), 503 (criminal intimidation), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 505 (public mischief) of Indian Penal Code 

Earlier, Vanniyar Sangam had sent a legal notice to Suriya and Jai Bhim makers seeking Rs 5 crores in damages. After the controversy snowballed, director Gnanavel issued a statement, stating that the film, based on true events, wanted to reflect the pain of tribal people who are falsely accused of crimes to this day. “...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. 

About the specific allegations of Vanniyar community's symbol on a calendar in one of the scenes, Gnanavel added that he did not know that a picture could be alluding to a community. “It was not our intention to show it as a symbol of a particular community,” he added.

Stating that the film did not intend to target or shame a particular person or community, Gnanavel said, “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.”

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