Legal Notice against ‘Jai Bhim’ movie for allegedly misrepresenting, maligning Vanniyar Community

Media News

Actor Suriya’s film ‘Jai Bhim’ has received legal notice from Vanniyar Sangam, a body that represents the Vanniyar community, which is spread across Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. According to the notice, the film, (which is based on real incidents) retains most of the real-life persons’ names, while it misrepresents the villain character alone, as having belonged to entirely another community and religion. “In the real incident, the name of the Police Sub-inspector who is involved in the custodial death of the prisoner was “Anthonysamy”(a Christian), whereas he has deliberately been cast as Gurumurthy, in the film”, reads the legal notice.  

According to the Vanniyar Sangam, the naming of the reeling villain as Gurumurthy (a name that alludes directly to a Vanniyar community leader, was done with a malafide intention. They add that there are deliberate instances where the Vanniyar community symbols are showcased in the film, in relation to the villain. The community feels that their image is being tarnished, given how the film’s villain is guilty of committing brutal custodial torture and murder of a member of a downtrodden community, who is wrongly accused and framed. 

“For the purpose of proving the death of the victim, you have referred to a calendar in the house of the villain, in which the Vanniyar Sangam symbol(raging fire from holy pot) is prominently displayed. It cannot be considered as a casual, innocent, inadvertent mistake and natural sequence in the movie”, reads the notice. It also adds that there were various scenes and dialogues in the movie insinuating that the Vanniyar community are oppressing the underprivileged people. 

The legal notice alleges that the film’s makers were deliberately defaming a community, under the guise of Freedom of Expression and had included scenes that had the potential to create communal disharmony between Vanniyars and other communities. “When the Vanniyar community stood of social justice in the real incident you have deliberately painted a different and negative picture in your movie” it claims.  

Urging actor Suriya(the Producer and protagonist) and the Director to remove the said defamatory scenes and references, the notice also demands an unconditional apology(in newspapers and broadcast media) for tarnishing the reputation of the Vanniyar community. Demanding a sum of Rs.5crore in damages within seven days of having received the notice, it also warns of legal action via Civil and Criminal Defamation suits against Suriya, his production company, the film’s director T.J Gnananvel and Suriya’s wife, Jyothika. 

Earlier, Rajya Sabha MP Dr Anbumani Ramadoss had written to Suriya pointing out many objectionable portions in the film and the deliberate attempts to target the Vanniyar community, to which the MP belongs. The actor had also Tweeted a response to the letter, stating that the contents of the film were not deliberate and that it only portrayed a lawyer’s fight(for a downtrodden community victim) against a powerful system. Suriya also had added that the community symbol had been digitally altered(removed). However, many questioned if Suriya had a specific reason for changing the villain’s name and community alone(from Christian to Vanniyar), while retaining most other original names. This legal notice comes just a handful of days after the public exchange between the actor and the politician.