The film shows the protagonist trying to hold the police accountable after a man they arrested goes missing.
'Jai Bhim', an Indian film has upstaged classics such as 'The Godfather' and 'The Shawshank Redemption' to become the highest-rated movie on IMDb. With a user rating of 9.6, the Tamil language film has shot to the top of the list on IMDb. 'Jai Bhim' tells the story of repression against the Dalits, a community at the bottom of the Hindu caste hierarchy in India. The film shows the police and judicial system of the country that caters to upper-caste Hindus, targeting and oppressing Dalits. The film is directed by TJ Gnanavel and stars Suriya, who portrays a crusading lawyer. The film is based on a real-life incident and shows Suriya's character fighting for a petition filed by a pregnant woman whose husband was arrested by cops before he is declared missing, reported BBC News.
While India and Hinduism are often associated with spirituality and enlightenment, the treatment meted out to lower caste people including those of Dalit and tribal communities is a core tenet of Hinduism. 'Jai Bhim' highlights the role caste plays within the country and how the system represses a significant percentage of the population through systemic racism. In one poignant scene in the film, police officers can be seen separating a group of suspects by caste, following which upper caste people are asked to leave while those from Dalit and tribal communities are asked to stay back for further interrogation. The cops then file false charges against them. The film shows that the system continuously targets marginalized communities, and for many lower-caste people, a run-in with the system can mean getting killed by cops. The title of the movie 'Jai Bhim,' translates to 'Long Live Bhim,' a slogan made popular by the followers of BR Ambedkar, a Dalit scholar, who was also the chief architect of India's constitution and the country's first law minister.
'Jai Bhim' is part of a new wave of Tamil films that are telling the stories of Dalits and their oppression. Directors P.A. Ranjith, Mari Selvaraj, and Vetrimaaran have been at the forefront of taking the stories of Dalits to mainstream Tamil cinema. Cinema as a medium has been dominated by those with resources, meaning a majority of the stories told were centered around upper-caste characters and their lives. Even in films where members of the marginalized community have been portrayed positively on the screen, they are used as props to further the story, further the agenda of the upper-caste protagonist, and so on. Film historian S. Theodore Baskaran says there has been a tangible shift in recent years. "Forgotten Dalit ideologues of the 20th Century were redeemed from history. The ideas of [social activist and politician] Periyar and Ambedkar spread through the writings of many Dalit writers. In the last decade, some of the writers moved to cinema and made films. But they used the usual ingredients like songs, fights, and melodrama," said Baskaran.
There has been a rise in movies telling stories of Dalits across India in recent years including 'Masaan' (Hindi), 'Fandry', and 'Sairat' (both in Marathi), among other movies. The success of these movies at the box office reflects a changing society that's becoming more aware of the hegemony of upper-caste people. "The representation of Dalit characters was painful," said filmmaker Ranjith, who's also a Dalit, reported The Wire. "Either they were written out, or just their inclusion in the story was considered 'revolutionary.'" He continued, "In this context, I had to reflect on what my stories could say." He added, "I wanted to show that my culture itself is based on discrimination and violence…Today, directors are more conscious when they write Dalit characters."
'Jai Bhim' has now eclipsed 'The Shawshank Redemption,' Francis Ford Coppola's 'The Godfather,' and 'The Godfather part II' to top the list on IMDb.