In this column printed within the first week of each month, Raja Sen single out The Best and The Worst throughout Indian movie and tv within the month passed by. Consider it a report card. This November turned out to be a uniformed month, giving us an excellent movie about ghastly policemen, and a ghastly movie about tremendous policemen.
Jai Bhim (Amazon Prime)
Jai Bhim begins with a supremely haunting scene. One afternoon exterior a jail, a number of policemen stand and divide up a bunch of prisoners based mostly on their caste. This seems like an on a regular basis affair for the cops — one thing executed as casually as choosing a neighbourhood cricket group — the place they let the higher caste prisoners go free whereas holding again these from decrease castes, pinning their pending circumstances onto them. It feels terrifyingly plausible.
TJ Gnanavel’s powerful, unflinching Tamil drama tells the story of a real courtroom hero. Suriya stars as crusading authorized warrior Okay Chandru, a Madras High Court choose who fought in opposition to caste discrimination and dismissed over 96,000 circumstances. The movie tells us the story of Rajakannu and Sengeni, two hard-working members of the snake-catching Irula tribe. After Rajakannu is wrongly arrested for theft, his pregnant spouse Sengeni fights the system with a view to win her husband freedom. Chandru is the lawyer who takes her facet.
The movie is clearly inspirational — Suriya utilizing each ounce of his display screen charisma to make Chandru a dynamic and compelling character — and whereas the courtroom scenes are riveting (and reassuring) the movie enchants us with the humane and delicate romance between Rajakannu (performed by Okay Manikandan) and Sengeni (an excellent Lijomol Jose) who win us over to their facet lengthy earlier than hell breaks free. I needed to avert my eyes within the torture sequences. The often-brutal movie feels extra harrowing due to how a lot we really feel for this tenderly portrayed couple.
Suriya deserves the loudest applause. The celebrity has not solely acted but additionally produced this essential and related movie. It feels a far cry from Hindi cinema, the place display screen stars — and cops — childishly thump their very own chests whereas chasing down the improper targets. They’re solely arresting growth.
Sooryavanshi (In theatres/Netflix)
This is a dangerously unhealthy movie.
In the final word irony, the blame for the existence of Sooryavanshi could also be laid on the toes of Suriya. Rohit Shetty’s universe of A-lister policemen began a decade in the past with Ajay Devgn in Singham — a movie so crotch-focussed I had labelled it “Devgnporn” in my 2011 overview — which was a loud remake of Suriya’s 2010 hit Singam. Suriya has since moved on, modified sides and makes use of his stardom to again harrowing dramas about police brutality. The superstars of Hindi cinema, however, seem content material to put on tight khaki and obsequiously toe the road.
In one Sooryavanshi scene, as an example, a authorities official briefing the Anti-Terrorism Squad says “As you all know, Section 370 being scrapped in Kashmir has made it completely impossible for terrorists to enter India…” Consider that “As you all know.” As if this isn’t solely truth, however gospel. This is pathetic and deeply irresponsible propaganda, as blatant as product placement. The type of propaganda that results in film producers getting Padma Shri awards.
There is extra islamophobia working by way of Sooryavanshi than pictures of Akshay Kumar working in slow-motion — which is saying one thing. Not solely are all of the terrorists Muslim, however the valiant heroes simply occur to be Hindus. The movie additionally has the gall to playact some kind of pseudo-Manmohan Desai fashion secularism — that includes the heavy-handed imagery of pleasant Muslims serving to save a Ganesha idol — however the message is unmistakably clear: these Muslims who observe directions are “good Muslims.” Especially those who be part of the police.
The writing is atrocious. Kumar performs a policeman who forgets individuals’s names. His spouse is known as Ria, however he variously calls her ‘Hernia,’ ‘Malaria’ and ‘Syria.’ He forgets all names, the truth is, besides these of the Muslims on the police hitlist. Those names he remembers even when he forgets his personal. That says quite a bit about police priorities. Once a profiler, all the time a profiler.
Raja Sen is a critic, creator and screenwriter. He has written the upcoming movie Chup with filmmaker R Balki.