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The recently released Tamil film, Jai Bhim, addresses custodial torture and death and traces the twists and turns of the judicial process as it unfolds in the courts.

As its title indicates, the film’s protagonist, a left-leaning lawyer, insists on the rule of law and constitutional rights and spares no effort to work either to secure justice for the brutal violence inflicted on a man from an Adivasi community, and which resulted in his death. Deeply traumatised by all that had transpired, his shocked yet resolute wife stays with the judicial system, till a modicum of justice appears a possibility.

The film has been inspired by a real-life incident in which justice was ultimately secured, but the incidents have been somewhat fictionalised. Ironically, it is for this reason that it has been criticised – for instance, it has been said that the filmmaker deliberately changed the name of the chief perpetrator of custodial violence.

While in the original case, the officer was from a minority community, he was shown to be a man from a locally dominant caste. This, critics insist, has been done with the intention of maligning the caste in question. This is an intriguing charge, and while one is tempted to assign local, political motives for…

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