Armed police have been deployed at actor Suriya's Chennai home after reports of threats against the 'Jai Bhim' actor. This follows the issue of a legal notice by a caste group that claims it has been 'tarnished' by a scene - in which a man from that caste tortures a tribal man - in the film.
The Vanniyar Sangam has alleged the scene shows the vanniyars in an unflattering light and has demanded Rs 5 crore for "denigrating the community". They have also demanded the removal of all references to themselves and have warned the actor and director of civil and criminal proceedings.
According to news agency ANI, a PMK (a regional political party) leader has also offered Rs 1 lakh to anyone who physically attacks Suriya; the leader, Palanisamy, has been booked by police, ANI reported.
Vanniyars - a Most Backward Community in Tamil Nadu - are dominant in the state's northern districts.
The Tamil-language film (also available in Hindi and Telugu on Amazon's Prime OTT) is a powerful courtroom drama inspired by human rights activist and former Madras High Court judge Justice Chandru, who fought against the persecution of oppressed sections of society.
Suriya, who also produced the film, plays Justice Chandru.
"The tribal was only a representative of a larger group. Once you go into a larger canvas, related to a group of people, the canvas gets wider," Justice Chandru told NDTV on the controversy.
The scenes that have triggered the controversy include one shot that features a communal symbol. This has since been replaced by the image of a deity, so as to not hurt religious sentiments.
Meanwhile, in reply to a letter of appreciation from Thol. Thirumavalavan (the Lok Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu's Chidambaram seat, and a scholar and activist), Suriya has underlined the importance of art and cinema in raising awareness about issues such as those addressed in 'Jai Bhim'.
"Real societal change can only happen through the government and its agencies," he said, in a statement some have seen as an attempt to distance himself from political backlash about the film.
The actor tweeted Wednesday evening to thank his fans for their "overwhelming" support.
"Dear all, this love for Jai Bhim is overwhelming. I've never witnessed this before! Can't express in words how thankful I am for the trust and reassurance you all have given us. Heartfelt thanks for standing by us," he wrote.
Dear all, this love for #Jaibhim is overwhelming. I've never witnessed this before! Can't express in words how thankful I am for the trust & reassurance you all have given us. Heartfelt thanks for standing by us ✊????— Suriya Sivakumar (@Suriya_offl) November 17, 2021
Suriya and his wife, actress-producer Jyotika, met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and gave a cheque for Rs 1 crore for the education and development of the Irula tribe, on whom the film is based; it is about Justice Chandru seeking justice for an Irula woman whose husband died in police custody.
In a letter to CPM leader K Balakrishnan - who requested financial help for Parvati Ammal after her husband, Rajakannu, died in police custody - Suriya said he would deposit Rs 10 lakh in her account.
With input from ANI