| While P.Vasu had directed a few hit movies before, it was the success of Chinna
Thambi that made his name famous. And the success was no small one. Chinna
Thambi obliterated the box-office records set in 1989 by
Karagaattakkaaran to become the highest grosser in
tamil cinema. Naturally, several of the artistes associated with the film benefitted
from its success. While Vasu and Prabhu definitely gained, it was Kushboo who
undoubtedly reaped the biggest rewards. The movie catapulted her to the frontline among
Tamil cinema actresses and she ruled Tamil cinema as the leading actress for quite
Chinnathambi(Prabhu) is the village simpleton, gifted with a good voice and musical
talent. He is the only man allowed into the bungalow of Nandhini(Kushboo), the richest
and prettiest girl in the village.
Nandhini is the apple of her three brothers' eyes and is being guarded religiously by them
ever since they heard from an astrologer that she would marry a man against their
wishes. But Nandhini falls in love with Chinnathambi and asks him to marry her
without her brothers' knowledge. And Chinnathambi, not realising the full meaning
of his act, ties the 'thaali' around her neck.
Chinna Thambi is an example of a movie that has aged. As I watched it, I
struggled to identify the factors that could have contributed to its record-breaking
success at the box-office when it was released in 1991 and had to finally attibute
the success to a combination of factors like luck, timing and viewer tastes at that
time. The movie's basic theme of a girl marrying a simpleton for no valid reason,
the overblown 'mother' sentiments and other antiquated notions are even more difficult
to accept now than when the movie was released. Ilaiyaraja's music and Koundamani's
comedy are the only two aspects of the movie that seem to work now.
At the heart of the movie are a couple of scenarios which are difficult to digest.
I couldn't get past the fact that Kushboo wishes to wed Prabhu even after knowing
that he is a man who doesn't understand the concept of marriage or 'thaali'. While
her concern about marrying a rich man who doesn't love her is understandable, that
doesn't automatically validate her falling in love with the village idiot. And while it
is relatively easy to accept Prabhu as a simpleton whose singing can put crying
babies to sleep, it requires more suspension of disbelief to accept that he does not
know that tying the 'thaali' indicates marriage. The only consolation is that Vasu
defers from introducing any romantic duets between Prabhu and Kushboo.
Over the years, P.Vasu and sentiments involving a mother and her son have become
synonymous with each other and the strong affection Manorama and Prabhu have for each
other is one of the lifelines of this movie too. While that by itself is acceptable,
Vasu also introduced the concept of torturing the mother in a weird way. Here Radharavi
plans to dress up the widowed Manorama and have the village idiot(this is a real idiot
in that he cannot sing and acts crazy but knows what marriage is!) wed her. The whole
sequence is tasteless though the way Prabhu's entrance takes away some of the signs of
the impending wedding from Manorama, is well-done.
Koundamani cracks us up as the man with night blindness. His excuses to get out of
doing anything after six o'clock in the evening and his plight when he gets pulled
into doing some of those things are very funny. Koundamani has had some of his
most memorable roles in P.Vasu's movies and his comedy track here certainly ranks among
Prabhu fits the role of the simpleton and the expressions on his chubby face are
cute. Kushboo hit the big time with her role here. She looks pretty and also gets
the chance to emote towards the end. Her performance won her the State award for
best actress for the year. Manorama and Radharavi go through the motions in
standard roles of the affectionate mother and stern brother. Ilaiyaraja's songs
are melodious and suit the rural atmosphere of the movie. Swarnalatha gained
recognition with Povoma Oorgolam.... Thooliyile... and Kuyila
Pudichu... are the melodious songs while Aracha Sandhanam... and
Uchan Thalai... have faster beats and are more fun.