Thambi is like a Shankar film without the huge budget. It is a well-intentioned film revolving around a protagonist who has lofty ambitions for society and a plan to achieve those ambitions single-handedly. But director Seeman could use a few lessons from Shankar on how to beef up his central message with the right commercial ingredients to make it entertaining and not just visionary.
Thambi(Madhavan) is the local do-gooder. He shows up wherever and whenever injustice happens and puts an end to it. Doing this has made him the thorn in the side of Sankarapandian(Biju Menon), a dada, whose only aim now is to get rid of Thambi. Meanwhile Archana(Pooja), a dancer, whose initial impression of Thambi is that he is a rowdy changes her mind after realizing his true nature and falls for him.
The message that Thambi tries to get across is one that many other movies (Thevar Magan is one that comes to mind) before have attempted to convey - that violence begets violence. Its hero is someone who understands that and is willing to be the one to do whatever it takes to put a stop to the endless cycle of violence. Universal peace, rather than personal revenge, is his goal. So his challenge to the villain is something very different from what we’ve heard heroes utter to villains before. And that comes as a big relief.
The problem is that the film doesn’t have much else on its agenda other than this message. Good intentions can take you only so far. The entire first half is taken up with Madhavan fighting with different rowdies in different settings/locations. The romance is perfunctory and barely registers. It starts in a clichéd manner and proceeds predictably. Having a weak and seemingly very ineffective villain doesn’t help either.
Thambi manages to convey its message across without actually resorting to violence. The director doesn’t use the oft-used-excuse that he cannot convey his message of non-violence without actually showing violence. So though there are fights galore, they are relatively bloodless and real violence, when it occurs, is mostly offscreen. Also, the movie remains true to its message until the very end. The screenplay is developed in a clever fashion to put people in situations where they realize their mistakes. So it ends on a positive note rather than a bloodbath. Sure it’s simplistic and even idealistic. But it manages to get its point across.
Madhavan emotes well but fails in the physical aspect of the role. He is fiery when needed and his rolling eyes and loud voice help him deliver his lines with conviction. But he has put on a lot of weight and with a discernible paunch, is unable to execute all those karate-style punches and kicks with the required grace. Pooja looks great but comedy seems to be her weak point. She is a lot more convincing when she reveals her love to Madhavan than when she screams at him for interrupting her dance performance. Biju Menon is a rather weak villain, though part of the blame lies on the characterization of his role too. This movie is probably the movie with the least screen time for Vadivelu among his recent movies. But the absence of a separate comedy track for him does help in making the movie seem more serious about its message.