Thambi Vettothi Sundaram, a story that has been publicized as one that reflects the true picture of the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border made it to theatres on that fancy date 11-11-11. It has been a while since we saw Karan on screen, same holds true for Saravanan who is sparsely seen after his Paruthiveeran heroics. Not surprisingly, the most popular face in contemporary months in this film is Anjali; just goes to show the kind of performances she has turned in over her past few films.
Thambi Vettothi Sundaram is set in Kaliyakkavila, a town set on the state border. This place has a very unique distinction; almost everyone here is educated and quite peculiarly, almost every second person is involved in some kind of illegal business ranging from smuggling to the brewing of illegal liquor and other such activities. This place is certainly an antithesis for all those who believe that education is the one solution to all social evils. Here, people seem to be corrupt in spite of education. Sundaram (Karan) is one from the town, well educated, but not yet initiated into any subversive acts. He has no idea to drift off onto the wrong side of the law, but the place and people are such that he finds it near impossible to follow a straightforward means of livelihood. He is confused, vexed, angry and then finds someone (Saravanan) who seems to understand his troubles; they form a jolly good duo. So, who is Saravanan, what does the duo end up doing, do they cleanse society, do they join the fray, do they make enemies? And, in the midst of this, there is a love story as an admiring Anjali falls for Karan; not without good reason!
The debutante Vadivudaiyan has done a fair job in sketching characters and writing a script that is packed to the brim with characters, events and twists all interconnected in multiple ways. But, he stretches his yarn too hard and too long. It does not snap, yes, but it is strained to the hilt and you feel it while watching the film. It is serious and grim right from the start, perhaps necessitated by the story, but in a movie that runs for over 150 minutes, the mood weighs down the audience considerably. He has put in place a graph that does not remain without a spike in it for too long, but some of them feel artificially inserted. The final portions become especially wearisome as people from all sides are baying for each other’s blood. And, your sympathies are undecided because almost everyone in this town has a shady dealing or two. Instead of finishing things with a gripping and short climax, the director has opted for some strong medicine and stretched it to a culmination that looks a bit more dramatic than is called for. In the end, what the director wants to convey is clear. It is the society (that is each one of us) that is responsible one way or the other for breeding criminals, mostly out of promising young people. And, the age old wisdom of ‘crime never pays’, if it does, it is only short term! Good things to say, but they could have been said without making the audience feel stretched weary. It is interesting to note that the team has decided to do away completely with any traces of comedy that so often form integral parts of Karan starrers; a brave move which would have been lauded much more if the product delivered was of a higher standard.
There is not much in the characters to challenge the actors. Karan goes through his role with the experience of a seasoned performer. For most parts, he has to look angry, disappointed and disillusioned in turns, except in the romantic scenes; he does them well. Saravanan is asked to do what comes to him best and he delivers that without any problems, but he could do with something that challenges him more. Anjali has quite a bit of footage considering that it is a crime, punishment and revenge driven story. She looks good and emotes well as we have known her to. Her presence in the ‘Kolaikaara’ song is really wonderful. In fact, the song is one of the highlights of the film with all departments, art, camera, music, choreography and the actors making it a very good experience. The other actors in the movie have little else to do but appear angry and vengeful.
The dialogues and the dialect could have been taken care of in a much better way. After having been publicised as a Tamil Nadu-Kerala border story, one does expect a Malayalam-Tamil hybrid to come through in the dialogues; that does not happen. The Malayalam slang is limited to one or two words which often open sentences, afterwards, it is all normal Tamil which you would hear anywhere in the state. It is like using the phrase ‘yelle’ in every sentence to masquerade normal Tamil as the Tirunelveli dialect.
Technically, Thambi Vettothi Sundaram passes muster. The camerawork is adequate while Vidyasagar’s music makes an impression.
Overall, Thambi Vettothi Sundaram is a film that is loyal to its story; there are absolutely no diversions. But, is that enough for a good viewing experience? The grim and serious nature gets to you after a while and the happenings one after the other seem to lose sheen and credibility as we go deeper into the film. Thambi Vettothi Sundaram could have been much better, only if it had been packaged a bit more cleverly.
Verdict: Constant grimness wears you down!