Every film has its audience, and most are made keeping them in mind. Our commercial entertainers are made for the family audience; the offbeat ones are made for the experimental section. Thumbaa’s first promo featured an animated tiger that is charmed by music, and it’s quite clear they were aiming this film at the children.
It’s why the film aimed at a summer release, the season for children films. Thumbaa is simple, and devoid of problems, and for these reasons, I didn’t have the heart to nitpick flaws. If that seems like too low a bar, don’t forget examples of U-certified, supposedly child-friendly films like Mr Local, NGK, and Uriyadi 2. The first was an extended lesson in misogyny, the second and third contained violence and adult themes that demanded parental guidance.
In this context, it is hard not to be relieved when a film said to be for the children is actually for them. I particularly quite liked the film’s clean humour which works at several places, spearheaded by the sprightly ‘Wrong Call’ Dheena. With several organic wisecracks and a natural aura, he easily steals the show. He is given company by Darshan, who plays a mildly changed version of his character in Kanaa, and Keerthi Pandian, who smiles a bit too much and in places she doesn’t need to. While there is hint of a romance between Hari (Darshan) and Varsha (Keerthi), thankfully, this film is unlike most of our films which don’t miss a chance to include a love story.
Another major draw for the film is its VFX, which is quite all right for its scale. (Stray thought: The film did make me wonder if children today, who have access to Hollywood content, find our budget VFX likeable, even when fairly efficient.) What is an issue, however, is that the animals are too humanised, physically and emotionally. A monkey (named Tiger) almost walks and behaves like a human.
The tiger, Thumbaa, fights like a hurt commercial film hero; funnily, the action sequences are also structured the same way. The tiger pushes down the goons one by one, instead of say, just slashing at them. And of course, there is the parental sentiment as well. After Monster, Thumbaa also relies on the parent-cub angle to make it emotionally relatable to us humans. We did grow up on the likes of Annai Oru Aalayam produced by Devar Films; so it’s probably time to get a bit more creative.
Thumbaa’s biggest flaw is that it plays too safe; it has no surprises. Just the humour and innocence aren’t enough. The film advocates forest conservation, and co-existence with other species as the way forward. While well-intended, it almost feels like a school lesson when it becomes the sole reason for Jayam Ravi’s cameo appearance.
Also, after preaching to us about the importance of co-existence and preservation of wildlife, John (the character played by Jayam Ravi), a celebrated wildlife enthusiast, decides to throw a party with loud music in the middle of the woods. This isn’t, however, a film where we question the lack of nuance. We play along, relieved that the film rewards us with the silence of the kids we are watching the film with.
Cast: Darshan, Keerthi Pandian, Dheena
Rating: 2/5 stars