Chinna Thambi

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Chinna Thambi
Theatrical release poster
Directed byP. Vasu
Written byP. Vasu
Produced byBalu
Edited byP. Mohanraj
Music byIlaiyaraaja
Malar Combines
Release date
  • 12 April 1991 (1991-04-12)
Running time
138 minutes

Chinna Thambi (transl. Little Brother) is a 1991 Indian Tamil-language romantic musical drama film written and directed by P. Vasu. The film stars Prabhu as the titular character, an uneducated village simpleton and Khushbu as Nandini, a homeschooled wealthy girl. Manorama, Radha Ravi, Uday Prakash, Rajeshkumar, and Goundamani play supporting roles. The music was composed by Ilaiyaraaja, and the film released on 12 April 1991.[1]

The film was remade in Kannada as Ramachaari (1991), Telugu as Chanti (1992) and Hindi as Anari (1993). The film was one of Prabhu's biggest blockbusters and completed a 356-day run in 9 screens and 100-day run in 47 screens.


The film starts with the birth of a baby girl, Nandini, in a rich family on outskirts of Erode. Her three elder brothers throw a feast in honour of her. The young son of the local singer (who had died) is brought in to sing for the event. The three brothers raise Nandini like their own child as their parents had died. At the age of five, an astrologer predicts that Nandini will bring much happiness to the family, but she will marry a person of her choice and not of her brothers' choosing. This angers the brothers, and to prevent this from happening, they raise Nandhini within the confines of the house. She is homeschooled, and when she does go out, all the men are warned to hide from Nandini and that seeing her will be met with dire consequences.

Nandini soon reaches puberty. The few males allowed around her are the service staff and her bodyguards. Meanwhile, the boy who sang, Chinna Thambi, grows up to be a naïve and gullible simpleton with a heart of gold. He is raised by his widowed mother Kannamma. He does not go to school and spends his time singing and entertaining the people of the village.

One day the bodyguards get into a fight with Chinna Thambi, who defeats them. Impressed with Chinna Thambi's naivete and fighting skills, the brothers hire Chinna Thambi to be Nandini's bodyguard and butler. Nandini meanwhile starts to resent her lack of freedom. She coerces Chinna Thambi to show her the village without her brothers' knowledge. Chinna Thambi complies with her wishes and shows her the village, which results in Nandini falling ill. Chinna Thambi is blamed for Nandini getting sick and is beaten up by the brothers. Nandini, who has just started to like Chinna Thambi, feels guilty for being the reason for him getting thrashed. She shares her medicine with Chinna Thambi, who inadvertently equates Nandini to his mother, as being the few people who truly care for him. This incident brings them closer together emotionally.

One day, a factory worker is punished for leering at Nandini. He plots to kill her at the inauguration of the new factory owned by her brothers. Chinna Thambi overhears the plot, and in a desperate attempt to save Nandini, lunges at her and inadvertently feels her up in public. Nandini does not mind and defends Chinna Thambi by arguing that he would not do something like that in public without good reason. But her brothers are enraged and beat Chinna Thambi to the point that they almost kill him. Nandini stops them and gives him a chance to explain. When Chinna Thambi explains the situation, they hang their heads in shame. Chinna Thambi quits his job on the spot, despite Nandini's silent apology.

At night, Nandini meets Chinna Thambi and apologise and perhaps convince him to come back to the job. Chinna Thambi refuses to come back as he does not want to put up with the violent nature of her brothers. She thinks if Chinna Thambi marries her, they will not be able to manhandle Chinna Thambi. She convinces Chinna Thambi to tie a mangalsutra around her neck, which will protect him from her brothers. Chinna Thambi, without realising the sanctity of the act, does as told and does not realise that he is now married to her.

Chinna Thambi comes back to work and is given a higher level of respect by the brothers for saving Nandini's life. Nandini too starts emulating her sisters-in-law in taking care of her husband. This makes Chinna Thambi nervous, but he still remains clueless. Her change in behaviour is noticed by her sisters-in-law, who urge the brothers to get Nandini married off before she brings shame to the family. Nandini, realising that they are trying to get her married off, tries to make Chinna Thambi understand that they are already married. Chinna Thambi refuses to understand and runs away to his mother, who upon learning what has happened, pulls him out of denial. She sends him away in an attempt to protect him.

The brothers come to know what has happened and torture Kannamma to get her to reveal where her son is hiding. She is saved in time by her son, who almost kills the brothers. The wives of the brothers stop him from killing them and ask him to save Nandini, who has now resorted to self-destruction upon hearing the torturous acts of her brothers. Chinna Thambi rushes back to save his wife and revives her with his singing. Nandini runs towards him and they embrace, with her brothers finally supporting their relationship.



P. Vasu's son Sakthi made his screen debut as a child artist at the age of seven with this film, appearing as the younger version of Prabhu's character.[4][5] Khushbu joined the film at Vasu's insistence.[6] Vasu was initially sceptical about casting Manorama as Prabhu's mother as he believed people would compare it to her vastly different role in Vasu's previous film Nadigan (1990), but Manorama remained confident it would not happen.[7] The filming was held at Gobichettipalayam.[8]


The soundtrack was composed by Ilaiyaraaja.[9] The song "Nee Engey En Anbe" is set to the Carnatic raga Keeravani,[10] as is "Poovoma Oorgolam".[11] Ilaiyaraaja composed all the songs within 35 minutes.[12] The song "Kuyila Pudichu" is set in Mayamalavagowla raga.[13] All of them were chartbusters.[14] The film proved to be a breakthrough for playback singer Swarnalatha.[15][16]

Song Singer(s) Lyrics Length
"Thooliyile Ada Vantha I" K. S. Chithra Vaali 2:40
"Thooliyile Ada Vantha II" Mano 4:38
"Poovoma Oorgolam" Swarnalatha, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam 4:44
"Ada Uchcham Thala" Mano 4:58
"Kuyila Pudichchu" S. P. Balasubrahmanyam 4:46
"Arachcha Santhanam" S. P. Balasubrahmanyam Gangai Amaran 4:52
"Nee Engey En Anbe" Swarnalatha Vaali 5:04
"Thooliyile Ada Vantha III" Mano 1.52


The Indian Express wrote, "The conflicts are generated in such a way as to excite the sentiments of lay audiences".[17]


Chinna Thambi won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Film which met with criticism from Kalki.[18]

Award Category Nominee Ref.
Cinema Express Awards Best Tamil Film K. Balu [19]
Best Tamil Director P. Vasu
Best Tamil Actress Khushbu
Best Tamil Comedian Goundamani
Best Tamil Male Playback Singer Mano
Best Tamil Female Playback Singer Swarnalatha
Best Tamil Choreographer D. K. S. Babu
Film Fans Association Awards Best Lyricist Gangai Amaran [20]
Filmfare Awards South Best Tamil Film K. Balu [21]
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards Best Film (First Place) K. Balu [18]
Best Director P. Vasu
Best Actor in Lead Role Prabhu
Best Actress in Lead Role Khushbu
Best Male Playback Singer Mano
Best Female Playback Singer Swarnalatha
Best Choreographer D. K. S. Babu


Year Film Language Ref.
1991 Ramachaari Kannada [23]
1992 Chanti Telugu [24]
1993 Anari Hindi [25]


Chinna Thambi became a major breakthrough for Prabhu and Khushbu.[26] They became one of the most successful lead pairs in Tamil cinema of the 1990s through this film.[27][28] The success of the film also led the director, actor and actress to collaborate in another project Kizhakku Karai (1991) the following year.[29] After the release, Vasu was conferred "Navarasa Director" award by Amudha Surabhi Kalai Mandram, Madurai.[30]

Khushbu said in 2006, "I am still around only because of Chinna Thambi. None of us imagined it would become the kind of cult film it did. I remember director P. Vasu, hero Prabhu and I were very skeptical about the film while shooting. It was a bold subject at the time, and we thought it would either be a huge flop or a huge hit".[31] Prabhu recalled, "People still talk about Chinna Thambi [...] I still remember my father’s words after the show. "Just as I got a Bhimbsingh, you've got Vasu", he said".[32]

In popular culture[edit]

After the film's success, Gobichettipalayam became a shooting hub for many films.[8] Vasu alluded to Chinna Thambi in his later film Mannan (1992), in which Krishnan (Rajinikanth) and Muthu (Goundamani) would be seen rushing in the crowd to buy tickets to watch the film.[33]


  1. ^ "'சின்னதம்பி' வெளியாகி 30 ஆண்டுகள்: குஷ்பு நெகிழ்ச்சி". Hindu Tamil Thisai (in Tamil). 12 April 2021. Archived from the original on 12 April 2021. Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  2. ^ "Goundamani sends legal notice to Sixer team, demands removal of his photo and dialogues". Cinema Express. 29 August 2019. Archived from the original on 16 October 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  3. ^ "'Movies may come and go, art will always be there for me'". The New Indian Express. 13 October 2016. Archived from the original on 20 November 2023. Retrieved 20 November 2023.
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  10. ^ Sundararaman 2007, p. 147.
  11. ^ Sundararaman 2007, p. 155.
  12. ^ Kamath, Sudhish (4 September 2012). "The Maestro's Magic continues". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 22 June 2021. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  13. ^ ராமானுஜன், டாக்டர் ஜி. (1 June 2018). "ராக யாத்திரை 07: மாரியம்மனும் மரிக்கொழுந்தும்". Hindu Tamil Thisai (in Tamil). Archived from the original on 19 October 2022. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
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  16. ^ Aishwarya, S. (12 September 2010). "Playback singer Swarnalatha passes away". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 27 December 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2021.
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  18. ^ a b பிரியன் (15 November 1992). "சின்ன தம்பி சிறந்த படமா?" [Chinna Thambi, best film?]. Kalki (in Tamil). pp. 1–2. Archived from the original on 29 September 2022. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
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  20. ^ "Kamal adjudged best actor for role in Guna". The Indian Express. 22 June 1992. p. 3. Retrieved 12 September 2023 – via Google News Archive.
  21. ^ "39th Annual Filmfare Awards Nite". Filmfare. Archived from the original on 8 February 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2022 – via Internet Archive.
  22. ^ "Chinnathambi bags six awards". The Indian Express. 30 October 1992. p. 3. Retrieved 14 February 2021 – via Google News Archive.
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  24. ^ Sri (15 July 2010). "Interview: Ravi Raja Pinisetty". p. 2. Archived from the original on 31 December 2010. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  25. ^ Sharma, Devesh (25 June 2020). "Filmfare Recommends: Top 10 Films of Karisma Kapoor". Filmfare. Archived from the original on 24 October 2020. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
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  27. ^ "South Indian Film Scene". Screen. 21 February 1992. p. 12.
  28. ^ KR, Manigandan (14 February 2018). "Prabhu and Khushboo, blockbuster pair of the 1990s – Valentine's Day special". Cinestaan. Archived from the original on 2 January 2020. Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  29. ^ "Kizhakku Karai". The Indian Express. 27 September 1991. p. 5. Retrieved 16 June 2015 – via Google News Archive.
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  32. ^ Rangarajan, Malathi (5 September 2008). "Shifting stance". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 27 December 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  33. ^ L M, Kaushik. "The real beneficiaries from Vishwaroopam's ban". Behindwoods. Archived from the original on 14 February 2016. Retrieved 23 December 2014.


  • Sundararaman (2007) [2005]. Raga Chintamani: A Guide to Carnatic Ragas Through Tamil Film Music (2nd ed.). Pichhamal Chintamani. OCLC 295034757.

External links[edit]