2003 was an extremely popular year for cops in Tamil cinema with almost all top actors trying their hand at playing one.
Sarathkumar seems to have joined the bandwagon quite late but fortunately, being the last to reach the screen has not
equated to being the last in quality(that distinction still belongs to Ajith with Aanjaneya).
Inspite of a rather obvious Saamy influence, Gambeeram manages to hold its own
among all the cop movies we have seen so far.
Muthusamy(Sarathkumar) is the new Assistant Commissioner of Police in town. A widower with a daughter, he is fearless and
honest. In his past, he had arrested a greedy politician Rajendran(Thanikabharani) and paid for it. Now Rajendran is back as
a minister and Muthusamy is once again forced to go up against him.
The director's intent to emulate Saamy is clear with a few frames of the movie. From Sarathkumar's name and style
to having a Telugu actor play a powerful politician-villain, the basic building blocks(like having a meek heroine) are the same
as Hari's massive hit. But a lot more time is spent on Sarath's personal life here and such sequences help us identify with
the character more. The flashback is sweet and even in the present, the scenes between Laila and Sarath's daughter manage
to be a little touching and not overly sentimental. The final scene in the movie(also dealing with his family) is a nice touch and
closes the film on a very wonderful note.
Eventually, it is the family side of Sarath(and the film) that saves the movie since whenever Sarath is dealing with the bad guys,
the movie slips into 'cliche' mode with sequences that have a familiar feel. Thanikabharani is a strong villain but the focus in on
brawn rather than brain. Sarath's way of dealing with his adversaries(like Thanikabharani's lawyers) is to simply threaten them.
His few clever moves, like the way he traps the businessman who is on the way to the airport, are more interesting. The
over-the-top fight sequences also do their part in lowering our emotional investment in the movie. As Sarath comes out of a
car by tearing away the top or brings running bad guys down by throwing whatever is nearby(including a cigarette and a
coconut bunch!) at them, the fights turn cartoonish.
We are used to heroines in cop movies being relegated to little more than supporting characters. Usually, their only tasks are
to be on hand for the duets and worry/complain about the dangers in the job their husband/boyfriend is doing. But the two
heroines in Gambeeram turn out to have a large part in what works in the movie. Their contrasting characters are
developed nicely and we end up caring about them. Among the two, Pranathi earns more points with her bravery and motor
mouth. But Laila's timidity and her 'feminine' acts around the police station work well as comedy. Sarath's daughter plays her
part too without being overly cute and irritating.
The khaki dress sits nicely on Sarathkumar and he looks every bit the honest and tough police officer. Laila plays her trademark
role and her natural facial expressions and mannerisms aid her well. Pranathi makes up for what she lacks in glamour with a natural,
charming performance. Thanikabharani plays the heartless politician well enough but doesn't bring anything special to the
role. Vadivelu has a sporadically funny comedy track where he gradually moves down the rungs in the police administration.