Cast: Salman Khan, Sohail Khan, Om Puri, Zeeshan Ayub, Zhu Zhu, Matin Rey Tangu
Director: Kabir Khan
Going by his recent movie choices - Sultan, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Ek Tha Tiger being the most prominent - Salman Khan has managed to build an incredible imposing reputation for churning out films that are both thoughtful and engaging. Hence, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Salman now stands as the pinnacle of compelling acting.
But just when we got happy to assume that all his film - post the success of Sultan - would help us explore a whole new Salman – we are given Tubelight that has failed to live up to the hype and also been unsuccessful at delivering on fans’ huge expectations.
Tubelight – which is an official remake of Little Boy – a nostalgic drama set against the backdrop of World War II – is about the lives of brothers Bharat Singh Bisht (Sohail Khan) and Laxman (Salman Khan) in the fictional village of Jagatpur. The first half of the film introduces the viewers to the charmingly simple and rustic life that Bharat and Laxman are happy living.
While the time they spend together encapsulates the camaraderie they share, and the beauty of their relationship, it also shows just how important Bharat is for Laxman. He gives him advice like a parent and loves him unconditionally much like a true friend. But because Laxman’s mental abilities don’t run like it does for a normal person, locals call him Tubelight – someone who blinks off and on and is beyond repair. The story gets under way when Bharat goes off to war against China (1962) and is reported missing in action. Desperate to have his brother return, Laxman believes if he has enough faith, he can even alter the war’s course – a lesson he learnt while attending magician Gogo Pasha’s performance.
Soon we are introduced to Chinese origin Indian mother (Zhu Zhu)- son (Matin Rey Tangu) duo who is detested by the community. It is interesting to see how Kabir uses them to explain how deeply racist we are towards our own countrymen by alienating and discriminating them on the basis of their looks.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t put across the point of the consistent and relentless abuse they are subjected to in a forceful manner. For these aren’t the stories that should be silently buried. Instead, these are the stories that’d help people understand alienating North-easterners from the ‘mainstream’ isn’t an example that a multicultural and multi-ethnic country like India should set.
As far as performances are concerned, we are happy Salman makes a conscious decision to not play the usual shirt-flipping, ab-exhibiting Khan. As an honest and simple man, Salman is bullied, mocked, shouted at, tricked, and loathed – but nothing deters him from achieving his goal – to keep his faith intact. While we like him in sequences wherein he is emotionally aware and particularly vulnerable, it’s sad that this luminous performance doesn’t stay consistent. While the warmth he exudes is impressive, there are moments where he sobs, distorts his face and give a blank expression – much to fans’ disappointment.
Debutant Matin Rey Tangu, who plays Salman’s ‘dost’ brings in the much-needed freshness, charm and exuberance in the film. He not only proves his acting potential, but also the fact that he can help the film earn huge love which one could have only imagined. Don’t be surprised if he earns a huge fan following too.
Veteran actor Om Puri - who swears by Gandhian philosophy and raises both Bharat and Laxman – lights up the screen each time he makes an appearance. Another performance that really impresses is that of Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub. His angst, prejudices against Zhu Zhu and Matin have a reason. Sadly, Sohail as Bharat – the character around which the entire film revolves - gets limited screen time.
There are intense moments in Tubelight including Zhu Zhu’s sequence with Salman wherein she explains him the importance of faith. Then there is another sequence featuring Salman and Matin shouting ‘Bharat Maa Ki Jai’ to prove their national identity.
Much like the rest of Salman’s films, Tubelight is different. But this much-anticipated Eid release is definitely not as compelling as Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan. But does that really matter to his fans? No!