It’s been a while since Salman Khan started playing a clumsy yet golden hearted man-child. He has aced this game by now and Tubelight might be his best shot at it.
Laxman Singh Bisht aka Tubelight is the favourite entertainer of Jagatpur in the Kumaon region. He doesn’t mind being bullied, mocked or slapped as he believes in humanity in its purest form. It also works as a tactic that will force the audiences, typically fans, to clap later in the film when he will resort to a ‘little action’.
With a protective younger brother, Bharat (Sohail Khan), and some Good Samaritans around, he is cruising along in life with a broad smile and a few innocent jokes.
The idea of putting siblings, real and reel, at the helm of affairs works because Kabir Khan successfully establishes a connection with his audiences. Even those who haven’t seen any of their loved ones going to fight in a war will understand this universal feeling.
Kabir Khan spreads the canvas even wider than his last Eid outing Bajrangi Bhaijaan. The 2015 film was about being a peacemaker between two quarrelling neighbours and this one is about the futility of a hostile war. In short, it moves from the Pakistan border to the Chinese one.
The backdrop of the India-China war of 1962 provides him with a chance to go a step further and put his neck out for making some strong statements. He comes up with a Chinese family that has a scared mother (Zhu Zhu) and her precocious son (Matin Rey Tengu). Such symbols serve the purpose of giving the film a ‘dreamy’ feel. It’s not exactly utopian, but definitely tough to achieve.
Kabir Khan doesn’t stop here. In fact, Tubelight is the most outspoken film till date. He makes statements that are needed in today’s unidirectional political scenario. What begins with a cue from the dominant Gandhian ideology of the pre-Independence period goes on to become a film about self-belief. Yes, an actor actually plays Mahatma Gandhi in the film.
Tubelight’s flag-bearer is the child actor Matin, who questions the concept of hyper-nationalism and how shouting slogans can’t pass off in the name of patriotism.
Some of these themes needed more screen space and better handling, but Salman’s superstardom comes in between and the director is forced to return to his appeal. Which means Salman will play to the gallery with the swagger his fans love to cheer on.
You remember how Bajrangi Bhaijaan ended at the Kashmir border? This one, in a way, picks the baton from there and sends Salman to teach other fellow people a lesson in kindness. In short, Laxman Singh Bisht is Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi in making.
Tubelight doesn’t have a ‘used universe’ appearance – it appears like a new film pretending to be set in the 1960s. Though the supporting cast tries but fails to deliver ‘cute-innocent’ dialogues. Om Puri is a saving grace here as a wise old man Banney Miyan. Terrific actors like Zeeshan Ayyub and Yashpal Sharma accommodate Salman and his inexplicable on-screen charisma. Unfortunately, they don’t get a better playtime like Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
Most of the times, Salman mouths dialogues that are in complete contrast with his fellow beings, tone wise, but it’s the sensible writing that comes to his rescue, every time.
Kabir Khan keeps devising moments to make you cry. It’s no Hacksaw Ridge, not at all, but it’s a film that delivers its message with force. The director emerges from the shadows of a superstar, in fact, two, Shah Rukh Khan is also there, and looks sure about his brand of cinema.
Tubelight isn’t a science versus faith kind of a film. At times, it tries to explain the motive behind its theme ‘your faith can achieve anything’, by going The Secret (the famous self-help book by Rhonda Byrne) way, but probably it needed something more.
The thing is, you know it’s Salman and he is doing something that’s opposite to his popular public image, but he does it with conviction, a lot of it. On top of it, the film is clear about its core message. I am yet not adding the festive mood to it.