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Shying away from the lightA still from Tubelight
Movie Review - Tubelight

Shying away from the light

23 Jun 2017 | 8:10 PM

Film: Tubelight

Cast: Salman Khan, Sohail Khan, Om Puri, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub, Zhu Zhu,
Martin Rey Tangu

Director: Kabir Khan

[ + read story ]

Johnson Thomas

Most of our major stars have done it before – from Amitabh Bachchan(Black) to Anil Kapoor(Eeshwar) to Sridevi(Sadma) to Priyanka Chopra(Barfi) to Hrithik Roshan(Koi Mil Gaya) to Shah Rukh Khan(My Name is Khan)- all of them have essayed challenging characters with mental deficiencies and now the latest addition to that esteemed actor roll is Salman Khan.

Esteemed- Not because he does a great job in the film but because he dared to take it on and goes about trying to fit in, just as gamely too. But it’s an all-out effort that shows up deficient and severely compromised. 

In this inspired(ridiculous if you ask me) reworking of the Hollywood war drama ‘Little Boy,’ Bollywood Superstar Salman Khan has his role literally cut out for him – an unevenly chipped characterization that appears to originate from innuendos rather than real world defects.

We don’t get to know what his problem is but from what transpires on screen, we understand that he is a Tubelight- a person with a mental deficiency that leaves him vulnerable to the people around him. Laxman(Salman Khan) is regularly heckled and abused by a hell-raiser  Narayan(Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub)from his village town nestled in the Kumoan hills.

After being orphaned at a young age, his younger brother Bharat(Sohail Khan) assumes the role of his Boss and only protector. But he too is taken away from him by fate. China has just invaded India and Bharat is one of the new army recruits’ who is presumed to be dead in the skirmish that ensues between the Chinese army and the hopelessly outflanked Indian side. 

This film is about belief – one that can move bottles and mountains, stop a war and even bring back a loved one from the dead. And conversely, the biggest element lacking in the film is believability. While we can see the strain Salman Khan puts himself through to make his 52 year old self pass off as a 20 something dimwit with the brains of an 8 year old, we really don’t feel his pain.

So the empathy is missing and the protracted struggle of sitting through a film which tries to force it’s ideology down your throat, is severely draining. 

Director Kabir Khan and his team of scriptwriters have Salman Khan as Laxman, play the patriot card with an Indian born Chinese child Ghu Wan (Martin Rey) in which the kid is asked to prove his patriotism by repeating the ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ qualifier slogan.

The kid is so loud in his assertion that Laxman’s plaintive intonation is drowned out. Ghu goes on to assert that he is more Indian than Laxman, because of it. One can commiserate with Kabir Khan’s angst and understand where it’s coming from but the question here really is what the director was trying to prove by inserting that scene? There’s really no recompense from it, just like in the other issues he tiptoes around without really creating any sort of impact.

Gandhiji’s principles are bandied about in a fashion that flies away with the wind and Laxman’s forced ‘yakeen’ in the transformational change of loving his enemy, an Indian born Chinese widow, Li Ling(Zhu Zhu), doesn’t sit well enough in the narrative, to be comforting. A magician’s(Shah Rukh Khan) trick may have Kick-started Laxman’s voyage of ‘belief in the power of self’ and a chancy coincidental earthquake gets the villagers to rally(illogical) around him.

And the next time he goes on the attack, the war is done with. His powers have now become a rallying point even for those who tut-tutted( including Narayan, an Indian army major and his lieutenant) about it previously. It’s difficult in fact to suppress your disbelief in the face of such fanciful goings on. The casting is the biggest problem here.

Salman and Sohail , in spite of the digital mark-ups in look, fail to pass off as twenty something young men. Zeeshan Ayub as the knock-kneed reject doesn’t have the knock knees to suit the job. Aseem Mishra’s camerawork can do little to make the surroundings come alive in the face of such stunted and handicapped performances. Background score, though not overblown, doesn’t quite fit in.

The songs and dances only strain the credibility further. Kabir Khan’s direction is standard issue here. In his efforts to camouflage Salman’s deficiencies as an actor, he has unwittingly done a major disservice to his film. Even a Salman Khan fan is bound to be disappointed by this dim-witted misadventure!

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