Director- Kabir Khan
Starring- Salman Khan, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Om Puri
Besides the theme of ‘faith moving mountains’ Tubelight is a sharp and a smart comment on the current twisted definition of nationalism. What’s even smarter is the way director Kabir Khan has merged the biggest superstar of the country with a character of a simpleton to put his point forward. Salman Khan plays the gullible Laxman aka Tubelight. He is like the alien in PK; innocent, not worldly and neutral enough to effectively show that screaming slogans for one’s country doesn’t make you a true blue patriot. The scene where Laxman and the little boy Guo (pun definitely intended) scream ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ to show their patriotism, subtly and smartly exposes how superficial this new wave of nationalism is.
Tubelight is largely copied from the 2015 release Little Boy, where a young son’s faith brings his father back from war. Salman Khan replaces the son whose father is replaced by a brother played by Sohail Khan and the entire story is based on how Laxman’s faith brings his brother back from the Indo-China war in 1962.
Despite a tongue-in-cheek dig at the country’s hottest debate, Kabir Khan makes it way too simplistic. For instance, there is a typewriter placed unnecessary in the frame to shove it down our throats that it’s set in 1962. Or the main protagonist Laxman forgets to zip up his pants, highlighting his naïve character. And then there is a string of too many songs; happy, festive and sad, highlighting every emotion in the film with neon colors.
It’s rather intriguing how Kabir Khan keeps it so subtle yet so simplistic. Like the Chicken Song in Bajrangi Bhaijaan that was a dig at the government’s decision of banning beef in the country, Tubelight has some clever scenes too. The scene where fake news of the Chinese taking over, spreads like wildfire and nobody seems to double check, is written smartly. It hints at how we consume news on social media and believe all forwards that we receive.
And despite all this, the movie manipulates to evoke smiles, tears and most of all, laughs. The scene where Laxman goes on an honesty spree, though contextual, seems like a forced attempt to make the film entertaining.
The film packs some heart-warming performances. My eyes welled up every time I saw Om Puri on screen. We will miss such an honest, endearing actor. The scene where he calls Laxman different and not retarded is a reminder of how everyone is unique and should be accepted as is.
Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub plays the obnoxious Narayan. I hated him. And I mean that only as a compliment. He mocks and ridicules Laxman, he instigates the crowd against the Chinese and he nails it in every scene. He is one of the most underrated actors and I hope filmmakers wake up to his genius and use him often.
Salman keeps it very basic while playing the man child. He almost looks awkward, however there are a couple of scenes where he breaks down and you do feel Laxman’s pain. Martin as the little kid and the Chinese actress Zhu Zhu are good too.
Writing a review for a Salman Khan film is like having an opinion on Arnab Goswami’s show. Like, really? Is anyone even listening? Minus the melodrama and manipulation, the film effectively deals with the theme of faith, love and tolerance and it means so much, especially when it comes from the most loved star in the country.