Tubelight.... Betrays fans' faith

Tubelight is a slang used generally to refer to a person who is a slow-starter, takes time in grasping matters like jokes or a simple statement. In the film, Tubelight, Salman Khan's character, is described as such by one and all because nothing seems to get into his head. But, as the story unfolds, it belies its own title because, Salman is not just a slow-starter: he is a non-starter. Nothing gets into his mind.

Based on the Hollywood film, Little Boy (2015), it is a period film in that the story takes place during World War II. A young boy of eight and his father share an amazing love for each other. The father has to join the troops to fight the war in place of his older son. The boy, attached to his father, will do anything, go to any length so that the war comes to an end so that his father can come back.

Tubelight has followed Little Boy almost scene to scene and in the setting but takes the liberty to change the characters and relationships. In place of the father-son, Tubelight is about the bond between brothers. These liberties prove hard to live up to as the film proceeds.

Salman Khan, living in Kumaon in Uttarakhand in north India, is a halfwit who is slow to react to things. He is lonely and the butt of jokes of the whole town. That is till his mother delivers a son, and Salman now has a younger brother. Sohail Khan, though younger, protects Salman from all the bullies. The brothers become inseparable and complement each other.

The peaceful town suddenly comes alive as trouble is brewing on the north-east frontier and war with China looks inevitable. The army visits the town to appeal for recruits. A patriotic fervour takes over and a lot of young boys volunteer. Salman, for his slow take on everything, is rejected while Sohail makes the cut.

The film takes about 30 minutes from the start till now, which is when the real story is set to begin; that of Salman pining for his brother and looking for the ways to end the war so that Sohail can be brought back. This time taken to depict the undying bond between the brothers has not quite worked on the viewer.

While he was a child, Mahatma Gandhi had visited Kumaon and given a mantra to Salman, that if you have faith in yourself, you can make mountains move. This mantra is put to test when a magician, played by Shah Rukh Khan, visits the town. He needs a volunteer from the audience for a magic trick. Salman is the chosen volunteer and he has to use his self-belief to move a soda bottle put on a table. The feat only adds to Salman’s belief in what Gandhiji had said.

Then, there is also Om Puri, who gives tenets of Gandhiji to Salman to follow if he wants to be successful in bringing his brother back.

While Salman’s self-belief is being honed, a Chinese family of two, a young widow, Zhu Zhu, and her little son, Matin Rey Tangu, move into Kumaon. Having arrived from Calcutta, they settle in a distant cottage. Sceptical at first that the Chinese had invaded Kumaon, Salman decides to follow Gandhiji’s advice and makes friends with Matin and later with Zhu Zhu. No matter that the whole town hates these two Chinese just for being Chinese.

If all this sounds mundane and not like a story, that is because that is how it is. There is no movement, the film is at a standstill as Salman goes around proving his self-belief, spending time with the Chinese, inquiring about his brother with the army man, played by Yashpal Sharma, time and again, and getting ridiculed by the townsfolk.

Even while concluding the film, the director chooses to stretch things by adding unnecessary melodrama.

Tubelight starts with a wrong film as inspiration. The idea of superimposing Salman in place of an innocent young boy of eight in the WW II era braving all tests so that his father could return from the war backfires. Just making him an imbecile to fit into an eight year old’s character is not a sane idea.

The direction is poor with glitches galore. Borrowing an American film is fine, but also following the same sets is not. Kumaon town of 50s and 60s with English signboards on shops, bakery, Softy vending machine, direct dialling telephones is taking things for granted. War scenes are not convincing. While the war is being fought across Ladakh, half the army seems to be stationed in Kumaon, busy giggling!

Musically, the film has two decent numbers in Naachmerijaan….and Radio song. Dialogue is mundane. Set designing is patchy ad editing is poor. Cinematography complements the scenic location.

Salman Khan tries his best but this just is not his film, he disappoints his fans. Sohail Khan is still a non-actor. Sharma and Isha Talwar are okay. Zeeshan Ayub is the villain without a cause.

Zhu Zhu is good. Om Puri and Matin Rey are the only bright spots.

Tubelight offers none of the regular Salman feature like action, songs, comic situations, the things that make his films work. This film counts only on emotions which, sadly, are forced and fail to touch the viewer. Unreasonably high priced, Tubelight has little going for it despite Eid week.

Producers: Salma Khan, Salman Khan.

Director: Kabir Khan.

Cast: Salman Khan, Matin Rey Tangu, Om Puri, Sohail Khan, Yashpal Sharma, IshaTalwar, Mohammed ZeeshanAyub, Zhu Zhu, Brijendra Kala, Shah Rukh Khan (Sp. Appearance).

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