Banner: Salman Khan Films
Producers: Salma Khan, Salman Khan
Director: Kabir Khan
Cast: Salman Khan, Sohail Khan, Matin Rey Tangu, Om Puri, Zhu Zhu, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Yashpal Sharma, Isha Talwar, Brijendra Kala, Shah Rukh Khan (s.a)
Writers: Kabir Khan, Parveez Shaika
When Tubelight was announced, the makers promised that we would get to see Salman Khan in a never-before-seen avatar. It’s a promise they have stood by. Gone is the macho Dabangg man, known to bash up baddies left, right and centre. Instead, we are met with an adorable child-trapped-in-an-adult’s-body, a character that tugs at your heartstrings throughout the film.
Salman Khan excels in this unusual role. That is the best part. There are also some breathtaking visuals and a hearty dose of ‘yakeen’, which leaves you full of conviction yourself, as you walk out of the cinema hall.
Based on the Hollywood film, Little Boy, Tubelight is set in the picturesque Kumaon region during the early ‘60s and is a faith-based film about two young men, Laxman Singh Bisht (Salman Khan) and his younger brother Bharat (Sohail Khan).
Laxman, as seen in the trailers, is slow. He is teased by his peers and nicknamed ‘Tubelight’. Bharat, on the other hand, is fearless and fiercely protective of Laxman. The two men are orphans. In their small town of Jagtapur, there is little Bharat can do for his brother. Then Banne Chacha (Om Puri), who has played a significant role in raising the brothers after their parents’ death, urges Bharat to join the Indian army.
The film etches the relationship between the brothers beautifully and you can’t help but smile at their bond. Your heart breaks when Bharat departs, leaving Laxman behind. He has been posted on the India-China border.
Director Kabir Khan, who has also written the screenplay, ably holds the film together in its first half. Humour, emotions, morals, character graphs and drama are all perfectly balanced. You wait for the director to work his magic in the second half as well, but, there, he disappoints a bit.
When Bharat is away at war, Laxman comes across a magician named Gogo Pasha (Shah Rukh Khan). The magician’s trick have him believing that he really can move things with his mind – if he truly believes. Laxman remembers hearing Gandhi say that one could move mountains if one had the right amount of conviction.
Adding to his yakeen, he is asked by Banne Chacha to follow Gandhiji’s principles in order to strengthen his belief. There is so much yakeen fed to Laxman, directly and indirectly, that he now believes he has telekinetic abilities. He believes he can actually move mountains. And he desperately wants to move mountains so he can end the war and bring his brother back home.
This more or less constitutes the second half of the film. In between, we have the cutie Guao (Matin Rey Tangu) and the beautiful LiLing (Zhu Zhu).
Layered with moral lessons ranging from Gandhian philosophy to the pointlessness of racism to the crux of the film – the importance of having belief – the film is sincerely well-intentioned, but there is so much philosophy packed into it that the director fails to drive home a single message with conviction. The linear screenplay further harms the movie.
That said, it is a film laden with some really heartwarming scenes that make up for the flaws in screenplay. The scene where Laxman wants to join the army will leave you in splits; when he attempts to befriend Gauo and his mother, you are moved. Shah Rukh Khan’s cameo is perfectly timed and it is a delight to watch these two Khans together.
There are several moments that will leave a lump in your throat. One only wishes more screen-time had been dedicated to the little talent Matin and Salman together.
A definite highlight of the film is its cinematography. DoP Aseem Mishra masterfully captures the beauty of the Kumaon and skillfully juxtaposes it with the rugged, arid terrain of the war zone.
Performance-wise, the film belongs to The Salman Khan. He impresses with his acting chops, and how! Even though there are long bouts of weeping, Salman delivers a solid performance and excels in every scene.
Matin Rey Tangu is one of the most interesting characters in the film. The child actor is seriously impressive and we hope to see more of him in future.
Chinese actress Zhu Zhu is beautiful and impressive. Sohail Khan delivers one of his best performances, subtle and poignant. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub plays his part well, as does Isha Talwar.
The late actor Om Puri has given us one more memorable character to remember him by. As a mentor to the two boys, he shines. The rest of the cast support the film well.