Tubelight is one of those films that shamelessly attempt to emotionally manipulate viewers into being sentimental wrecks.
An incredibly cute child to pull at your heartstrings, tonnes of melodrama and a Salman Khan who is at sob-risk, are some of the takeaways from the movie.
Now, an ardent Salman fan may forgive director Kabir Khan for his unsubtle cues, but others may find its contrived nature grating. You don’t have to be the brightest bulb in the class to figure that out.
The tale of two brothers — played by real-life siblings Salman and Sohail Khan — and how their lives are torn apart by the 1962 Indo-Sino war is a crash course in over simplification.
There’s the man with a golden heart, Laxman, derided by his mates as ‘Tubelight’ due to his low IQ, whose plain niceness fights all evils.
The film begins with a childlike (borderline childish) narration by Salman about his quaint world on the hilltops.
The enjoyment for that opening scene may depend on the degree of your fanaticism for the superstar.
The scene is set rapidly — we are told that Salman isn’t conventionally intelligent and gets mercilessly bullied in school for his slow-on-the-uptake nature, but the arrival of his younger brother — a buffed up Sohail — puts an end to his misery.
The two form a split-proof bond, with Sohail watching over his elder brother like a shining knight.
Imagine this: Laxman gets rejected at the Indian army selection for soldiers, but his brother, who makes it to the list, convinces him that he needs to stay behind as a civilian in his town to alert those fighting on the war front of any Chinese enemy sightings. Salman’s character believes him and goes about fake captaining.
A plus for trying, but that’s it
It’s all executed in a cute manner, but their saccharine way of storytelling is cloying.
That’s not to say that Salman hasn’t tried hard. The actor, who had a similar good-natured guy role in the monster hit Bajrangi Bhaijaan, puts all his might into making Tubelight a squeaky clean hero. His new Eid release is like a graduation from the role in Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which offers an exaggerated version of it.
But that’s the trouble; Salman tries too hard. When he’s sad and distressed about his brother’s plight on the war front, his face contorts painfully and the use of glycerine has been generous — not in a good way. The constant infantilisation by National Award-winning director may also make you wonder if the maker has mistakenly confused the collective IQ of his viewers. Plus, there is a song and sequence to underline Tubelight’s every emotion — be it euphoria or sadness.
While Salman has to be appreciated for attempting a glorious simpleton role, it doesn’t mean that he is consistently spot on. Some of his cheeky scenes are funny, but many fall flat and seem impossibly orchestrated.
All forces are at work in the first half of the film to hoist him as an indefatigable on-screen simpleton supremo. A few scenes that may even remind you of the hit Munnabhai series, where Tubelight goes around spouting Gandhian principles and applies them to his own life.
The supporting cast including the late actor Om Puri, the endearing Chinese star Zhu Zhu and child actor Martin Rey Tangu are on call to complement the hero.
Watch this film if you love Salman enough to ignore the flaws in his film.
Cast: Salman Khan, Zhu Zhu, Martin Rey Tangu, Om Puri, Sohail Khan
Director: Kabir Khan
Stars: 2.5 out of 5