Tubelight: Starry cast without any soul

Film: Tubelight

Cast: Salman Khan, Sohail Khan, Om Puri, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub, Zhu Zhu, Matin Rey Tangu, Yashpal Sharma, Shah Rukh Khan

Director: Kabir Khan

Rating: * *

Runtime: 136 mins

Kabir Khan’s Tubelight is a monstrous re-jig of the 2015 release-Hollywood war-drama, ‘Little Boy’, directed by Alejandro Gómez Monteverde and as is wont to happen in most Bollywood remakes, he misses the wood from the trees. Juggling sentiment spewing elements from the original and repositioning them in an India-China conflict scenario, set in 1962, this film has the 52-year-old Salman Khan trying to get into the shoes of the 8-year-old boy whose innocent and sublime love for his father and faith in his own belief, helps bring back his father from a war that devastates the whole world. Of course, in this Hindi film, it’s the brother who has to be brought back.

But naturally, if Superstar Salman Khan is playing the titular role, then he has to go the SRK way and gamble with a ‘My Name is Khan’ ploy. And with trusted friend and director Kabir Khan (‘Ek Tha Tiger’, ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, ‘Sultan’) to support him, it’s obviously a salvo for the biggest non-actor star in the Bollywood Firmament to potentially net a National Award in the bargain. If Akshay Kumar can win it for a wooden performance in ‘Rustom’ then surely, a Salman Khan can do it too? Needless to say, apropos to that purpose, the director Khan has the star Khan do a dimwit (read Tubelight) for the entire film.

He, Laxman Singh Bisht (Salman Khan) is not so bright and the entire Kumoan hills (where he resides) resounds with the titular aspersion whenever he comes into sight. His biggest bête noir is the bullying hillbilly (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub) who never hesitates in maligning the lovable innocent (copiously overdone). Kabir Khan omits to tell us what Tubelight’s real problem is. Did he get slow in the head because of a brain injury or is it a form of fantasy asperger’s syndrome that affects the brain in selective fashion? With such a handicap and Salman epitomising it with a totally mistimed and strenuously effortful performance, you get the gist that Kabir is hoping for an ingratiating and un-genuine affect. Unfortunately, even that doesn’t get the audience to root for the degenerate, mentally stunted 52-year-old hoping to pass off as a 20something young man with a degenerated brain of an 8-year-old. Confusing, anyone?

Laxman loves his younger brother Bharat (Sohail Kan) so much that he anoints him his Boss. Having been orphaned at a young age, and with Guardian social worker (Om Puri) watching over them, the two remain inseparable – until China’s stealthy infiltration into Indian territory, post the Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai rhetoric. A young India under Nehru had yet to develop into a military power, so, caught unawares, was severely floundering under the assault. The army had started recruiting young men from the hills and Bharat is also selected. The war goes on and Bharat is presumed dead in battle. But Laxman’s conviction that he can move bottles, mountains and what not, helps him keep the faith that his brother will one day get back to him.

Here, Laxman’s faith is directed by Mahatma Gandhi’s preaching’s. In a rather quaint, obverse reference to ‘Forrest Gump,’ Laxman and Bharat are shown as receiving the Mahatma’s blessings, a few hours before he was slain. But Laxman’s real ‘mind moves’ begins with a magician’s (Shah Rukh Khan in a cameo) persuasion. Granted, the dimwit is liable to believe that he has powers that defy nature’s laws but do the people of the town also have to keep their brains aside and believe in the same? He forces himself to get friendly to a Chinese interloper and becomes the young child (Martin Rey) and mother’s (Zhu Zhu) fiercest protector- to the point of (inexplicably) rising to the occasion and beating up the nasty bully tormenting them. The war scenes are clumsily orchestrated, there’s no tension in the telling, performances lack believability, music is tormenting, the camerawork is flat and uninteresting and last but not the least the casting is atrocious. This film is so low on wattage that it’s liable to shut down even the electrical surge of a Salman Khan fan following!

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