When a Salman Khan starrer is set for an Eid release, excitement is well and truly heightened. After the success of Kabir Khan directed ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ (2012) and 2015’s ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ for Salman, ‘Tubelight’ promised to recreate that same magic. The story of ‘Tubelight’ is based on 2015 American war film ‘Little Boy’ with some adaptation. It’s thought that this would attract the Indian audiences in the way a Salman starrer expects to. However, does it really live up to those gigantic expectations and create another film which will be celebrated for years to come?
Laxman is referred to as “tubelight” by his classmates because he appears to understand things a little later than others. However, when his little brother Bharat (Sohail Khan) is born, he finds a friend for life who always protects him from bullies and makes him feel like he’s capable of anything, referring to him as “captain”. When the Indo-China war commences, Bharat decides to take up a post in the army to defend India, thinking that after a few years in service, he will be able to support himself and Laxman better financially – especially as their parents both died when they were young. The separation period is obviously heart-breaking and Laxman begins a quest to bring his brother back – including befriending a local Chinese family who arrive in the region – much to the disgust of many of the other locals.
When the trailer of ‘Tubelight’ was unveiled, there were obvious comparisons between Salman’s character in ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ and Laxman. This was definitely something that was somewhat similar – the innocence, the kindheartedness and the journey towards a specific goal. Kabir Khan has, it seems, kept the setting quite similar too, with the mountains as the backdrop. It’s safe to say the film is effective in parts but the story does become weaker in some parts. What ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ achieved is something ‘Tubelight’ doesn’t quite get up to the mark. It’s hard to pinpoint what but it could be argued that the emotional connections the audiences feel might be weaker. This is surprising, as Salman and Sohail should have evoked that emotion. Something falls short despite some very effective scenes and dialogues. It could well be that the “yakeen” theme which runs throughout the film just wasn’t strong enough to see the story through and keep is engaging at all points.
Salman performs, once again, as expected, but as the character’s sentiments and nuances have been seen before in previous roles he’s done, it’s nothing new for audiences to be wowed by. The freshness isn’t there but you feel like you know Laxman even before he’s introduced or been allowed to develop in the film. Sohail’s part is commendable and it is great to see the two brothers share the screen again as reel brothers. Their real-life bond is definitely good to see on the screen and the obvious fondness between them is incomparable and wouldn’t have been achieved with two other actors, it seems. The late Om Puri essays an important part and is always great as the elder who puts Salman on a specific path. Zhu Zhu and Matin Rey Tangu play their roles considerably well and don’t seem out of place at all.
The one thing that becomes a little confusing is Shah Rukh Khan’s cameo. This small appearance of King Khan was forever being touted as a pivotal twist in the story and therefore there was a need for an actor of his stature to take up the part. When watching the film, it’s difficult to see why this really needed someone like him in this cameo. Also, there’s not that much of a change in the direction of the story after he comes in but just more strength to a thought that Mahatma Gandhi brings in when Laxman and Bharat are young. Because of the promise of something magical was so expected – despite Shah Rukh playing a magician – it does feel like a bit of a let-down that this historic moment between these two Khans sharing the screen again somehow doesn’t hold too much significance.
The soundtrack of ‘Tubelight’ has been loved by all but is seemingly weaker that the songs of previous Kabir-Salman collaborations. Having said that, Radio and Naach Meri Jaan are very catchy, which see the return of Kamaal Khan’s voice to Hindi cinema are the best of the bunch.
To conclude, ‘Tubelight’ is a commendable try at remaking ‘Little Boy’ but unfortunately, seems to miss a chord somewhere. Apart from all mentioned above, the pace of the film is rather slow and the “yakeen” theme is something that just doesn’t justify a complete feature-length film’s thought. For those wanting to see ‘Tubelight’, it’s fair to say that you shouldn’t expect much different to what’s been seen previously. This film just doesn’t seem to step out of any kind of comfort zone – be that for Salman or for Kabir. The overall message of the longing for the return of a relative who has gone to defend their country seems to get lost somewhere in the grand scheme of the other elements of the story.
BizAsiaLive.com rating: 2.5/5