Salman Khan movie is all surface, no depth
Salman Khan, Kabir Khan film gets its message right -- love conquers all -- but it is the messenger who is the weak person. The effort Salman puts in to come across as slow-witted shows in every frame and lacks any nuance.
A man child. Or a child-like man. Salman Khan has had long practice of playing one or the other kind of male, and has aced both. His latest alter ego takes the child-like character of man several notches higher. Salman’s character Laxman Singh Bisht is called, disparagingly, ‘tubelight’. Why? Simple. It flickers. It takes time to switch on. And then, and then only, there is light.
Because it is Salman, we go in looking for a plot designed to propel him, and us, towards that light. And because it is Kabir Khan, who has the ability to layer mainstream with meaning, and who has given the star one of his most memorable cinemas, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, we expect for the magic to work again.
But this time around, in which the director and the star set their sights on China, it is not to be. Tubelight presents Salman in full Forrest Gump mode. Laxman, the golden-hearted simpleton, not only loves his brother Bharat (Sohail Khan), he also teaches us to love our neighbours, during peace or strife. It matters not where the borders are, and where the battle is; love conquers all.
The message is perfect, especially apt for these manic times. But the effort, on Salman’s part, to come off slow-witted shows in every frame. It’s all contorted face, sing-song delivery; all surface, no depth. And absolutely no nuance. Instead of Hindi Chini bhai bhai, it is more like Hindi Chini, bye bye.
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Which is a pity because Kabir pulled off a most entertaining ‘aman ki asha’ with Pakistan by making Bhaijaan a Bajrangi bhakt, and re-uniting a lost little girl with her family. In Tubelight, the director adapts a Hollywood film and goes back more than 50 years (it’s set in the backdrop of the 1962 Indo-China war): Bharat enrolls in the army, goes off to fight, and vanishes. Daily reports of casualties lead to tension in the sleepy Kumaon village where the film is set. A ‘Chinese’ looking mum-and-son (Zhu Zhu and Matin Rey Tangu) becomes the target of the villagers’ ire. Of course, the duo is Indian.
Done better, the two Khans (three actually, because Sohail has a significant share of the screen as well as a co-producer credit), could have said something very important about racism and widespread discrimination against north-easterners, called ‘chinkies’, and other humiliating names. But Tubelight squanders that opportunity because it translates child-like into childish, and simple into simplistic: words like ‘susu’, ‘potty’ and ‘goo’ are used to make us laugh.
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