Tubelight (2017): Movie Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Tubelight is the latest offering from Kabir Khan starring the Sultan of Bollywood, Salman Khan, in the title role. The film co-stars Sohail Khan, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Om Puri, and the renowned Chinese actress Zhu Zhu. Tubelight also features a cameo from the Badshah of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan. The film is an adaptation of the American war drama, Little Boy (2015), directed by Alejandro Gómez Monteverde.  While Little Boy is set in the backdrop of the Second World War, Tubelight is set during the 1962 India-China War. Tubelight is the story of Laxman Singh Bisht aka Tubelight and his quest to bring his beloved brother back home from the disastrous war. However, the catch is that Laxman although looks like a grownup man he still behaves like a child. He neither has the wits nor the means to ensure his brother’s safe return. The only thing that he has is faith. It is said that faith can move mountains and so Laxman, pitted against insurmountable odds, must learn never to lose his faith, come what may. Faith, hope and love are the three things that define Tubelight.

For the last decade Salman Khan and Eid have become synonymous. It is this time of the year that the Sultan of Bollywood usually comes out with his latest offerings. As a matter of fact, Salman Khan’s Eid releases have turned out to be some of the biggest releases in the history. This includes Sultan (2016), Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), Kick (2014), Ek Tha Tiger (2012), Bodyguard (2011), Dabangg (2010), and Wanted (2009). And, having just watched Tubelight, I have a strong sense of feeling that it is going to join this formidable list of blockbusters. It is far from being a perfect film but it has all the makings of a perfect Eid blockbuster. During the course of this review we will look at some of the key factors that make Tubelight a must watch for the fans of Salman Khan.

Salman’s forte has been playing macho roles which go really well with his ripped physique. But he is also not bad at playing simpletons as evident from films like Bajrangi Bhaijaan, London Dreams (2009), and Bandhan (1998). He has a rare gift for exuding innocence despite his Greek God looks and strong build. But in Tubelight he gets to play a unique character that he hasn’t yet played in his three-decade-long career. It’s unthinkable and unimaginable to see Salman play the part of a grownup man who behaves like an eight year old owing to a mental condition. That’s the challenge Salman was pitted against from the world go. And he pulls it off brilliantly. Those you think Salman can’t act better be prepared for the shock of their lives. Credit goes to Salman for his determination and commitment and for Kabir Khan for showing complete faith in Salman’s acting abilities. Remember, Salman has never been particularly known for his acting (it is his screen presence that does the job for him) but in the recent times he certainly seemed to have raised the bar and his performance in Tubelight is certainly the highlight of his acting career.

Little Boy didn’t fare too well at the American box-office and so Kabir Khan had his job cut out to adapt it in a manner that it gathers a mass appeal. The first step in this direction was signing Salman Khan as the protagonist. And, undoubtedly, it proved to be a masterstroke. But the biggest strength of Tubelight apart from Salman’s moving performance is Kabir Khan’s direction. The manner in which he directs his actors is quite commendable. Also, his attention to period detail is remarkable. The way he shoots his films is something that’s very rarely seen in commercial Bollywood films. The tradeoff between artistic and commercial aspects is another thing that needs to be praised.

One of the highlights of Tubelight is the bond of love that Laxman Singh Bisht shares with his brother. Yes, Salman and Sohail are brothers in real life as well playing brothers in a motion picture is a different proposition altogether. Some of the best scenes of Tubelight are the ones that feature Salman and Sohail together. In the past also they have shared screens in movies like Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya (2005) and Main Aurr Mrs Khanna (2009) but their unique chemistry in Tubelight tops them all hands down.

The Chinese sensation Zhu Zhu who is making her Bollywood debut with Tubelight is already an international star having starred in film like The Man with the Iron Fists and Cloud Atlas. Zhu Zhu also played a pivotal character in Netflix’s sprawling saga Marco Polo. There is no denying that Zhu Zhu has been a great addition to the starcast of Tubelight. Her ravishing screen presence in the film is something that will catch the attention of one and all. Hopefully, we will get to see her in more Bollywood films in the near future.

The veteran Indian actor Om Puri was shooting for Tubelight when he breathed his last. His untimely death has left a big void. But his performance in Tubelight is something that his fan will cherish for a long time to come. He leads a brilliant supporting cast which also includes the likes of Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub who delivers yet another memorable performance in Tubelight. Some of the scenes that Puri and Ayyub share with Salman are simply superb. Also the child actor is Matin Rey Tangu is terrific in his role.

Pritam has been on a roll. He continues to deliver one hit song after the other. And Tubelight’s songs are no exception. “Radio” and “Naach Meri Jaan” together have garned over 35 million views on YouTube alone. Getting the songs right in Salman Khan’s films are always a challenge and full credit goes to Pritam for one again hitting the bullseye with his mellifluous compositions that actually fit into the movie’s narrative.

Aseem Mishra has been the go to cinematographer Kabir Khan and has shot all his films so far except his debut film Kabul Express. And obviously Mishra has never really disappointed Khan. Undoubtedly, the director-cinematographer duo seems to share a great equation.  And Tubelight is no exception. Mishra once again succeeds in translating Khan’s cinematic vision to a tee. In fact, Tubelight appears to be Mishra’s best work till date. One can only imagine the challenges that Mishra would have had to deal with while shooting Tubelight but going by the looks of it one can safely say that he overcame each one of them with aplomb. 

Rating: 6.5/10

A version of this review was first published in Wittyfeed.    

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Tubelight - Official Trailer

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