Cast: Salman Khan, Sohail Khan, Zhu Zhu
Director: Kabir Khan
Quick Take: Charming but inconsistent drama
Tubelight's story is layered but its storytelling is definitely not breezy. Salman Khan is introduced as Laxman, a likeable and simple guy who is described as being a bit slow in the head. His learning deficiency earns him the title of Tubelight in a quaint town from India's Kumaon region. The local population is generally friendly but everyone enjoys making fun of Laxman's simpleton nature. Laxman's younger brother Bharat (Sohail Khan) is his emotional and physical anchor. Together the brothers are a cheerful lot who have fun and frolic. Things get dramatic when Bharat enlists in the Indian Army and leaves Laxman behind to go fight in the 1962 Indo-China war. The simple minded Laxman waits for his brothers return. The local wise old man, played by Om Puri, uses Gandhian ideals as a means of distraction for Laxman. But Gandhiji's ideologies inspire Laxman to achieve bigger things. Namely, move mountains.
There's a lot going on with the story of Tubelight. On the surface this film is a straight laced story of a man child who hopes for miracles. But under the surface there are themes of discrimination against India's North East and mountain region populations as well as society's inability to deal with specially abled individuals. But none of the film's underlying motives ever shine out bright. While Salman Khan's and Sohail Khan's characters are detailed and diverse, others like the Chinese mother-son duo, played by Zhu Zhu and Matin Rey Tangu, or even Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub's rabble rouser aren't fleshed out at all. The story never convinces you with the supporting cast's emotions. The story remains simple and sweet, but it never quite assumes the role of a higher meaning, as it did with Bajrangi Bhaijaan. At little over 2 hours, Tubelight feels slow paced and lacks a solid vein of humour as well as dramatic consistency. There are sporadic moments that touch your heart. The camaraderie between the brothers and the chemistry between Salman and young Matin is superlative. But not every situation in the Tubelight narrative turns out special. The excessive crying on Laxman's part does get monotonous. The predictable nature of the story doesn't help matters either.
Salman Khan plays an affable man child with abandon. He's no Forrest Gump, but his simple demeanour and his constant tryst with an open fly is charming. While the actor gets full marks for the effort, he doesn't always look the part. For the role of a slow, child-like man, Salman Khan is too muscular and robust. There are times when the character's illusion just doesn’t work out. Sohail Khan as the younger brother with an indomitable spirit has a decent outing too. But perhaps Tubelight would've looked a lot more convincing with a younger set of characters. Chinese actress Zhu Zhu looks beautiful and she performs in all earnestness too. Young Matin teams up with Salman to give Tubelight its best moments. Whether they're chanting Bharat Mata ki jai or slowly grasping the Hindi Chini bhai bhai notion, Salman and Matin form a superb team.