Flickering but bright and outspoken

Tubelight Direction: Kabir Khan Actors: Salman Khan, Sohail Khan, Zhu Zhu, Matin Rey Tangu Rating:

Salman Khan has been playing a clumsy-yet-golden-hearted manchild for a while. He has aced this game by now and Tubelight, in which he plays the title character trying to stop a war to protect his drafted brother, might be his best shot at it.

Kabir Khan spreads the canvas even wider than his last Eid outing, Bajrangi Bhaijaan. The 2015 film was about being a peacemaker between two quarrelling neighbours. This one is about the futility of war. In short, it moves from the Pakistan border to the Chinese one and sends Salman to teach other people a lesson in kindness.

Laxman Singh Bisht, aka Tubelight, is the favourite entertainer of Jagatpur in the Kumaon region. With a protective younger brother, Bharat (Sohail Khan), and some Samaritans, he doesn’t mind being bullied, mocked or slapped as he believes in humanity in its purest form. It also works as a tactic that will force the audiences, typically fans, to clap later in the film when he will resort to a ‘little action’.

The backdrop of the India-China war of 1962 provides the film with a dreamy feel and a chance to make some strong statements. Kabir Khan also weaves in a Chinese family, with a scared mother (Zhu Zhu) and her precocious son (Matin Rey Tengu).

Tubelight is the director’s most outspoken film to date. What begins with a cue from the Gandhian ideology of the pre-Independence period goes on to become a film about self-belief. An actor actually plays Mahatma Gandhi.

Tubelight’s flag-bearer is the child actor, Matin, who questions the concept of hyper-nationalism and how shouting slogans is not patriotism.

Some of these themes needed more screen space and better handling, but Salman’s superstardom comes in the way. He plays Tubelight with the swagger his fans love.

The supporting cast tries but fails to deliver ‘cute-innocent’ dialogues, with Om Puri as the saving grace as the wise old Banney Miyan. Terrific actors like Zeeshan Ayyub and Yashpal Sharma accommodate Salman’s on-screen charisma. Unfortunately, they don’t get better playtime.

Tubelight is s no Hacksaw Ridge, but it delivers its message with force. The director emerges from the shadows of a superstar, in fact, two. Shah Rukh Khan also makes an appearance, and looks sure about his brand of cinema.

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