Lights out for flawed drama

Sal­man Khan can’t save Tube­light, an overly sen­ti­men­tal war movie about broth­erly love, writes Saeed Saeed

The National - News - Arts & Life - - Front Page -

Tube­light Di­rec­tor: Kabir Khan Star­ring: Sal­man Khan, So­hail Khan and Zhu Zhu film Lit­tle Boy (star­ring Jakob Sal­vati and Emily Watson), and stum­bles for the same rea­sons.

It is soaked in the same gooey sen­ti­men­tal­ity that plagued the American pro­duc­tion. The film begins strongly enough by il­lus­trat­ing the deep bond the brothers share, but di­rec­tor Kabir Khan looses fo­cus when the sib­lings are sep­a­rated, and from then on the film jar­ringly flits from Bahrat’s war ex­pe­ri­ences to the small town fol­lies faced by Lax­man.

Tube­light’s in­ten­tions are also con­fused. While it is in essence about the sac­ri­fices made by soldiers and their fam­i­lies, the film rarely delves into this topic. In­stead, we fol­low Lax­man as he metic­u­lously completes the list of ex­er­cises Bane Chacha gives him – all in the hope that they will an­swer Lax­man’s prayers and bring his brother back safely.

This means, for ex­am­ple, Lax­man con­quer­ing his fear by div­ing from a steep moun­tain. Or be­friend­ing a Chi­nese fam­ily (a se­quence fea­tur­ing a classy per­for­mance by ac­tress and singer Zhu Zhu) to learn the les­son “be­friend your en­emy”.

It all adds up to a script heavy on mawk­ish sen­ti­ment and state­ments (“self be­lief is a pre­cious thing, but it doesn’t move mountains”) that of­fers lit­tle in the way of char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment. This is a shame – what­ever your opinion of Sal­man Khan’s lim­ited act­ing range, there is no doubt­ing his ded­i­ca­tion to a role. Per­haps ac­knowl­edg­ing that his mus­cu­lar frame might de­tract from his char­ac­ter’s in­her­ent fragility, Khan hunches his shoul­ders, his eyes are open wide and he al­ways ap­pears close to burst­ing into tears.

A par­tic­u­larly af­fect­ing scene in­volves a cameo from his box- of­fice ri­val, Shah Rukh Khan, as a cir­cus ma­gi­cian. Lax­man is pulled from the au­di­ence and asked to move a bot­tle through sheer men­tal force of will, which il­lic­its mock­ery from the crowd. Khan’s ten­der and haunted look is su­perb act­ing.

How­ever, such flick­er­ing mo­ments of qual­ity are rare and fail to con­vince that Tube­light is any­thing more than low volt­age fluff.

is in cinemas now

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