Tubelight: Salman Khan, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Kabir Khan’s political commentary

Officially based on the Little Boy (2015), Kabir Khan’s film is about the futility of war and is set in the backdrop of the India and China war of 1962 and features Salman Khan, Sohail, Matin Rey Tangu and Zhu Zhu.With Tubelight, Kabir has come up with his most out-spoken and boldest version of popular cinema.

bollywood Updated: Jul 18, 2017 07:54 IST
Sweta Kaushal
Sweta Kaushal
Hindustan Times
Tubelight,Salman Khan,Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub
Salman Khan and Mohhamad Zeeshan Ayyub in a still from Tubelight.

Salman Khan’s Tubelight, despite what critics have said about it, may still be filmmaker Kabir Khan’s most outspoken and boldest version of the brand of films he’s known for. Over the years, he has built a portfolio of films with a generous hint of socio-political commentary within the framework of popular cinema, and this year’s Eid offering is no different either.

Real life siblings Salman Khan and Sohail play brothers in Tubelight.

Officially based on the Little Boy (2015), Tubelight, set in the backdrop of the Indo-China war of 1963, is about the futility of war. The film also features Salman’s brother Sohail, child actor Matin Rey Tangu and Chinese actress Zhu Zhu.

Before the release of Tubelight, Kabir said in an interview to Reuters, “In Bajrangi Bhaijaan, the chicken song is a song that people can easily enjoy at face value, and people do. It is a nice peppy number and Salman is dancing like a chicken. But if you go into the politics of it and you go deeper, you realise it is common to what is happening in our country today. That makes it more profound. That is the trick, right? To be able to slip it in so that it doesn’t look like someone is preaching to you, but it is there and can make you think.”

While Kabir is known to weave socio--political commentary and detailing into an entertaining masala movie, Tubelight is clearly high on commentary.

The herd mentality

It is a bold move on Kabir’s part to have Narayan’s character in Tubelight. Essayed by theatre artist Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub (of Tanu Weds Manu and Raanjhana fame), the character personifies the ignorant and angry mob mentality that is becoming increasingly prominent in today’s India. When the army calls for the public to join forces for a potential war against China, he is one of the hundreds who go for a trial, only to be rejected. Later, he takes upon the self-appointed responsibility of keeping the “them” away from his motherland. When Matin and Zhu Zhu enter Jagatpur, people believe they are Chinese and plan to make them go away. Narayan leads a group of men who want to burn down their house without trying to understand the facts.

Later in the film, its Laxman (Salman) who’s at the centre of the crowd’s hatred, and once again it is Narayan who is the face of an angry mob ready to beat him up without listening to his side of the story. In an age when lynch mobs on india’s streets are having a free run, Kabir must be lauded for not mincing his words and showing a mirror to the irrationals.

Racist discrimination and marginalising the “others”

Matin Rey Tangu and Salman Khan on sets of Tubelight.

Kabir has achieved what few have managed to do in Bollywood films - a strong statement ridiculing our racial mentality. People from north-east are often snubbed off as outsiders and ridiculed for their different lifestyle. Kabir shows how Matin and Zhu Zhu are singled out in the village because they “look like Chinese” and perhaps don’t know Hindi.

Jingoistic nationalism
Kabir has also ridiculed jingoistic nationalism that is the flavour of our country right now. You need to sing the national anthem and shout “Bharat Mata ki Jai” to prove that you are loyal to your motherland. When Salman asks the kid to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, he shouts louder than the star and ridicules him for making it a yardstick for nationalism. Later, Salman asks the kid to speak in Hindi and prove that he is an Indian. Matin replies in Chinese and rebukes the 50-year-old actor saying, “Main koi tota nahi jo tumhare kehne pe kuch bhi bolega.”

Tubelight may have faltered in creating a wholesome entertaining package (even the box office figures aren’t upto the star’s level- clocking just Rs 42.32 crore in two days), the film must be lauded for being brave enough to stand up and tell us where we as a society are going horribly wrong. Yes, in that Tubelight is a clear winner.

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First Published: Jun 25, 2017 13:28 IST