It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses. – French novelist Colette
The last time Hindi cinema made a film on the Sino-Indian War of 1962 was Haqeeqat (1964). Five decades later, we aren’t looking at the moniker of the second filmmaker in incredulity. It’s unquestionably Kabir Khan, a former war documentary filmmaker, now a behemoth auteur.
Compulsorily collaborating with the adept cinematographer Aseem Mishra, Khan endeavours to display a gorgeously mounted saga with adequate doses of humour. Mishra, verily is an enchanter behind the lenses. With his shooting paraphernalia, he has even made a monstrosity like Phantom (2015) breathtakingly beautiful.
And now, coming to the leading man, who’s silhouette is enough to bring the house down with catcalls and wolf-whistles (Remember Ek Tha Tiger?). Salman Khan and Kabir Khan should collaborate more often. When their maiden venture came out, it portrayed Bhai as a larger-than-life RAW agent, who can wallop the living daylights out of the knaves, yet manage to come out unscathed.
In the 2015 drama, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Khan penetrated into the sympathetic side of Salman, and showed it to Bhai’s harshest critics the actor tucked beneath those long-forgotten juggernauts.
With their third outing, the filmmaker seems to have dabbled with all the facets of his psyche. Sourcing its inspiration from the 2015 American war drama, Little Boy, Tubelight is a tale of faith and gallantry. This metaphorically titled film sees Bhai as Lakshman Singh Bisht, a childlike, gullible oke, and how he shares an ineradicable bond with his brother, Bharat Singh Bisht (Sohail Khan).
When the conflict between the nations deepen, the brothers are separated as the younger one is selected for the Indian army whereas the older sibling is repudiated due to his naïveté.
Convinced that the war will be over soon and Bharat will come back home, we witness Lakshman’s belief being soothed by Om Puri (endearing as always), Zhu Zhu ( in a phlegmatic debut) and Matin Rey (almost a scene-stealer).
However, Lakshman’s first tryst with his Yakeen ( a word that’s repeated way too often in the film) happens when a magician visits the town. This magician is played by Shahrukh Khan. Over the years, his cameos have transcended the notion of special appearances merely for mass gratification. There’s a lot more than his smoldering and scorching persona setting the screen ablaze, with heuristic homilies being delivered to the hero in his own charming stamp. Come to think of it, in Luck By Chance, Khan explained to Farhan Akhtar how stardom is a heady cocktail that can narcotise and numb people with illusions. In Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, he informed us why one-sided love is the most beautiful feeling in the world. Here, he tells Bhai the magic likes within you, and you’ll derive inspiration from nobody but yourself.
Kabir Khan goes miles ahead in emotional manipulation with his new film. Khan’s character, although well-intentioned and heartwarming, does oozes sincerity and compassion, but it threatens to overstay its innocence. And guess what, Bhai doesn’t take off his shirt, a welcome respite for the multiplex audiences, a possible catastrophe for the Bhaitards.
Sohail Khan, meanwhile, gets his first moment of celluloid heroism in his 15-year career. There are some spectacular war sequences featuring him as the valiant soldier, but all of them are mere fleeting encounters.
And can some filmmaker kindly give Brijendra Kala and Zeeshan Ayyub meaty roles, that do justice to their eminence? Will that ever happen? Kya tumhe yakeen hai ?