‘Tubelight’: Are we not ready to accept Salman Khan as anything but an archetypal protagonist?

Doughty, dynamic, spirited, charismatic? No. This time he is vulnerable, delicate, content with his own simplicity. Salman Khan wore a tint of new characteristics for ‘Tubelight‘ and that is enough appreciable. What then stops the audience from greeting the film with love, like they’ve always done to Salman Khan’s films?

Go back to Khan’s last release ‘Sultan’. Another Eid release, this one opened to a collection of Rs 36.59 crore. After one week, it stood with an amount of over Rs 100 crore and had a lifetime collection of over Rs 300 crore. ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, Salman’s 2015 Eid release, minted approximately Rs 27 crore on its opening day. It again bagged a lifetime collection of around Rs 315 crore, out of which around Rs 101 crore came within the first week itself. Talk about ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’, one of his biggest blockbusters that released on 2015 Diwali. It grossed around Rs 195 crore total, but opened to a very successful first-day business of around Rs 39 crore.

‘Tubelight’, however, earned around Rs 21 crore on its first day, and after four days which included an Eid, stands with Rs 81.25 crore. The tubelight is flickering!

The herculean crowd-puller of Bollywood. An efficient director. A national Holiday. All have seemed to worked out in past. What stops ‘Tubelight’ from flourishing as much as we thought, then? It is the year-old hunch Salman has developed about himself?

We, as audience, are customarily non-receptive to new things. We like to be served familiar dishes wrapped in prepossessing packages but have to be accustomed to the ingredients.

Salman, over the years, has come across as the unputdownable, undefeatable, quintessential hero who wins both battles and a woman’s heart with utmost ease. He is foiled in perfection and decked up with charisma; so much that his imperfections glisten in glory too. He doesn’t snivel in agony, he alters fate and turns it in his favour. He doesn’t give up, he would rather persuade until he has won it. This heroism, with all its valour, has become an integral part of Salman’s public image. Present him as an emotional, vulnerable, reliant individual and we won’t take it. Besides, the conflicts shown in ‘Tubelight’ are more emotional. It is a thorough narration of how war devastates us, but you don’t see Salman performing his high-octane kicks. Neither does he become the romantic lover boy and tries to woo the woman of his dream. ‘Tubelight’ is about the unspoken yet limitless love of brotherhood. Thus, no passionate or amorous act from Bhai.

The unnecessary comparisons between ‘Tubelight’ and blockbusters like ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, ‘Sultan’ only made it difficult; given that the content, this time, is drastically different from any of Salman’s earlier films.

This is the point where we indulge in some self-questioning. How liberal are we, in giving our actors chances to experiment? How receptive are you to let them change their skins and explore different shades? What would we choose among an non-evolving comfort zone or the ever-changing faces of cinema?

Raising a hand, anyone?

Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable

Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable
Image Source - YouTube

Kapoor & Sons – Since 1921. The house proudly flaunted that to the world, nestled in the greens of Coonoor. No one knew the darkness that was inside, the demons that were individually dealt with. But then, isn’t every family like that?

'Tubelight': Are we not ready to accept Salman Khan as anything but an archetypal protagonist?

Two years have passed by since this Shakun Batra-directorial, story of a dysfunctional family had come to our lives. However, amongst the various themes that tore apart the family and eventually brought it together, one that truly had the power to transform, was that of homosexuality.

Not many know, that the role played by Fawad Khan, that of family’s elder son, a successful author, was actually offered to many A-listers, who turned it down, eventually leading him to step into the shoes of Rahul. And it was, indeed, a very big step on his part. He was venturing out of his territory, a man who has such a huge female-fan following, and comes from a country with religion as its main running philosophy. He did the role and brought such conviction to it that we were forced to stand up and applaud, his courage, and the beauty with which his character was carved.

'Tubelight': Are we not ready to accept Salman Khan as anything but an archetypal protagonist?

Since times immemorial, all our memories of gay characters on screen have been that of carelessly effeminate and unimportant roles, which are just there to add a comic element. The stereotype has been high to an extent that often the champions of the same channelise it and promote it, for it is wrapped in the shiny paper of presentation. The biggest example of this was ‘Dostana’, which was an amazing story of friendship, still used homosexuality as humour, as its backdrop. Ironically, it came from the same production house, though nearly eight years before that.

'Tubelight': Are we not ready to accept Salman Khan as anything but an archetypal protagonist?

But ‘Kapoor & Sons’ begged to differ here. The character here was real, someone who was hiding himself, for the society, his family. There was surreality to the theme of homosexuality here, which had the power to jar us inside out; and that, it did.

Two scenes from the movie specifically hit me. First one is when Sunita (Ratna Patak Shah) finds out that her ideal elder son, whom she adores and is proud of, is not straight. The aftereffects of the same jolt you, because the reaction is just what an Indian mother gives, in any situation that is beyond her control; uncontrollable anger at the offspring, and then uncontrollable guilt, of blaming herself and her upbringing. The scene is filmed so beautifully, that your eyes sting. The way Fawad’s facade falls and his fear is marked across his face, which is then replaced by the anger of hiding himself for all those years, and mother’s dilemma and hurt, it all comes out in a naked and real manner.

'Tubelight': Are we not ready to accept Salman Khan as anything but an archetypal protagonist?

Another sequence is when Rahul (Fawad Khan) comes back home after the showdown with his mother and the death of his father totally uproots whatever sanity his family possessed. He sits with his mother, with whom his last encounter was one of his coming out, and she asks, hesitatingly, about his partner. A subtle way of expressing acceptance, the way they hold hands, without saying anything, it stays with you.

'Tubelight': Are we not ready to accept Salman Khan as anything but an archetypal protagonist?

It may not be one masterpiece, but ‘Kapoor & Sons’ will forever remain a favourite for finally breaking the mainstream stereotype of a gay man, in Bollywood. And for that, no matter how many bans, I will forever be waiting for Fawad Khan to come back, and give us more performances; with dare and conviction.

'Tubelight': Are we not ready to accept Salman Khan as anything but an archetypal protagonist?

An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream

An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream
Image Source - Pinterest

“I am a kid from the 90s but still can’t forget those days when, me-myself was not out and proud about my preferences. And inside my own sweet world would dance in front of the mirror on many songs, but majorly on ‘Hawa Hawai’ and ‘Main Teri Dushman, Dushman Tu Mera’. These songs were just not tunes for me, it made me feel exactly what I was; a QUEERby birth”.

'Tubelight': Are we not ready to accept Salman Khan as anything but an archetypal protagonist?
Image Source - India Forums

The news of the legendary diva Sridevi being no more with us is still hard to believe, as she was part of my and every queer’s childhood memories. While in the late 90s my bunch of friends would idolise a star from the West as their gay icon, me being a full-fledged Bollywood fanatic was in love with Sridevi and she was a diva I used to worship (and will forever). Her golden costume and perfectly done makeup in ‘Hawa Hawai’ made me feel, “Yes! There is someone like me out there who loves bling and all things loud.” Her feather headgear in one of the songs from ‘Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja’, touched my drag Queen‘s soul. One of the lines from her song ‘Hawa Hawai’ which is ‘Soorat Hi Maine Aisi Paayi’ transported me into a world where I thought that there is someone narcissist just like me. Sridevi’s charm was on my mind and the feminine side in me just wanted to be a replica of her.

'Tubelight': Are we not ready to accept Salman Khan as anything but an archetypal protagonist?
Image Source - Pinterest

The gone actress has not only given a lot to the Indian cinema, but her sass and talent of naturally moulding herself into any character gave her an upper hand in whatever she used to do. When many gay men were struggling and were confused about their sexual orientation they found a connection to their on-going pain in Sridevi’s roles. Whether it was Sridevi as a meek Anju and ferocious Manju fighting for everything wrong in ‘ChaalBaaz’ (1989), Pooja’s mutiny against the everlasting societal conditions in ‘Lamhe’ (1991), Seema’s confidence-filled and fearless dance in the ‘Mr. India’ (1987) song ‘Hawa Hawaai’ or her role of a naagin (snake) coming out to the world about her dual identity in ‘Nagina’ (1986), Sri’s roles had a deep connection and were etched in every GAY man’s mind.

'Tubelight': Are we not ready to accept Salman Khan as anything but an archetypal protagonist?
Image Source - giphy.com

And how can one miss ‘Kate Nahin Kat Te’ song of Sridevi from ‘Mr. India’, where she owned the song and made every gay guy’s dream to dance on it once with his man. This particular song was wild, seductive and equal parts bold. Sridevi draped in a sky-blue coloured saree with a matching bindi and of course adding fuel to the fire was her dancing moves. Even at the end of the song, a fully wet in rainwater, Sridevi stretching herself on a pile of hay – ‘Tumne jo li angdayi hai’ – where the diva nibbles on straws with a drenched fire in her eyes, leaving Mr. Kapoor to chivalrously lie on a distant haystack.

While mostly when the film fraternity was in a zone where feminine men were used as a tool to add fun elements on the silver screen, Sridevi was a ray of hope for the LGBTQ community. She was like a powerful symbol for the QUEERS. Her role resonated each and every gays struggle, and also echoed their dysphoria into her characters. And with her, all the queer children surpassed the narrow-minded stereotypes which they were labelled with. Lastly, she might be gone, but the colourful rainbow universe she opened for all the fellow LGBTQ people remains there intact..

Hail the QUEEN! RIP Sridevi.