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

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

Salman Khan and Matin Rey Tangu in Tubelight

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?

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