Tubelight sees Salman Khan move beyond the familiarity of 'Chulbul Pandey' and 'Prem'
Salman Khan, heart throb and superstar as he may be, does not have the best reputation as a romance hero.
He uses slingshots to throw flowers at women's behinds, he lifts their skirts, talks about how they turned badnaam for him, and we've only talked about the songs he's featured in so far. If you've ever read about his personal life, you'll know that there aren't many glowing reports of him as a boyfriend/lover.
Khan has had many a tryst with abusive and controlling characters in the past. His Radhe Mohan in Tere Naam stalks Bhoomika Chawla's Nirjara despite a clear rejection from her. He eventually kidnaps her and forces her to reciprocate his feelings. In Dabanng, Chulbul Pandey forces Sonakshi Sinha's Rajjo to accept payment for clay pots he has purchased from her. When she refuses, he threatens to slap her, and in true Bollywood style, she says that she is afraid of love, not getting hit. Out of love (and goodwill), he marries Rajjo after her father commits suicide, but it remains unclear if she ever consented to this marriage.
There have also been a fair share of roles where he has played a womanising, cheating husband. In Biwi No 1, he cheats on his goody-goody wife Karisma with the more modern and stylish Sushmita Sen. In the end, it is not the realisation that his actions are wrong, but rather the fact that Sushmita used him for material gains, that prods him to go back to his wife, who always stood by his side.
In No Entry, he plays Prem, a man who takes advantage of his trusting wife and has numerous affairs. Not only this, he also tries to bring his own friend down by tempting him to have an affair with a call girl.
Even in his more recent films, the sexism is obvious. Take for example Sultan, where he puts his own ambitions, sports and family-related ahead of those of his wife, who is a far more qualified wrestler. His character also follows the 'yes means no' logic, misinterpreting Anushka Sharma's rejection for consent. Sultan is also misogynistic, and feels no qualms about spouting lines like, "She hasn’t yet become my wife, but she has already starting sucking my blood."
In the wake of all these films comes Tubelight, where he plays a misfit character who, like the title indicates, is not quick on his feet.
This character is inherently incapable of the smart alec tendencies of a Chulbul Pandey, and the cheating is certainly beyond him. His charm lies in his innocent, cherubic qualities. This is evident from the video of 'Main Agar', the latest song from the film.
Khan's character is gentle and shy, and tries wooing over Zhu Zhu by buying her son ice-cream. The stark contrast between Laxman Singh Bisht and a majority of the other characters he has played thus far is evident from his body language around the Chinese actress, who he will eventually fall in love with in the film.
Is this a momentary departure or a well-thought out transition? Only time with tell. Tubelight releases in theatres on 23 June.