Tubelight: How similar will Salman Khan-starrer be to Little Boy, the film it is based on?

Neerja Deodhar

Jun 22, 2017 21:08:11 IST

There are Indian remakes of foreign films, and then there bad remakes of foreign films, which fail to enthrall audiences like their original counterparts.

For the last two months, it has been a well-known fact that Salman Khan's Tubelight, which releases on 23 June, is a remake of American war-drama film Little Boy. Released in 2015, Little Boy was directed by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gómez Monteverde. The film received mixed reviews, so the pressure on Tubelight is twofold — to take the best that Little Boy has to offer, and to make it better than the original.

Tubelight: How similar will Salman Khan-starrer be to Little Boy, the film it is based on?

Youtube screengrabs

But before an analyses of the film comparing it to Monteverde's happens tomorrow, let's take a look at what the American film, starring Jakob Salvati, Emily Watson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Michael Rapaport  and David Henrie was about and how it was received.

[Possible spoilers ahead]

In Little Boy, Jakob Salvati plays Pepper Flynt Busbee, an eight-year-old boy who is small for his age. Ever since his birth, his father is extremely fond of him. When Pepper visits a doctor and asks him if he has dwarfism, the doctor replies by simply saying, "For now, Pepper, let's just say you're a 'little boy'". Pepper would later go on to despise this name and react negatively whenever anyone used it to call him.

A still from Little Boy. Image from Facebook

A still from Little Boy. Image from Facebook

The film is set against the backdrop of World War II. When Pepper's older brother is told that he is ineligible to join the army because he has flat feet, his father has to go in place of him, and this distresses Pepper greatly. Soon after, he is moved by a Bible verse he hears, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move," which motivates him to gather the strength to bring his father back.

Tubelight bears a strong resemblance to Little Boy in this respect; in the Hindi remake, Salman Khan takes it upon himself to get his younger brother Sohail Khan, who has enrolled in the army, back from the Indo-China war.

At this point in history, the anti-Japanese sentiment was strong, and Pepper is reluctant to befriend Hashimoto, a Japanese man with whom he later builds a close bond. Over the course of the film, Hashimoto teaches him to deal with people who bully him about his height. Perhaps Matin Rey Tangu or Zhu Zhu's characters will be Tubelight's equivalent of Hashimoto.

Salman and Sohail in Tubelight. Image from Facebook

Salman and Sohail in Tubelight. Image from Facebook

Both films also use shoes as a metaphor; in Little Boy, Pepper's father's shoes are stolen by another soldier, and when this soldier dies, Pepper's father is mistakenly declared dead because his dog-tags are on the shoes. Later, it is revealed that he is alive and recovering at a hospital. When Pepper and the rest of the family visit him, Pepper carries along a pair of shoes that his father was eyeing before the war, which he eventually buys for his father.

So far, what we know about the significance of the boots that Salman Khan wears around his neck is that they belonged to Sohail's character, and that Salman constantly wears them during his pursuit for Sohail.

The title of Little Boy is a reference not only to Pepper's stature but also the name of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II. In Tubelight, the protagonist Laxman Singh Bisht's characteristic of being a misfit who cannot think quickly on his feet is reflected in its title. Both protagonists have one trait which they are mocked and criticised for by larger society, but they learn to overcome this discrimination and rise to the occasion.

There's another similarity between the two films: the signature move where Salman Khan raises both his hands is portrayed in exactly the same manner in Little Boy. Even the dialogue, "Kya tumhe yakeen hai?" is taken from the original film, where Pepper is asked by magician whether he believes he can move a glass bottle without touching it.

Little Boy was praised for its social commentary and touches of humour, but criticised for various other elements. "These lessons in tolerance may not be earth-shattering, but they give the film some moments of power and bite. Nevertheless, the candy-colored fable is a bit too sluggishly paced to achieve any real drive.  The soft focus photography is pretty but too bland.  Although the film’s uplifting conclusion is predictable, there are some poignant moments before the glowing finale," reads the review put out by Hollywood Reporter.

Critics also slammed it for the way it portrayed God and religion, and for its ending.

"His father’s impact on his life was making him want to be a better person, and a better Christian... Guess what. It was all a big misunderstanding! Some other prisoner had stolen Dad’s boots (including his dog tags), and had been misidentified among the dead. So Dad’s alive! Pepper’s faith brought him home alive after all! Hurray! Bull. Shit.," says a review quoted by website Indie Wire.

In an interview with Firstpost, Kabir Khan spoke about how Tubelight has just taken the seed of the idea from Little Boy, and despite being an official adaptation, it is not a war film. "The war is just the backdrop. It is not even the setting so it is not really a war film. The setting is remotely away from the war site. We do not explore why the war happened, how it happened. There is just one character who goes to the war," he said.

Only time will tell if the Salman Khan-starrer will be received better than Little Boy, and our guess is that it will — owing to Salman's stardom.

Updated Date: Jun 22, 2017 21:08:11 IST