Tag Archives: Sohail Khan

Movie Review: Tubelight (2017)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Much of the critical consensus around Little Boy — the 2015 American movie upon which Tubelight is based — condemns the movie as an offensive form of religious chauvinism. Armed with that foreknowledge, I expected Tubelight to be a disaster. Thankfully, it is not. Though flawed, it’s an enjoyable and touching examination of the lives of loved ones left behind during times of war.

Tubelight resets Little Boy‘s story from World-War-II-era California to the small mountain town of Jagatpur in far northern India during the Sino-Indian War of 1962. Americans can be forgiven for not remembering this conflict, as it happened at the same time as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Tubelight also recasts the titular “little boy” from the original film with 51-year-old Salman Khan. Khan plays Laxman, a mentally handicapped adult whose nickname “Tubelight” refers to the long time it takes for him to catch on to concepts. His younger brother Bharat (Sohail Khan, Salman’s actual younger brother) is his bodyguard and cheerleader, encouraging Laxman to believe in himself, even if no one else does. The pair feature in a song number about brotherly love made awkward by the siblings’ stiff dance moves.

The most uncomfortable aspect of Tubelight is the degree to which the town condones the bullying of Laxman. Young and old alike feel free to laugh at Laxman for even minor gaffes, and everyone seems okay with this. It’s sad.

Besides Bharat, Laxman’s only defenders are kindly Maya (Isha Talwar) and scholarly Banne (Om Puri). It falls on them to look after Laxman when border tensions between India and China inspire Bharat to enlist. As the conflict escalates, Laxman struggles with his loneliness and inability to bring Bharat home.

In order to keep Laxman busy, Banne encourages him to practice living by Gandhi’s principles, such as conquering fear and loving one’s enemies. Laxman thinks doing so will increase the strength of his belief, thereby empowering him to will his brother’s return. He puts Gandhi’s values into action when a widowed mother named Liling (Zhu Zhu) and her young son Guo (Matin Rey Tangu) move into a house on the outskirts of town. Though Indian by birth, their Chinese ethnicity marks them as outcasts. Laxman overcomes his own trepidation to befriend the little boy, earning him the ire of many townsfolk.

The indulgence by Banne and other villagers of Laxman’s fantasy that he can change things if he just believes hard enough feels wrong. Laxman isn’t a child who will one day come to understand that people were humoring him. He simply isn’t capable. Liling is the only person who reasons with Laxman honestly, trying to explain things in terms he can grasp. She stresses that bad things don’t happen because of a lack of faith, and that self-belief is important for its own merits, not because it can work miracles.

Moments like the conversation between Liling and Laxman give Tubelight authenticity. While Laxman may be particularly ill-equipped to handle something as horrible as war, everyone feels helpless when their loved ones are in danger. For all his intellectual shortcomings, Laxman is quicker to appreciate the distinction between individuals and governments than the rest of Jagatpur. He sees Guo and Liling for who they are, not as representatives of some hostile foreign power.

Such surface-level hatred is personified by the town bully, Narayan (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub). He’s an effective villain because his racism and xenophobia are reflexive and just understated enough that people are willing to follow him. He hears that a Chinese family has moved to town, and his instinct is to attack them. The speed with which he reacts makes it seem as though it is the natural way to react. It’s chilling.

Little Matin Rey Tangu is charming as Salman’s sidekick. They share a funny scene in which Laxman confesses his lies, only to run away before he can face the consequences. Zhu Zhu gives a solid performance, and watching her dance is a treat. Om Puri and Sohail Khan are great in a scene in which they discuss how Laxman will cope without Bharat.

Salman is overall pretty good, but he’s at his best during moments of heightened emotions, such as when Laxman is afraid for his brother or when he’s protecting Guo. His earnestness drives home the importance of rejecting racism and xenophobia as a way to free ourselves from fear and spread peace.


Movie Review: Jai Ho (2014)

JaiHo0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Jai Ho is as lazy and lacking in self-awareness as a movie can be. It ignores its own shallow grasp of morality to promote the message of every recent Salman Khan movie: the answer to government corruption is a single, violent man.

Just how shallow is the take on morality in Jai Ho, a remake of a Telugu movie (Stalin) based on a Hollywood movie (Pay It Forward)? The notion of “paying it forward” — you help three people, then they each help three more people, and so on — is developed by a middle schooler in the Hollywood version, and by a man in his late forties in Jai Ho.

Of course it’s good to do nice things for other people. But the characters in Jai Ho talk about it so damned much, it’s as though the filmmakers think they invented the idea. “Generosity and helpfulness can benefit individuals and society? Who knew? Write forty minutes of dialogue to belabor the point!”

The title character, Jai (Salman Khan), who’s apparently a professional doer-of-favors, following his expulsion from the army, tries to popularize the notion of “paying it forward.” Everything is fine until his mom tells him that some people may not wish to participate, and that he shouldn’t be disappointed by that.

Jai’s realization that his idea may not be universally embraced causes him to lose his mind. In a blind rage, he attacks a guy harassing a street urchin. The guy just happens to be connected to a corrupt politician who winds up trying to murder Jai’s family. The situation is resolved by Jai fighting dozens of guys single-handedly and Suniel Shetty plowing through traffic in a tank.

Let’s get this straight: Jai’s responds to learning that there are mean people in the world by going on a violent rampage, endangering his family and friends and any unfortunate motorists who get in the way of Suniel Shetty’s tank. Way to make the world a better place, Jai!

What’s even more depressing is that violence really is Jai’s only recourse to stop the corrupt bureaucrat, played by Danny Denzongpa. The only evidence of systemic political change as a result of Jai’s gory heroics is that another politician — played by Mohnish Bahl — decides to look the other way.

The movie relies on emotional pandering in place of solid storytelling. Producer-director Sohail Khan trots out handicapped kids anytime he wants to bring the audience to tears and soldiers when he wants to stoke the fires of patriotism. Lest the audience fail to grasp the cinematic shorthand, there are musical cues and sound effects to let them know what emotions they are supposed to feel.

As with most of Salman Khan’s recent roles, his character’s only flaw at the beginning of the movie is that he doesn’t yet have a girlfriend. Daisy Shah is shoehorned into the story to fill the love interest role, even though she has nothing to do with the main plot. She’s never imperiled because of her relationship with Jai, she doesn’t partake in Jai’s do-gooder scheme, and she disappears during the climax.

There is exactly one good thing about Jai Ho, and that is Naman Jain as Jai’s young nephew, Kabir. He’s legitimately funny, and he’s by far the best actor in the bunch. Jai Ho should’ve made Kabir the main character, borrowing more from Pay It Forward and less from Stalin. That might’ve been a good movie.


Movie Review: Veer (2010)

1 Star (out of 4)

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Veer‘s historical setting is just window dressing for a typical Salman Khan film.

The movie’s action begins in 1862 in Rajputana (now Rajasthan), before the birth of the title character. The king of Madhavgarh aligns with the occupying British army, betraying the Pindari people and driving them from their homeland. The Pindari split up into smaller bands, biding their time until they can take their revenge on the king and the British.

Veer (Khan), son of one of the Pindari chiefs, grows up indoctrinated with his people’s desire for revenge. As young men, he and his younger brother, Punya (Sohail Khan), raid British trains for treasure. But with victory elusive, Chief Prithvi (Mithun Chakraborty) sends his sons to England to study British military tactics in university.

In England, Veer falls in love with an Indian princess, Yashodhara (Zarine Khan, no relation to Salman or Sohail). The brothers run into trouble with some of the wealthy Indian students at the university and must flee home, but not before they’ve learned valuable information that will finally help the Pindaris avenge their betrayal.

Veer shares much in common with other characters Salman Khan has played recently. He yells a lot, is irresistable to women and possesses superhuman strength. He can grab the blade of a sword midswing without getting his fingers lopped off, and the men he punches fly ten feet into the air. All of Khan’s recent characters are a grade school boy’s fantasy of idealized manhood.

The film’s immaturity increases with the presence of Sohail Khan, Salman’s younger brother, cast in what was surely an act of fraternal charity. Sohail’s Punya is the film’s comic relief, which feels inappropriate in a historical epic. But Punya muddles along the streets of Victorian England nonetheless, clumsily falling on pretty girls to the tune of “boing” sound effects.

The sound effects are just one example of the many ways Veer resists becoming the inspiring patriotic tale it should be. Instead of aiming for period authenticity in its costuming (at least during the scenes in England), the filmmakers used cheap costumes from the local Halloween store.  Synthetic fabrics abound, Yashodhara wears hot pink nail polish and one of the English actresses has a visible tattoo on the back of her neck.

Those bits of sloppy execution are merely laughable, but a number of other errors hamper understanding. English subtitles in white text are often set against white backgrounds, and the subtitles disappear entirely at a few critical moments. It’s not clear in exactly which year the bulk of the action takes place, nor is it clear just how old Veer is. He’s likely in his early twenties, or about twenty years younger than Salman Khan’s real age of 44.

There’s a lack of attention to detail throughout Veer, as though audiences won’t care because it’s a “Salman Khan” film. If there’s one thing I hate as an audience member, it’s being taken for granted. Khan himself should’ve demanded better from a movie that he co-wrote.

Runtime: 2 hrs. 40 min.

Movie Review: Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna (2009)

mainaurmrskhanna1 Star (out of 4)

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Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna aspires to be a moving drama about marital fidelity, but it lacks the emotional maturity to achieve its goal.

The movie focuses on the troubled marriage of Australian residents Samir (Salman Khan) and Raina Khanna (Kareena Kapoor). Samir, who is depressed because he can’t find a job, distances himself from Raina, who’s worried on his behalf. He decides that his only option is to leave Melbourne and try his luck in Singapore.

Raina is sad about leaving her friends and her job as a waitress, but she goes to the airport with her husband. There, he springs the news on her that she won’t be joining him in Singapore. Instead, she’s going to live with his disapproving parents in Delhi. The movie never explains why this is necessary; the decision only serves to prove that Samir is controlling.

Raina decides not to board the flight to Delhi. A waiter at an airport cafe, Akash (Sohail Khan), helps her start her new, solo life in Melbourne. Raina declares that she’s just killing time until Samir makes his fortune and returns for her, but Akash falls for her anyway.

Here, Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna takes an audacious turn: nothing unexpected happens. There are no twists, no moments where a character makes a life-changing decision. Samir succeeds and returns for Raina, and she goes with him. That’s it.

I don’t feel bad revealing those plot details because the movie is very clear about what is going to happen. Raina never — not even for an instant — expresses the slightest romantic interest in Akash. She doesn’t even realize he has a crush on her. If she did, it would force her consider him as a sexual partner, thereby destroying the image of the ideal woman that Raina is supposed to represent: somewhat independent but unquestionably devoted to her husband.

The characters lack depth not just from the way they’re written, but also from the way they are acted. When Akash reveals the pain he felt when his parents divorced, Raina responds with an inappropriate smile.

Debutant writer and director Prem Soni has a lot to learn. (Lesson #1: Why comic barnyard sound effects have no place in a relationship drama.) This first effort is a bland movie full of emotional simpletons. I fear that, if Soni wrote an adaptation of The Little Mermaid, the story would read like this: “A mermaid wanted to become a human, so she did. The End.”

*In its opening weekend, Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna earned $121,134 in U.S. theaters.

Opening October 16: Blue, All The Best, and Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna

The Diwali holiday weekend brings three big Hindi films to Chicago area theaters, with Sanjay Dutt playing major roles in two of them.

The first is Blue, an undersea adventure in which Dutt and Akshay Kumar search for treasure on a sunken ship, surrounded by sharks. Kylie Minogue adds a song to A. R. Rahman’s soundtrack: the absurdly-titled “Chiggy Wiggy.” Blue‘s runtime is listed as 1 hr. 55 min.

Next is the second Sanjay Dutt starrer, All The Best. It’s a comedy involving gangsters and a plot to trick Dutt’s wealthy character into believing his step-brother is married. I can’t make heads or tails of it based on the official story summary, nor can I figure out how Ajay Devgan’s auto mechanic character figures into the plot. I have very low expectations for All The Best, which has an official runtime of 2 hrs. 24 min.

Finally, the drama Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna, starring Kareena Kapoor as the title character. After a falling out with her husband (Salman Khan), she must choose between him and another man, played by Sohail Khan, Salman’s real-life younger brother. Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna has a runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

All three movies will open on Friday, October 16 at Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville. Blue will also open at AMC Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago and supposedly the Milan Theaters in Waukegan (call the theater first to verify).

Entering its third week in theaters is Wake Up Sid, which has earned $611,574 in U.S. theaters so far. It will continue to play at the Cantera 30 and South Barrington 30. Also continuing for a third week at the South Barrington 30 is Do Knot Disturb. Its total U.S. earnings amount to $213,525.

Other Indian films playing in the Chicago area this weekend include the Tamil film Aadhavan at the Golf Glen 5 and a trio of movies at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove: Eeram (Tamil), Unnaipol Oruvan (Tamil) and Mahatma (Telugu).

Movie Review: Do Knot Disturb (2009)

doknotdisturbZero Stars (out of 4)

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With the world in the middle of an economic crisis, there is one easy way consumers can save money: don’t waste it on Do Knot Disturb.

The movie stars Govinda as Raj, a businessman trying to hide an affair from his suspicious wife, Kiran, played by Sushmita Sen. Kiran owns the company Raj works for, so if he were to get caught with his mistress, Dolly (Lara Dutta), he’d lose his high-paying job as well as his marriage.

Raj hires a waiter to pose as Dolly’s boyfriend in order to trick a private investigator hired by Kiran. In return, the waiter, Govardan (Ritesh Deshmukh), gets an upgraded private hospital room for his ailing mother, as well as a chance to play house with the lovely Dolly.

Dolly also has a jealous ex-husband, played by Sohail Khan, who shows up to slap people. Slapping is the foundation to many of Do Knot Disturb‘s attempts at humor.

The movie’s other attempts at comedy center around men making lewd gestures at women. When the male characters aren’t slapping each other, they’re trying to grope or hump the nearest female character. It’s best to leave the kids at home for this movie, unless you’re looking for a way to broach the topic of where babies come from.

Based on the way jokes and dialog are constructed, I assume that the makers of Do Knot Disturb think that the only people who would see their movie are idiots. That would explain the following exchange between Raj and Kiran:

Kiran: Who is he?
Raj: Who is he?
Kiran: Who is he?
Raj: Who is he?
Kiran: Who is he?
Raj: Who is he?

Many other jokes rely on the comedic theory that things are funnier in threes. Repetition of the same bad jokes doesn’t automatically make them funnier. In this case, it just serves to make the movie feel a lot longer than 2 hrs. 6 min.

Early into the film, I had hopes that the movie would be, if not funny, at least not annoying. It didn’t take long for me to lose any optimism I had. After one scene in which Raj and Govardan spend ten minutes shrieking at each other in high-pitched voices for no reason whatsoever, I actually left the theater.

I convinced myself to go back in and watch the end of the movie, hoping that there would at least be some explanation for why the title contains a deliberate misspelling. There wasn’t. The filmmakers just thought it would be clever to replace “not” with “knot.” But guess what.

It’s not.