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Why hardcore fans seem disappointed with Salman Khan's Tubelight

Vinayak Chakravorty
Vinayak ChakravortyJun 24, 2017 | 18:53

Why hardcore fans seem disappointed with Salman Khan's Tubelight

"Kya hua hai usko (what's wrong with him)?"Lagta hai koi paagal type ka aadmi hai (seems like he is a madman of sorts)."

The above exchange in low tones wafted in from a dark nook of the purani Dilli single screen where one turned up to catch the first-day show of Tubelight. Two evidently dedicated Bhaijaan fans were trying to decode Salman Khan's rather overdone slow simpleton act.

The superstar may have reasons to worry this time. All these years a fiercely loyal fan base has shielded him from the worst of the early word of mouth, bad reviews, and even the occasional social media negativity that may have hounded a new release. A bad film or a bad performance is no problem in commercial cinema as long as the hardcore fan base willingly accepts it, and Salman has ridden unconditional fan loyalty to score one blockbuster after another.

The trouble with Tubelight is even the hardcore fan base cannot quite figure out what Salman is up to this time. The fact is reflected in the film's disappointing opening day stats.

For all its gigantic 5,550 screen count, the film collected Rs 21.15 crore on Friday, which makes it only the sixth-highest opening day haul for the superstar. The first-day figures, lukewarm by Salman standards, indicate fans might have been put off by Salman's 'experimental' antics as a simpleton watching the promo itself.

Collections are bound to look up around Sunday, when Eid happens, of course, but Salman Khan can forget to take on the might of Bahubali or Dangal for now. His dream of creating Bollywood's biggest hit of all times will continue to remain a dream.

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What is it about Tubelight that seems to be putting off Salman's fan base? For one, many of them seem confused over what exactly is wrong with his protagonist Laxman. Why Laxman behaves or talks in a way that is not quite normal seems incomprehensible for many among the larger audience, which primarily drives collections of Salman starrers.

At the single screen where I caught the film, many among the audience, for instance, felt several scenes depicting Laxman's mental condition was all about laughing out loud. Bad writing reduced the character to the Bollywood stereotype of a "paagal type ka aadmi".

Even then, the act could perhaps have been redeemed by the actor himself. Almost three decades ago Anil Kapoor, then relatively a newcomer, essayed a similar role in Eeshwar to near-perfection (the film was a remake of the Telugu hit Swathi Muthyam, which saw Kamal Haasan render an award-winning performance in the same role as Kapoor).

The trouble with Salman is for all his superstardom he can never quite claim to possess Anil Kapoor's versatility or Kamal Haasan's absolute gift as an actor. A character as Laxman needed to be brought alive through nuances. Salman resorts to all-around played-to-gallery hamming.

The bigger trouble is Salman's fans perhaps do not want to see him venture into such terrain. They are far more comfortable seeing their hero in Dabangg mode. In fact, the scene in Tubelight that garnered the loudest seetis is the only one where Salman's Laxman resorts to violence, briefly roughing up the local loudmouth Narayan (played by Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub) for assaulting the film's heroine.

That's the Salman Khan the hardcore fans want - the alpha male who fights macho, dances macho, spews one-liners with a macho swagger, and even belts out his peculiar brand of slapstick with macho irreverence. Salman has lined up Tiger Zinda Hai next to return to that safe mode, after his flickering Tubelight experiment. Driven by smart commercial sense, Kick 2 and Dabangg 3 are coming soon, too.

Salman Khan's top opening day stats

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo: Rs 40.35 crore Ek Tha Tiger: Rs 32.93 crore

Bajrangi Bhaijaan: Rs 27.25 crore

Kick: Rs 26.40 crore

Bodyguard: Rs 21.60 crore

Tubelight: Rs 21.15 crore

(figures sourced from Bollywood Hungama)

Last updated: June 24, 2017 | 18:53
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