Songs are no longer heard as they are seen, and this couldn’t be truer than for a film starring Salman Khan. The soundtrack of Tubelight was released a day before the film, but its tunes, composed by Pritam, have been floating as video songs on various entertainment platforms for over a month.
In a role reversal, it is Khan’s presence in the videos that is driving the promotion for the film score. The plot-driven tunes have punchy hooks synchronised to his quirky dance moves and are mercifully not jingoistic, despite the film’s 1962 Indo-Sino war backdrop.
Radio Song, written by lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya and sung with vigour by Amit Mishra and Kamaal Khan was the first video song released from the film. It has all the standard tropes to introduce its lead character Laxman (Salman Khan), a hillbilly with peculiar dance moves and an infectious personality, not unlike last year’s Sultan (2016), where Khan showed us how to shake our backsides in the catchy tune Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai.
In Radio, Laxman teaches us how to twist the knob on the radio while moving our hips in sync with the frequency it’s tuning into. Pritam uses instruments such as the banjo, accordion, trumpet, dobro, fiddle and a euphoric chorus to simulate an electrifying performance in a stadium. The mood is celebratory, the melody is transmittable and the lyrics implore listeners to pick signals from the boisterous party that has erupted and break a leg.
The party continues with the rhythm of Naach Meri Jaan, a ditty composed to hail the merits of “bhaihood” (brotherhood). Singers Kamaal Khan, Nakash Aziz, Dev Negi and Tushar Joshi circle around a tune that has the buoyancy of a nursery rhyme being played out by kindergarten kids at a school picnic.
Bhattacharya’s lyrics rhyme hukum ka ikka (ace of spades) with cricket ka chakka (scoring six runs on a ball in cricket), adding to the song’s playful vibe. Filmed on Laxman and Bharat (Sohail Khan) singing praises about each other, the tune features a chorus singing a lively interlude in the Kumaoni language, doubling the ditty’s encore sound.
Singer Atif Aslam gets the breezy ballad, Main Agar, where his soaring vocals are syncopated with a dozen drums, guitars and an inchoate chorus. The crescendo turns into a clatter of dissonant sounds trying to segue into a seamless medley.
Tinka Tinka, written by Kausar Munir, has two versions. In singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s version, the accompanying music has a distinct marching beat in the foreground and an underlining strain of a stringed instrument evoking melancholy in the background. It’s a tune that is both hopeful and sad at the same time, backed by a chorus chanting a sound like a hymn reaching for the heavens.
The vocal ornamentation in singer Jubin Nautiyal’s version is slightly more nuanced than in Khan’s straight rendition, giving Nautiyal’s performance an emotional core that is missing from Khan’s stately version.
The tunes are crowd-pleasing situational songs that will resonate on the big screen and not on the radio. Pritam delivers a soundtrack that is spluttering with energy but ultimately dim at the end of the cord that switches on this Tubelight.