Salman Khan’s Tubelight is set in 1962 during the Sino-Indian war but its producer is confident moviegoers in India and internationally will relate to the multiple issues and themes portrayed.
“Even though it is a period film Tubelight is as pertinent to the world we live in today- and the issues and conflicts we see around us,” Amar Butala, who produced the Kabir Khan-directed drama, told me this week.
“Kabir has made a fantastic film which tells the story of one man’s belief in himself and his love for his family,” said Butala, who is chief operating officer of Salman Khan Films.
Launching on June 23 to cash in on the Eid vacation, the film follows Khan as Laxman, a simple-minded man-child who sets off to find his brother Bharat (Salman’s real life brother Sohail Khan).
Posted on YouTube on May 25, the trailer has had 12 million views, pointing to intense global interest in the drama which co-stars Chinese actress Zhu Zhu, Matin Rey Tangu, the late Om Puri and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub. Shah Rukh Khan has a cameo.
At the trailer launch Salman was referring to Butala when he said his company’s CEO was feeling the pressure for the film to perform in the wake of SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali: The Conclusion, which has amassed a phenomenal 1,633 crore ($245.4 million) worldwide.
Butala hails Arka MediaWorks’ action drama fantasy as a game-changer for the Indian film industry, particularly as a dubbed release, observing, “If only we could increase the screen numbers in India to the kind of numbers Baahubali 2 had (6,000), that might happen more often.”
Contrary to his boss Butala insists he feels no pressure, reasoning, “I don’t think we can make films with the pressure of box office; that would mean constantly altering our script to match the ever changing audience preference. Our best bet instead is to make a good film and to have a larger control on the distribution and syndication of our films to maximise monetisation… which is what we are doing with Tubelight.”
Budgeted at a reported 100 crore ($15 million), the production is already well into profit. NH Studioz acquired the Indian distribution rights for 132 crore ($19.8 million) and Sony Music paid 20 crore ($3 million) for the music rights. The soundtrack features five songs, all composed by Pritam. Star TV bought the satellite rights.
The number of screens in India is yet to be finalized but Butala said the release will the widest ever for Salman Khan. Yash Raj Films secured the overseas distribution rights, the first such collaboration between Aditya Chopra’s production and distribution powerhouse and Khan.
Kabir and Salman are looking to repeat the runaway success of their 2015 blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan. ”After Bajrangi Bhaijaan it was important to choose like-minded partners who are as enthusiastic to take Tubelight to newer audiences,” he said. “Salman as an actor has a great relationship with YRF and as producers we have implicit faith in YRF and hope that this is the start of longer relationship between SKF and YRF.”
Shah Rukh, whose character appears at a crucial time in the film, accepted the role as soon as he was approached and was, Butala said, “incredibly gracious.”
The shoot took more than 100 days. Kabir collaborated with action directors Glenn Boswell (whose credits as stunt co-ordinator include Unbroken, The Hobbit trilogy and X Men Origins: Wolverine) and Aamar Shetty to recreate the war sequences shot in Ladakh. Another location was the town of Manali in the hills of Himachal Pradesh.
“Kabir loves to shoot his films in real locations and as producers we always support his vision,” Amar said. The marketing campaign is based on ‘fans first’ concept which means tapping into Salman’s huge fan base. So the teaser, trailer and songs were first shown to fans to give them a sense of ownership. The first song was launched in Dubai, a big market for his films.