The underlying feel-good spirit of Tubelight becomes as clear as daylight right at the outset of the film via an introduction delivered in a 'childlike' voice by Salman, playing a simpleton with rock-solid faith in humanity.
Throwing light on the tragedy of his own life and that of his country at large, Laxman Singh Bisht, an alcoholic truck driver's son, intones: "Pitaji ko sharaab ne maar diya, maa ko gham ne maar diya, aur Gandhiji ko humne" (Alcohol killed my father, sorrow killed my mother, and we killed Gandhiji).
Fortunately for the protagonist, Mahatma Gandhi is brought back into to his life by an uncle committed to peace and harmony. The slow-on-the-uptake hero of Tubelight isn't low on confidence. Scribbled notes left for him by the Gandhian uncle become his life's guiding principles as he wills the 1962 Sino-Indian war to end so that his beloved younger brother can return home.
The dialogues of Tubelight, written by Manurishi Chadha, are of a timbre that is markedly more sedate than that of the thunderous lines Salman Khan fans are accustomed to in the megastar's signature blockbusters (Dabangg, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Sultan, et al).
The Tubelight screenplay traces the lead character's affinity with Mahatma Gandhi to a pre-Independence visit by the Father of the Nation to the boy's school in Jagatpur, Kumaon. The revered leader delivers an address on yakeen (faith). Laxman is deeply impressed.
When the Mahatma is on the way out of the school, the boy asks him: "Yakeen ki taaqat kahaan hoti hai (Where does the power of faith reside)?" Gandhi takes the boy's hand and places it on his heart.
There is a dash of humour, too, in the story of Laxman Singh Bisht. In the prelude, he refers to a flickering tube light installed in his classroom by a British teacher. He says: "Meri maa kehti thhi ki English tubelight ki tarah mera bheja bhi English hai, joh bhi isme aata hai dhire dhire aata hai (My mother would say my brain is like the English tubelight, it takes time to light up)".
"Agar insaan ke dil mein yakeen ho toh who chattaan bhi hila sakta hai (If there is faith in the human heart, it can move a mountain)," Om Puri's character tells Laxman. The latter internalizes the aphorism.
The one question that he directs at Banne Chacha, and by extension at himself, is: "Mujhe aur yakeen kahaan milega (Where can I find more faith)?" He finds the answer through a combination of factors. Among them are his interactions with the young Indian-born Chinese widow, Li Ling (Zhu Zhu), who arrives in town with her spunky son Guo (Matin Rey Tangu).
His first encounter with Guo isn't a happy one. The boy targets Laxman with slingshots. Exasperated, Laxman rushes to Banne Chacha and complains: "Gandhiji khud bhi aa jaaye na sakshaat toh bhi unse dosti nahi kar payenge (Even if Gandhiji comes here in person, he won't be able to befriend this boy)."
Sach hi ishwar hai (Truth is God), reads one of the Mahatma Gandhi notes. So, Laxman, egged on by Guo, decides to make a clean breast of the falsehoods he resorted to avoid punishment as a boy. So he goes to a teacher, a priest and an acquaintance to confess his past transgressions.
Another note reads: Darr sabse bada dushman hai (Fear is the biggest enemy). Li Ling explains to Laxman what the line means. He decides to conquer his fear and dives headlong into the river that flows in a gorge that his brother loved plunging into but Laxman was too scared to follow suit.