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Salaam, Salim Saab!


A writer is the backbone of a movie. If a filmmaker does not have a script, he/she can’t make a movie. And yet, screenwriters continue to be undervalued by the Bollywood film industry.  Writers need to be celebrated and valued as much as directors and actors. 

I approached one of my dear friends JAIDEEP SEN to help me in my aim to showcase the work of legendary scriptwriters in the Bollywood film industry. Jaideep (or Raja as he is known in the industry) has spent years working with veteran filmmakers like Rakesh Roshan and Sajid Nadiadwala. He has scoured hundreds of scripts as Creative Director at Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment, one of the top production houses in India. He is also a writer-director in his own right.  

Raja responded with an enthusiastic ‘Yes’ to my request and said he would be happy to contribute articles showcasing the little known aspects of screenwriters. What’s more, he would love to put the spotlight on one of the most iconic of writers in the Hindi film industry, SALIM KHAN, who needs no introduction to movie goers in India. He along with his writing partner Javed Akhtar have penned some of the most legendary Bollywood films.  

In Raja’s own words:  “My world is illuminated when the lights go off in a cinema auditorium and the film begins. I’m a filmmaker who worships at the altar of the God of Storytelling, Salim Khan Saab.”
So, what better way to begin a new section on Bollywood writing than to pay tribute to a Master Storyteller in the words of one of his most ardent devotees! 

Welcome to Salaam, Salim Saab!, a new series on this blog by Jaideep Sen. If you are a writer, I hope you are all inspired. If you are a viewer and lover of films, it will help you gain insights into the World of Writers, the challenges they face and the movies they write. I hope you enjoy this series and please don’t forget to share your thoughts and feedback!
And now, over to Jaideep Sen!
                          

MERA NAAM SALIM KHAN

Salim-Javed – 15 years of collaborative brilliance that sparked 21 ingenious films and then an “unfortunate” parting that broke the Zanjeer of unison.

During the days of their unmatchable glory, the telephone at Salim Saab’s residence would hardly stop ringing. Every evening at a specific time, he would keep the receiver off the hook for his “me time”. 

However, once the duo had split up, the show went on for one half of the duo but for Salim Khan, it was a different story.  The phone stopped ringing; so much so that he would check whether the line was working. The dial tone was still live but his professional connections with the film industry had died. 

And then, after a span of almost four years, the Resurrection happened. Rajendra Kumar, iconic filmstar turned producer, came to meet Salim Saab with the young and fiercely talented film director Mahesh Bhatt. They were collaborating on a film and had not been able to crack the closure of the story.  

The idea of the proposed film was in the same universe of perhaps Salim-Javed’s best script ever written, Deewaar (though my personal favourite is Sholay). Only this time around it was a story of two half-brothers.

As soon as Salim Saab heard the plot, he had a solution for the story problem that had been bothering Rajendraji and Bhatt Saab. They gracefully accepted the idea and from then on, Salim Saab nurtured it and brought the story to life as his first work as a solo writer.  

The film—Naam—was an acid test for Salim Saab since he could sense naysayers with drawn claws ready to tear his baby apart. But he knew this was that one script that he had been waiting for to reintroduce introduce himself as a “Solo” Writer at the age of 51.

It was a momentous moment when during the recording of the background score of the film, at Mehboob Studios, Salim Saab saw his name on the credit rolls as a solo writer for the first time. The blur on the screen was not due to some technical glitch but the moisture in his eyes. He wiped his eyes and  quietly left the studio. For, deep in his heart, the “Braveheart”—the nomenclature given by Bhatt Saab—knew he had completed his journey from Rejection to Redemption! 

Salim Saab in an interview had once mentioned how the Film Gandhi had changed him and made him into a better human being. That’s the impact that Naam has had on me: its core values of selfless love and motherhood was taken to a much higher level. 

In a sense it was even stronger than that of Deewaar and Mother India because here for the first time the selflessness of the Mother—performed so beautifully by Nutanji—was not that of a birth mother but a mother who chooses to do the right thing by her boys, one of whom is not her biological son.  

Naam  has stood the test of time, going far beyond the all-important ‘commercial’ and ‘critical’ success. Even as I was writing this piece, a writer friend, Shaan Yadav, messaged me to say that after seeing my Whatsapp status—which was about Naam—he was tempted to revisit the film and experience it all over again. And in his words: “What a beautiful film it is!” 

That’s the contribution of a Legend to writing and society, whose humble calling card is: Mera “Naam” Salim Khan.



Comments

  1. This is so interesting. Thanks, and looking forward to the next installment!

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    1. Thanks, Reet. Keep visiting, there are plenty of stories coming up! :)

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