“There will come a day when a writer will be paid as much money as the hero.” Those were the famous words uttered by Master Writer Salim Khan to a professional associate. His words were proved wrong—but in a good way—years later when he and his writing partner, Javed Akhtar Saab actually drew a fee not equal to but more than what the hero was paid for a film that they scripted.
How did this miracle happen in an industry that is notorious for undervaluing the writer? According to Salim Saab, “consistency” was the secret to their success. The duo went on writing one hit after another and proved to the world that quality of content was the key to the success of their films.
In my opinion, the only contemporary Indian film to have ever matched form to its content is the Masterpiece Sholay and there too, the content has been penned by Salim Saab and Javed Saab.
The hallmark of Salim Saab-Javed Saab’s writing is that all their films were not merely successful in terms of box-office earnings but were perceived to be socially relevant and that’s what earned them the respect of the film fraternity. Salim Saab always says, what’s a film if its content does not leave behind any emotional residue on its viewers?
And precisely because of the impact that their powerful writing had on the audience, the fearless warriors of the pen demanded their pound of flesh and made sure they were given the respect they were so worthy of.
Though Salim Saab is purely a devotee of knowledge and literature, it’s an undeniable fact that money is the measure of man’s achievement in this materialistic world. And the Duo’s unmatchable contribution to Indian cinema could be compensated with not only respect but the highest fee to be paid. What’s more, this deserved recognition ensured that writers and quality content began to be more appreciated within the industry.
Salim Saab went a step further and even staked a claim in the profits of the films that they were part of and in a most rational manner proved his point when it was established without doubt that the films they wrote actually got picked up for a premium by buyers purely on the basis of one credit scroll: Written by Salim-Javed.
The contribution of the Pen is actually priceless in spirit but in reality, we ought to doff our hats to Salim Saab who along with his partner has given priceless gems to the Indian film audience. Gems that can will forever retain their sparkle because of the Invaluable Value of the Pen.
Jaideep Sen is a filmmaker and a connoisseur of the art of storytelling.
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