Salim-Javed: Writing Duo that Revolutionized Indian Cinema
Salim-Javed, a legendary name in the cinematic world stands as a wonderful inspiration for today’s generation screenwriters. Individually known as Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, both writing icons were born in the same state of Madhya Pradesh before they took to the film industry.
Salim Khan grew up in the city of Indore where his father used to work as a policeman while Javed Akhtar was born in Gwalior to famous poet Jan Nisar Akhtar and his singer wife Safia Akhtar. Initially, when young Javed came to Mumbai, he wanted to be a Film Director whereas Salim khan with his charming looks tried his luck at acting.
However, one fine day, their fate brought them together. They chanced to meet each other on the sets of Hindi film titled “Sarhadi Lootera”, where Salim Khan was acting in it and Javed Akhtar was the clapper. Later on, Javed undertook the role of dialogue writer for the same film when its director S.M.Sagar didn’t get any professional writer.
Born and bred in the family of poets and songwriters, writing came very naturally to Javed Akhtar. On the other side, Salim khan also had a penchant for writing but it was not fully discovered. Eventually, Salim and Javed friendship bloomed and they started penning down their thoughts in collaboration. Soon, they began scripting for G P Sippy Film’s Department of Screenwriters. In next to no time, masterpieces took birth out of their association.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Salim-Javed was considered to be a deadly combo who wrote scripts that were guaranteed to be sure shot blockbusters. Soon, their name became synonymous with success and within a span of eleven years, they wrote 18 films together. Their camaraderie brought a revolution in Indian cinema with films like Seeta Aur Geeta, Deewaar, Sholay, Zanjeer, Don, Trishul and Kala Pathar.
Gradually, Salim-Javed became a magnificent alliance and decided to leave Sippy’s department. They established a team together and campaigned for writer’s recognition. Till then, only actors and directors used to garner all the credit and appreciation for film’s box office success. But Salim-Javed fought against this and demanded for writer’s name being mentioned on film’s posters. They even went to the extent of taking a paint bucket and imprinting their name on film banners using paintbrush. It was their continuous efforts and struggle that brought credibility to the scriptwriting profession.
They became a brand name for evolving the true essence of powerful screenplays in Indian Cinema. Their writing was so efficient and convincing that even if the story was predictable or adapted from somewhere, they structured it with dramatic surprises and created a full-fledged entertainment script. For example, one of their famous films “Deewaar” was inspired from two old movies “Mother India” and “Ganga Jamuna”. But not even for a single second, we found the film cliché or humdrum. Likewise, all their blockbuster films had a gripping plot and an efficient screenplay that was intelligently structured.
Their contribution to the film industry is par excellent since they played an instrumental role in making writer’s role even bigger than actors. It’s very rarely seen in this business that somebody achieves both critical and commercial success and that too in equal measures. Ironically, the duo whose independent work failed miserably, created wonders when teamed up.
It was Salim-Javed strong cutting-edge scripts and powerful dialogues that gave superstar Amitabh Bachchan his significant number of hits. When Amitabh’s debut film “Saat Hindustani” and many other subsequent films flopped, he got extremely disheartened and decided to go back to Allahabad. If Salim-Javed had not revived his career in time, probably Amitabh Bachchan would have never seen stardom. The writing duo gave him an immortal angry-young man persona by penning blockbuster scripts like Zanjeer, Sholay and Deewar.
Salim-Javed magical stories written specially for Amitabh Bachchan not only gave him a unique image and name (Vijay) but also established him as a superstar. Crediting his success to the duo, Amitabh Bachchan once said, “If Salim-Javed were to stop writing for me, I would had also stopped and finished”.
One of the greatest films of all time scripted by Salim-Javed is considered to be Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay which was released on August 15, 1975. Sholay became such a magnum opus that its impact on the Indian entertainment industry can be felt even now. Every small and big character of this film became immortal and unforgettable. Whether it was Amjad Khan reprising the role of Gabbar Singh or comedian Jagdeep playing Soorma Bhopali, all characters including Dhanno, the mare are still fresh in the Indian psyche.
Sholay went on to become such a cult-classic that not only its characters but also dialogues became phenomenon. Its iconic one-liners such as “Ye Haath mujhe de de thakur”, “Kitne admi the” and “Jo dar gaya, samjho mar gaya” are still deemed timeless. It was the first film in the history of Indian cinema whose dialogue CDs also got released along with the music soundtracks. The success of Sholay inspired various television programs, spoofs, advertisements and films including the Oscar winner “Slumdog Millionaire” that is considered to be a tribute to the writing duo, Javed and Salim.
Sholay was a perfect blend of drama, tragedy, romance and comedy that bewitched audiences from start to finish. Even after twenty years of its release, when Sholay got telecasted on national television, it marked the highest-ever TRP. Till date, Sholay is considered to be the most trendsetting films in the cinematic history that paved the way for “Masala Movies” genre and Multi-starrer films.
Sholay became the first Indian film to celebrate Silver Jubilee i.e. nonstop running for 25 weeks. For years, Sholay has remained the reference benchmark for audience and trade analysts in the Indian film market. Famous Film critic, Anupama Chopra summarizes Sholay’s rage by saying, “Sholay is no longer just a film, it’s an event”. Also the remarkable film director Shekhar Kapur once said, “There has never been a more defining film on the Indian screen than Sholay”. According to him, Indian film history can be divided into two eras Sholay BC and Sholay AD. Such was the impact of this extraordinarily influential writing by Salim-Javed team.
However, somebody has rightly quoted that “All good things finally come to an end”. This unfortunate end of Salim-Javed association was not only a big shock but also major loss for Hindi Cinema. Their glorious journey ended unexpectedly when Javed Akhtar embarked on to become an independent lyrics writer. Salim Khan didn’t want their brand name for the lyrics written by Akhtar. Hence, they mutually decided to part ways without any accusations or explanations.
Now, the entire media and cine world was keen to see how these talents would perform after separation. Although both of them drafted few individual scripts yet nothing could replace their earlier legendary twosome. Eventually, Salim Khan quit writing films after his last independent success Naam, while Javed Akhtar solely concentrated on writing lyrics and poems. They were the acclaimed superstars and distinguished writers who went on to receive six Filmfare Awards during their glorious career.
Though, the two legends fell apart on professional grounds but they still command full respect for each other. Recently, when Javed Akhtar was conferred with a lifetime achievement award, the very first person he owed his success to was none other than Salim Khan. Their films were truly out of this world and it would not be incorrect to say that Indian cinema will never ever witness talented duo like Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar.