No actor is bigger than their role or a script

by Shabdita Shrivastav (March 17, 2012)

Veteran scriptwriter Salim Khan shares his journey and his views on the Hindi film industry as it is today, with Shabdita Shrivastav

His Journey

My journey has been very interesting because I had to work hard for what I have achieved. I came to Mumbai to become an actor. In fact, I was brought here by producer K Ambernath but my acting career did not take off. Initially, I wanted to become a cricketer, but that did not work out. After that, I got my pilot’s license but there’s no adventure or risk-taking in commercial flying. After I acted in a few films, I realised that I had the art of conceptualising and visualising but I did not have the art of projection. So I gave up acting too. I came to Mumbai at the age of 23 and by the time I realised I was not cut out for this job, I was 30. By then, I was over-age for services like the IAS and IPS too. My father was a DIG  police in Indore. I wanted to do something in Mumbai and I had seen a lot of films. So I thought I would use my seven years’ experience of watching films and reading, to write for films and to script them. When I wrote, I felt a sense of confidence, which I did not feel when I chose the other vocations. I went on to writing films like Andaaz, Haathi Mere Saathi, Seeta Aur Geeta, Zanzeer, Yaadon Ki Baaraat, Haath Ki Safai, Dewaar, Sholay and many more. I got very comfortable once I had proved or rather we, Javed (Akhtar) and I had proved ourselves.

On Writing Movies

I had written a film for Salman (Khan) Pathar Ke Phool, which had Raveena Tandon starring opposite him. It was not a blockbuster but it worked for a brief period. As of now, I am not writing a film but I will write soon. Right now, I write articles for newspapers, which get translated into different languages. The feedback has been very encouraging. But when my kids need my help with a script or anything, I always help them. I give them my advice. Recently, I heard Arbaaz’s story of Dabangg 2. It is a very good script and very detailed. I am very happy that he is directing the film and am sure he will do a good job.
Scriptwriting Today                                                       

Standards have declined and these days people are not writing scripts any more. They are given DVDs of films to work on.  I don’t mean you have to be absolutely original. The films we did were also influenced by books and novels. I remember when we gave the script of Dostana to Raj Khosla sahib, he said, ‘Mujhe itne saal ho gaye iss industry main, this is the first time I have seen a script which has ‘The End’ written on it.’Complete scripts hoti thi tab. Iss zamane main, content bahut less hai, matter bahut kam hai aur iske wajah yeh hai ki writers jo hai woh padte nahi hai, picturain nahi dekhte aur sochte bhi nahi hai. They watch DVDs and they are totally dependent on that. They don’t put in their inputs at all. You have to have the finer sensibilities to make a film. Each film is different from the other. For instance, Zanzeer was different from Haathi Mere Saathi;Seeta Aur Geeta was different from Yaadon Ki Baaraat; Dewaar and Sholay were also different kinds of films.

Movies Based On Books

It’s been in vogue for a very long time. Many films have been adapted from books. Devdas was based on a book. Books of both Indian as well as foreign authors have been made into films. Sometimes we know the source and sometimes we don’t. Originality is the art of concealing your source. There is nothing wrong with adaptation. Adaptation comes from various sources and there is no harm in that. Sometimes, we are inspired by real-life incidents. Talent waha aata hai jab aap sab kuch assemble karke ek aachi si script bana le.
Remuneration The Writers Deserve Today

Koi bhi kisi ko jeb se paisa nikal kay nahi deta. When we used to write, the remuneration increased only after every successful film of ours. If a particular film was pitched for Rs 18 lakh in the Mumbai territory and Salim-Javed’s name was attached to it, it would become Rs 21-22 akh. You should be in a position to demand money. And that will come only if you consistently prove yourself.In our case, we delivered ten hits in a row and the common factor in all these films was Salim-Javed’s name. After that, we started getting the money we asked for. If one person gave us Rs 10 lakh, the other would give us Rs 12 lakh if he wanted us to write his film. Then the third would offer Rs 15 lakh.

On Remakes

It would be a compliment if someone thought the theme of a film I made 35 to 40 years ago is contemporary and can be made with modern techniques. If he doesn’t succeed, it is still a compliment to me!Our first film Andaaz was inspired by a French film Man And Woman. Sholay had some scenes, which were inspired by The Magnificent Seven, and The Magnificent Seven was inspired by Seven Samurai. OurSeeta and Geeta was Ram Aur Shyam.It sounds ridiculous ki ham dusre film se adapt kar sakte hai par dusra hamari film se nahi. The plot of Dewaar was inspired by Mother India and Ganga Jamuna. There is no harm in admitting that you are inspired by a certain film. The important thing is that your film is a hit.
Standard Of Lyrics

It depends on the kind of people in the industry at a particular point of time. There was a time when songs were written keeping singers in mind. For instance, Rafi saab, Mukesh saab, Kishore Kumar, Talat Mehmood, Manna Dey and Hemant Kumar. Each one had a different range, different voice. Similarly, lyricists too, like Sahir saab, Shailender saab, Anand Bakshi and others, were very good. Filmmakers like Mehboob Khan, Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt and Bimal Roy were present in the industry at one point of time. And the combination of these maestros showed in the quality of their work. But sometimes some mediocre people come in and the value goes down. Shankar Jaikishen, O P Naiyyar, Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, S D Burman, R D Burman and many others were great music composers of their times. It’s a boon when you have people like these at one time. When their replacements come in and they are mediocre, the content will mirror them. Today, we do not have people of that level. Lekin aisa nahi hai ki us level kay log phir nahi aayenge.
On Today’s Cinema

Once in a while, interesting films come along. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) was a flawless movie. When I first watched the film, I knew it would be a major blockbuster. I liked Munna Bhai too. In fact, the second one was better than the first one. I liked 3 Idiots and A Wednesday. I also enjoyed Chillar Party. There are a few good films. Apart from that, the others are mediocre.
On The Remake Of Agneepath

Yes, it was good. The whole purpose of making that film was to make it a commercially successful film. The intention of the film was fulfilled. It is useless to grade a film into parallel cinema, art film, experimental cinema and so forth. I feel a film should be good or bad. To me, Mother India and Mughal-E-Azam were art films. Munna Bhai and DDLJ are art films. Filmmaking is an art and if you make a good film, it’s an art film.
On Raw Action

The technology used for action sequences in Hindi films has improved remarkably. They now even use cables, wires and special jackets for safety. That department has become much better. We no longer see exaggerated actions in our films, but they look authentic. Also, our actors were not fit to do action earlier and very few could do it. But now, heroes are fit.
On Dabangg’s Satellite Rights Being Sold For A Historic Price

I cannot comment on the business side of the film my children make. I do not interfere with these things. When they come to me for advice relating to writing, I offer my opinion. But I do not ask them for how much they sold the rights of their films.
On Arbaaz Khan

Arbaaz started as an actor. After a point, there was a stage where he did not get the desired work. We were all worried for him. We told him acting was not the only job in the industry and that he could try other things like producing or even directing films. Then he started looking for scripts. He had one (Dabangg) and he made it and it paid off. And then he established himself as a producer. Now he has completed 20 years in the industry. If his directorial venture works, he will establish himself as a director too.
On Sohail Khan

Sohail will also make a film soon. Once Arbaaz finishes Dabangg 2, Sohail will start his film. His subject for the film is good. In the film industry, most people are all-rounders. Some people come here to act but turn director; others who want to become producers turn actors. Sohail takes each day as it comes. Now he’s judging a comedy show. So he will accept the next thing that comes his way. No work is good or bad as long as you’re occupied.
On Salman Khan

Salman is improving by the day. He has matured a lot and is selecting his roles after giving them a lot of thought. Nobody can deny the fact that he is talented. The rest depends on the type of scripts he is offered. Whenever he gets a good director and a good script, he does the film. No actor is bigger than their role or a script.


  1. KM
    March 20, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    A nice guy

    Proper gentleman

  2. prg
    March 20, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    “We no longer see exaggerated actions in our films, but they look authentic. ”

    yeh kya baat hui… Salim Khan sahab apne bete ke films nahi dekhte sayad…

    March 21, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    “Whenever he gets a good director and a good script, he does the film. No actor is bigger than their role or a script” – “Very true – Bodyguard, Ready,……. !”

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