Book Review: Written by Salim-Javed – The Story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters

I am very positive that all Amitabh Bachchan fans have got many electrifying dialogues registered in their vocabulary then and even today be it from the movie Sholay, Don, Trishul or Deewar. The duo who gave midas touch to screen writing then in 70’s and 80’s with their epic dialogues were none other than the eminent screen writers Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar. The latest release from Penguin Books India titled “Written by Salim Javed – The Story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters” covers their professional as well as personal journey they both experienced while riding on their voyage of discovery.

The good news being for all the fans of Salim-Javed Penguin Books India recently has come up with a new book titled, Written by Salim-Javed – The Story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters authored by Diptakirti Chaudhuri. Author, Diptakirti resides in Bangalore is a salesman by day and writer by night. This being his fourth book and the third on Indian Cinema. A very well researched book which the author has divided into five parts:

1. Flashback

2. The Partnership

3. Split Wide Open

4. Themes and Messages and

5. Impact and Legacy

Emergence of Salim Javed

Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar were different breed altogether. Their writing talent was matched by their business acumen and demand for fair credit. Their desire to be known as writers of the film goes back to an interesting anecdote related to the original Zanjeer. The deal being the writers would be duly credited in all the publicity material of the film. The duo had already worked together on three hit films before Zanjeer and had received little or no credit. As the release date came near the duo were waiting eagerly to see their name as writers on the posters of Zanjeer but when posters went up they were heartbroken. When they reminded Prakash Mehra of the deal he was apologetic and had totally forgotten about his promise and it was too late. Salim-Javed then hired a poster painter gave him stencil that said “Written by Salim-Javed” and instructed him to paint on all the posters of Zanjeer that he could find. The painter in hurry printed this anywhere on the poster instead of placing the print at the bottom where credits usually appeared. On the morning day of the release Mumbai woke up to find all posters of Zanjeer right from Juhu to Opera House stamped with the name “Salim-Javed”. So be it Amitabh’s nose, Pran’s beard or Jaya’s face. Zanjeer posters were probably the first one to promote the writers of a film that announced the emergence of Salim Javed.

The duo Salim-Javed were also the first from the industry who gave the complete bounded script to the film fraternity. One of the top directors Raj Khosla admitted that in spite of being in the Film Industry for over 25 years he had never seen any script with the words “The End”on it in his entire career till he made Dostana.

Reader Engrossed Experience Enlightening

What I liked about the book is the chronological order in which the author has captured the flow of the events in the life and times of Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar making the reader engrossed and experience enlightening. The book begins with “Prologue” (The Tale of Two Zanjeers”) the original of 1973 and its remake in 2013. The duo had objected for the new release of Zanjeer as they wanted to be adequately compensated for their work. The book states that it made Salim-Javed the highest paid writers of Bollywood in 2013 as well.

Part 1 Flashback takes the readers to the early lives of Salim Khan, the son of a senior Police Officer, and Javed Akhtar, the son of a famous Urdu poet and this continues till they land into what they call it as Mumbai Ki Mayanagari India’s Film Capital to try their luck – one as an actor and other as a director respectively.

Part 2 of the book speaks about their decade long partnership from “Andaaz” (1971) to “Shakti” (1982) and also includes some biggies as “Haathi Mere Saathi” (1971), “Seeta Aur Geeta” (1972), Yaadon Ki Baraat” (1973), Zanjeer (1973), “Deewar” (1975), Sholay (1975), “Trishul” and “Don” (1978) and “Shaan” (1980) that paved the path for Amitabh Bachchan to mega stardom.

Part 3 Split Wide Open speaks about the strain in their professional relationships and how each one of them worked on solo projects creating their own identity. Be it the success of the movie Naam (1986) written by Salim Khan or Betaab (1983) that was written by Javed Akhtar.

Part 4 of the book Themes and Messages deals with their themes of the films be it Amitabh Bachchan as their “Angry Young Man” or Amjad Khan (Gabbar Singh) as their villain they wrote. Point to be noted here in this book being what astonishes Director Shekhar Kapur of Mr. India (1987) movie, “How on earth then did Mogambo became one of the greatest villains of Hindi commercial cinema?” Let’s not forget both Gabbar Singh and Mogambo were the duo Salim-Javed creations. Gabbar Singh is ruthless who cuts off Sanjeev Kumar’s arms and also kills his own men in Sholay. Mogambo in Mr. Indiadoesn’t do much except empty threats, clicking his fingers on globe, builds missiles, threatens to blow them and smiles, “Mogambo Khush Hua”.

The last part of the book “Impact and Legacy” delves into the duos strengths and their respective weaknesses. It also poses questions as in what turn would have our Indian Film Industry witnessed had the duo Salim-Javed not have separated then. To get the answer to the question, “Will They Meet Again?” readers must read this book Written by Salim-Javed – The Story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters.

Title Written by Salim-Javed (The Story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters)

Author Diptakirti Chaudhuri

Publisher Penguin Books India

Pages 361

Price Rs 399 /-



Source by Niilesh A Raje