Watching Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro gave me a sense of déjà vu, in its depiction of the increasing alienation of a ghettoized Muslim populace that Mirza would touch upon again in his deeply moving Naseem. Further, the hopeful howl of its protagonist Salim (Pawan Malhotra) – a small-time criminal frequenting Bombay’s underbelly – to his close friends Peera (Makrand Deshpande) and Abdul (Ashutosh Gowarikar) that, despite all the troubles, misgivings, humiliations and hopelessness of today, “Apna bhi time aayenga (our time will come)”, a politically charged cry which formed the rousing rap song in Gully Boy. Salim’s angst, disillusionment and existential crisis – amplified by a gruesome riot sparked by the brand of provocative Hindutva politics on the rise in the 80s, and his interactions with progressive journalist Aslam (Rajendra Gupta) – formed the film’s key thread; his innter struggles at what he is vis-à-vis what he could’ve been was hugely reminiscent of the “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am” utterance in On the Waterfront. The people surrounding him added further context – his unemployed father (Vikram Gokhale); his dead brother who haunts him with his absence; the sweet-natured Mumtaz (Neelima Azeem) who works at the local brothel; the shady characters both both ruthless and warm-hearted, amongst whom he’s carved his place and that he’s now keen on exiting. However, that said, the film, comprising of compelling depiction of Mumbai’s signature underbelly, which imbued it with bleak authenticity, veered towards didactism – making the medium an agitprop mouthpiece of the director’s own simmering angst – which made it tad heavy-footed, and slightly dampened it from a purely cinematic standpoint.
Director: Saeed Akhtar Mirza
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama