When Amitabh Bachchan refused Mr India as he wouldn’t be seen in the film, became a cause of Salim-Javed’s split

The present-day Hindi cinema likes to believe that ‘content is king’ but years ago, when this phrase wasn’t as overused as it is today, Hindi cinema celebrated its writers and gave them due credit. With Salim-Javed, who were behind films like Sholay, Deewar, Haathi Mere Saathi, and Trishul, among many others, the film industry acknowledged the power of the written word. The duo’s eventual break-up in the early 1980s came as a shock for film lovers and in the years since, much has been written about their separation as writing partners.

The book titled “Written by Salim-Javed: The Story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters” by Diptakirti Chaudhuri talks about this incident in great detail. As per the author, Salim Khan gave a lengthy interview to journalist Anita Padhye for her Marathi book “Yahi Rang, Yahi Roop”. The incident reveals that the man who was partially responsible for Salim-Javed’s hot streak, Amitabh Bachchan, was also in some way responsible for their eventual separation. It was with Bachchan that the writers had popularised the ‘angry young man’ character.

As per the Marathi book, Salim-Javed presented an idea to Bachchan, which eventually became Mr India but the Sholay star was not keen on it. Bachchan apparently believed that the invisible-man concept wouldn’t work for him as his fans came to the theatres to see him. Salim-Javed were of the opinion that Amitabh’s voice would work wonders for the film but the actor did not share the same opinion. Bachchan’s refusal, as per Salim Khan, triggered the break-up. Javed felt that they should probably not be working with Bachchan anymore because he saw this denial as an ‘insult’, but Salim wasn’t of the same opinion. Days later, Javed attended Amitabh’s Holi party, where Salim believes Javed blamed Salim for the idea to not work with Bachchan. This miscommunication soured their relationship.

Salim Khan Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar ended their partnership in 1981. (Photo: Express Archives)

By this time, Javed had already started writing lyrics for Yash Chopra’s Silsila. Javed’s plan was to sell the entire Salim-Javed package where they would provide the maker with a script and song lyrics but Salim wasn’t keen on accepting credit for something that he had not done. Salim said, “I don’t consider it right to take credit for something I didn’t do. Javed would write lyrics, have meetings with music directors and I would sit there contributing nothing. This was not acceptable to me.” Since Salim had no role in writing the lyrics, he did not want his name on those.

Salim shared that remembers the day when he and Javed actually broke up. He recalled Javed as saying, “I was thinking that maybe we should work separately.” To this, Salim said, “I am sure you have said this after considerable thought and nothing I say will change your mind.” As Salim started walking towards his car, Javed walked with him, and Salim turned to him and said, “I am old enough to take care of myself.” This, Salim Khan recalls, was when the separation was final.

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