Salim langde pe mat ro: Review

I just saw a fantastic film called Salim Langde pe mat ro. This film was suggested to me by RS. In this post, I will give a spoiler free review of the film and my thoughts about it.

The entire film is on Youtube. You can watch it below.

What is it about?

It’s definitely not some famous film and the name sounds bizarre. An English translation of the name would be “Don’t cry for Salim the Lame”. It is the story of a very interesting character called Salim Langda, who is a small-time criminal living in a ghetto in Mumbai of 1990. The story is of his personal growth in the backdrop of religious violence, discrimination and crime. He learns a lot of values throughout the film, engages in a lot of deep thoughtful dialogues and becomes wiser throughout.

Why should you watch it? If you are looking for a mature Bollywood film of the 90s era (there are so few!) and are looking to understand social issues of minorities throught the lens of cinema, this is a must watch. The cast is very good with Pawan Malhotra playing the lead role and lots of famous non-mainstream actors playing supporting roles, like Makarand Deshpande, Tom Alter, Surekha Sikri and Vikram Gokhale. Overall, if you are somebody like me who likes to discuss social issues of India a lot, you may not want to skip watching this film. The film has even won two National film awards!

Pawan Malhotra

This film is built entirely around the main character, who is played by Pawan Malhotra. His job was tough, but he definitely pulls it off really well. He fully embodies the petty thug behaviour and the local Mumbai mannerisms (Malhotra was raised in the Delhi region). The way he emotes the journey of this character really makes us attached to his personal journey. The screenplay is not very exciting, but the acting of the cast and Malhotra in particular was definitely more than enough to keep me hooked on the screen. There are a lot of scenes where Malhotra’s character Salim is just a silent spectator and the spectator is left to try and understand what he must be feeling. Those are the moments where Pawan Malhotra truly shone.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of his portrayal of Tiger Memon in Black Friday. There is a lot of similarity in the two characters played by Pawan Malhotra in both of the films. Of course, Black Friday is a much more mainstream movie (but still far from being really mainstream), but it does seem that a lot of what Malhotra learned during this film must have been a huge influence on him later in Black Friday.

Hawa Hawa song

I had heard the Coke Studio song Hawa Hawa before, but I did not know about the original. It’s an 80s song by Hassan Jahangir, a Pakistani singer. This song saw a lot of popularity in India and a music video shot in Mumbai was released (see below).

This song makes an appearance in the film at around 27 minutes, in a cafeteria in which Salim is trying to flirt with his girlfriend.

Analysis and comparison

I have been to Mumbai a lot of times. This city makes me very emotional. Life in Mumbai is very tough and the people are very strong. There is a great income inequality in India, and in Mumbai you see many unequal people standing face-to-face next to each other and struggling for themselves. Everyone in Mumbai is chasing some dream, and very few seem to be succeeding. Being a minority in Mumbai must be even more difficult!

The film comes across as a very mature commentary on the state of Muslims in India and Mumbai in particular. The director Saeed Mirza does a very good job of bringing these issues to life. I haven’t seen his other works, but I do see that this film definitely appears to be an attempt of an Indian Muslim trying to say something to other Indian Muslims. The interesting ensemble of characters like Aslam and Johan serve as messengers of particular viewpoints and try to put wisdom in Salim from time to time, speaking across the screen itself to the viewer.

I felt a lot of similarities of this film with Garam Hawa, which is the tale of a Muslim family in UP post-partition. Also, the style and themes are very similar to Sacred Games, but of course Sacred Games comes across as much less mature and also very confusing. There’s a line in Sacred Games which says something like “India had a partition in 1947, but Mumbai had a partition in 1992”. In that context, this film is more like about what pre-partition Mumbai was.

Of course, Black Friday is very similar in themes, and also has Pawan Malhotra as I said earlier. Since both Sacred Games and Black Friday are directed by Anurag Kashyap, I do wonder if Kashyap had seen this film before (especially while casting Malhotra).