Salim-Javed and the Angry Young Man

The good old fans of Indian Hindi movies will immediately recognize what I am talking about. Amitabh Bachchan was voted as the superstar of the millennium by the viewers all around the world. Most people who watch movies around the world would have heard about this man. But little would they know about the writer-duo that created this persona in the seventies. They were called Salim-Javed although their full names are Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar. Indian films since their launch in 1913 slowly became romance based. They have songs even till date and they were still based on love stories by early seventies. As India became independent in 1947 its public began to dream about future. And within a couple of centuries, frustration set in. Their dreams were not being fulfilled. The independence was not what they expected it to be. This set a wave of anger in the public. And the angry young man persona was a way of venting this frustration. I think the phrase was originated from the “Angry Young Men” group of British middle-class playwrights and novelists during 1950s and 1960s.

Bollywood, as it is widely known, is the largest film industry in the world and this is because it has a massive fan following of Indians all over the world. The romance themes that were created to entertain the masses during the 1930s onwards created romantic heroes who looked ridiculous in the film climax action sequences because they were not built for action movies. There were some exceptions such as Dharmendra and Sunil Dutt who did some good action films during the period.

In 1969 a thin and a very tall man who incidentally did not look at all romantic or attractive to women, entered the film industry. He struggled with getting roles for a couple of years and made only low-budget films that mostly failed at the box office. Whatever little success he scored was because of other artists associated with the films. The writer duo of Salim Javed launched their career with success in 1971 with a romantic hit Andaz and continued to write successful films such as Seeta Aur Geeta subsequently. Salim Khan wrote the script for Zanjeer and after several top actors refused to play the revenge-seeking cop, the role came to Amitabh Bachchan. The trend-setting film directed by Prakash Mehra brought a revolution in Indian cinema with the Big B breathing the angry young man of the nation. Amitabh was called Vijay in the film and this name also was repeated many times later in the angry young man films.

The romantic films era was definitely over. What followed next for 10 years were several revenge-action movies brilliantly written by the pair creating a database like no other in the movie history. The emergency that happened in 1976 drove the anger of the public even further and more such films followed. To the credit of Bachchan and Salim-Javed, the other makers could not create the same magic, especially during that period. Both Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar are gifted writers of screenplays and have a keen sense for effective dialogue writing. So not only the stories were different every time, the dialogue was written exceptionally well, and then the angry young man delivered them effectively on the screen!! You cannot look anywhere else while watching this persona. The 6’2″ man with a resonant voice was a perfect casting for these films.

So a series of films that followed include Deewar, Sholay, Shaan, Shakti, Kaala Paththar etc. Although admittedly not all of them had Amitabh as the angry young man. I call them noir films because they were stylish, slightly pessimistic and brilliant.

As it happens in the case of great unions, the trio separated in mid-eighties and went their separate ways creating several great hits independently showing their skill and popularity among Indian public. But the angry young man will never be touched again for so many films created over a long period of 10 years! A great actor combining with two great writers working in combination with the best directors and actors of the era supported the persona aptly giving it an intensity that was not matched before and after!

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