Salim – Javed come together to fight a cause

Salim - Javed
MUMBAI: 25 years after they collaborated on their last script Mr India Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar are ready to come together to fight the issue of creative and copyright infringement. The impetus came from the announcement that Prakash Mehra’s son Amit is all set to re-make one of Salim-Javed’s most beloved screenplays Zanjeer.

The announcement prompted Salim Saab to call up Javed Saab to be apprised of the situation.

Says Javed, “Yes, I’ve spoken to Salim Saab. It’d be best for you to ask him what he feels about the issue. Personally, I think there is a moral issue involvement in the debate about remakes that goes beyond the legal issue. Perhaps the people who are thinking of remaking Zanjeer have paid for the right to do so.But creative rights are not like buying property. There’s a difference between the way real estate is bought and converted according to whim, and intellectual property. You can’t take a painting by Satish Gujral or Anajali Ela Menon hang it on your wall, and decide 20-30 years later to make changes in the canvas. Salim Saab and I wrote Zanjeer. And it is our moral right to be informed about any plans to use our creative resources.How do we know what they have in mind? How can we allow them to do what they wish with our script?”

Salim Khan admits he and and Javed Akhtar are looking at the legal options to tackle the issue of creative infringement. “Yes, we heard through the media that someone is remaking Zanjeer.I’ll be taking a very firm legal stand on this to find out what their position is on the copyright correctness of acquiring Zanjeer. If after taking stock of legal opinion I find the position is in my and Javed Saab’s  favour, I’ll initiate further proceedings. But given a  chance I’d rather settle the matter through dialogue rather than legal options.”

Salim Saab gets nostalgic about Zanjeer. Zanjeer was  a breakthrough project for all of us. It was Prakash Mehra’s first film as an independent producer.He went on to make many successful films even without Javed Saab and me. I didn’t even know who  was re-making Zanjeer .I just heard about it 8 days ago and I called up my lawyer. It would have been the decent and decorous thing for them to  tell us about the project. No one has bothered to talk to us.It isn’t as if I’m unapproachable.So what prevents them from approaching me?”

Salim Saab hopes for what he calls a sensible and fruitful dialogue with Amit Mehra. “But if we don’t come to a solution we’ll take legal action.So far it seems we are on a firm footing on the copyright issue.At the same time I’d request the makers of the new Zanjeer to negotiate on a purely professional footing and not resort to emotional appeal.My experience is that people who come to  with business propositions try to play on my emotional nature. But I know where to invest my emotions and where not to.”

Salim Saab is counting on Javed Saab’s deep knowledge of the copyright issue to take the Zanjeer matter further. “The first thing I did was to call up Javed Saab. He feels our stand on the issue is very strong. Javed Saab plans to bring up the issue in Delhi shortly.”

A wider question that one asks Salim Khan is, should remakes be attempted at all?

Laughs the erudite writer, “My opinion on remakes has changed.Earlier I took it as a compliment when someone attempted to remake one of my scripts written 25-30 years ago. Whether it’s Zanjeer, Sholay or Seeta Aur Geeta the fact that they keep coming back to old scripts proves there’s a scarcity of writing. So now I am of the opinion that the original writrers should be monetarily compensated.”

Reminiscing over Zanjeer Salim Saab says, “It changed a lot of lives.It turned around our careers, Amitabh’s and Prakash Mehra’s careers. It accelerated our careers and redefined the screenplay for Hindi cinema. The comedy track was done away with, for once.The hero didn’t sing any song. He didn’t even smile in the film. At the time when it was being made all  of what Javed Saab and I thought to be USPs in our script were stumbling blocks.So many heroes refused Zanjeer. Dharmendra was the first hero it went to. Dev Saab and Raj Kumar Saab refused. Dilip Kumar Saab felt that it didn’t jell with the kind of  films he was doing. He felt there wasn’t much room for  a performance for the hero.However I’ve to tell you when once I asked Dilip Saab which films he regretted not doing he mentioned Baiju Bawra, Pyasa and Zanjeer.I was hoping he’d mention Zanjeer and he did. Later we did two films Kranti and Shakti with Dilip Saab.But Zanjeer remains very special to both Javed Saab and me.”

When contacted the neo-Zanjeer’s producer Amit Mehra seemed to have done some quick re-thinking.

Mehra said, “I can never think of starting my production house and Zanjeer without the blessings of Salim Uncle and Javed Uncle. They’re family to me.I’ve virtually grown up in front of them. After Dad’s passing away they’re like my guardians. Their contribution to  most of my dad’s films particularly Zanjeer, can’t be undermined.”

So why hasn’t Mehra Jr taken Salim-Javed into confidence? “I’m definitely going to seek their  valuable suggestions before taking Zanjeer forward. The film’s production is at a nascent stage. I wanted to meet them and seek their blessings once everything was confirmed.”