Verdict: Ambitions punctuated by stark reality. Colorful characters in a not-so-colorful world are a one-time viewing affair.
Dharavi and Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro are blood brothers from NFDC’s backyard. While the plot, characters and story diverge, they do meet at a common playground. Saeed Akhtar Mirza, best-known for his TV series Nukkad, opts to direct a film that consciously gets the casting right. But that alone is difficult to keep the film going. The film takes time to put through its message. Communal disharmony, the will to lead a life of dignity, and how things remain the same the more they change, constitute the parallel narrations of Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro.
An extortionist, thief and small time local goon Salim Pasha lives with his parents and sister Anees in a shifty neighborhood in Bombay. The cameras closely-capture Salim’s life with his partners Peera and Abdul until one day, Salim Langda decides to give it up all.
From time to time the cost of human lives has been questioned on celluloid. Saeed Mirza does that by mentioning the massacre that happened in the city of Hiroshima. It also becomes pertinent when a dead body is found from the gutters of Bombay, days after the deceased was dumped in there. Hindu-Muslim rivalry has also been a subject of interest for filmmakers in India. The story of this film remains sensitive towards exploring how communal rivalry costs the lives of innocents, and claims the stability of the weak.
Anees who is of a marriageable age is soon to be engaged to a proofreader Aslam (Rajendra Gupta). Though Salim finds the match unsuitable due to Aslam’s low income, they bond over intelligent theories of life, our choices and its consequences. While the situation around the nation is tense and crimes such as murder, rape and robbery are the flip-sides, Aslam interestingly says, “I’m a proofreader. I rectify people’s mistakes”.
The film, despite having the potential to be one of the strongest contenders of parallel cinema often gets lost due to its laidback edit. There are some characters which are wasted in the film and the screenplay could have done much better without those. By the time Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro makes its intentions clear in entirety, the viewer may lose interest.
Salim’s character however, scores high because of good writing. The character gets enough scope to experiment and over 120 minutes, we see a change of heart. Street-smart Salim is affected by what he sees around and realizes it is in his best interest to have a clean background and honest income. The remainder of this film is about his tryst with destiny in the corrupt city of Bombay.
Pawan Malhotra as Salim Pasha is incredibly a viewer’s delight. One of the most underrated character actors in Indian cinema gets this film to showcase his talent in all capacities. Surekha Sikri and Vikram Gokhale as his parents get their expressions right in every frame. Actor-Director Ashutosh Gowariker and Makrand Deshpande, despite being around Salim in most shots never get enough screen-space. Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro is not a film to make you feel good. On the contrary, it exposes and questions the insecurities of the common man and leaves you with unwritten answers on the wall.
Why should you watch this film?
It is not an instantly-appealing film. The makers ask for your patience right till the end. In bargain, it gives you an insightful look into the life of underdogs existing right in near proximity of our lives. Watch it for that.
Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro is a title under the NFDC label ‘Cinemas of India’. The film is out on home video by NFDC.
By Soham Bhattacharyya