“Anyone can play with words, but it’s the situation in the story – that is where a strong dialogue comes in and makes maximum impact”— Salim Khan
Sometime back I had gone to interview scriptwriter Salim Khan in his plush Bandra apartment. He began by reflecting on the state of film writers.
He counted the number of blockbusters he had written in partnership with Javed Akhtar and said, "Gyarah filmein lagatar hit di thi humnein. Agar Hollywood mein hotey to apna island hota, flat mein na rah rahe hotey."
It was said in good humour, but it conveyed the message that in this star-crazy industry, writers are yet to get their due. This time he spoke about the possible reasons why writers of this generation are losing their grip.
Some dialogues attain iconic stature and are handed down generations through their use in daily conversations. You (and Javed Akhtar) have written many of them. What makes a dialogue memorable? The ‘situation’ is the most important aspect. Anyone can play with words but it’s the situation in the story – when the characters are on the edge or a confrontation is going on – where a strong dialogue comes in and makes maximum impact.
People watched silent films initially which means that dialogues alone cannot make or break a film.
As screenwriters we (Javed Akhtar and I) always focused on strong storylines and dramatic scenes. But strong dialogues took the scenes to another level. Like the line Main aaj bhi phenke hue paise nahi uthata (Deewar).
Some line that was! It’s said that you and Javed saab brought in the concept of punchlines. Sholay had punchlines even for minor characters like Kaalia and Sambha. Was that planned? It’s unbelievable! People tell me Salim saab, kya dialogue likha hai aapne! Holi kab hai? Or Poore pachas hajaar! I laugh at them. Do you really think these are exceptional dialogues?
We actually wrote wonderful dialogues in Sholay like Jaante ho duniya ka sabse bada bojh kya hota hai? Boodhe baap ke kandhe pe jawan bete ka janaza. But people praise us for Kitne aadmi the? And Chal Dhanno, aaj Basanti ki izzat ka sawal hai. (Laughs) Aaj bhi meri samajh mei nahi aati ye baat…