Salim-Javed: Strugglers, Screenwriters, Superstars

The story of Bollywood’s most successful writing duo is as masala-filled as the groundbreaking cinema they created.

GettyImages-187327139 javed akhtar salim khan
Indian Bollywood scriptwriters Javed Akhtar (L) and Salim Khan (R) speak to media at a promotional event for the film Sholay, re-released in 3D, on November 7, 2013 (STRDEL/AFP via Getty Images)

Rtusha Kulkarni


April 14, 2023


12 min

Palm trees sway on a deserted Bombay beach. Suddenly, a red car screeches to a halt. Out steps Amitabh Bachchan as the eponymous lead of Don (1978), a mafia boss. Clad in bell bottoms with flares so wide even Harry Styles would crumble, Don finds himself in a face-off with Officer D’Silva. A chase ensues, and Don escapes but not without taking a bullet. A bleeding Don gets into the backseat of D’Silva’s car and threatens him with a gun to drive ahead. D’Silva wonders aloud how Don has survived. Don boasts, “Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahi, namumkin hai.” Catching Don is not only difficult, it’s impossible. Even as his life hisses out of his body, the ever-suave Don never lets go of his pride. 

A tragic hero with a major chip on his shoulder with quotable dialogue? The scene bears all the hallmarks of a classic Salim-Javed tale. 

Many regard Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, known mononymously as Salim-Javed, as the greatest Hindi screenwriting duo of all time. But fewer know that their origin story is as iconic and masala-filled as the groundbreaking cinema they created. From inseparable friends to bitter strangers and then respectful acquaintances, this is a tale of two heroes amid all their filmi fortunes and foibles.

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