Servus Freunde, my name is Jimmy Cage and
SALIM LANGDE PE MAT RO, which translates to
“Don’t Cry for Salim, the Lame” is a
1989 Hindi language drama that was written
and directed by Saeed Akhtar Mirza.
It won the National Film Award for Best Feature
Film in Hindi as well as Best Cinematography.
This was my first exposure to filmmaker Saeed
Akhtar Mirza, who has made several notable
films in the so-called parallel cinema movement.
Going into it I had absolutely no idea what
A few weeks ago, I just looked up all the
Indian movies that are available on the streaming
platform Mubi and made a list with the titles
that look promising.
When I clicked on this one, I was immediately
hooked because it doesn’t waste a second
and instantly begins with the voice over narration
of our protagonist Salim.
This small figure in the middle of the frame
who’s confidently and somewhat stylishly
walking in the middle of the street.
There’s an immediate realism, grittiness
but also style to this opening moment.
SALIM LANGDE PE MAT RO tells the story of
the titular character Salim, played by Pawan
Malhotra in his breakthrough role.
Salim is a
with no actual job.
He’s making his money with small crimes
like extortion and robbery and he seems to
be primed to climb the “career ladder”
in the criminal underworld.
Along with his two best friends Peera and
Abdul, played by Makrand Deshpande and Ashutosh
The film does a nice job establishing and
introducing us to his world.
This small part of the city of Mumbai.
It is set in a working-class milieu with a
predominantly Muslim population.
And religion or rather the ongoing conflict
between Hindus and Muslims emerges as the
film’s main topic.
That’s where its heart really lies.
And that’s also what makes it so timely,
even more than thirty years later.
It’s a film from another era and its tone,
atmosphere and style firmly places it as such,
which is also why I love watching older films.
Yet it’s themes and the burdens of its characters
are still relevant.
The film was made in a time when Hindu nationalist
ideology was on the rise again, with communal
riots often times leading to hundreds of people
Our protagonist Salim is a Muslim who just
happens to be a Muslim and at the beginning
he’s not really involved or practicing his
There are moments that show how easily someone
as young and somewhat naïve as him can be
Salim is a petty criminal because he didn’t
really have many options and in this climate
of religious hatred, he could also probably
be radicalized by the wrong people.
But Salim is also someone who’s genuine
good at heart.
He has the best intentions for his younger
sister, he wants to help his family, he cares
for his buddies and he also just likes to
hang out and smoke some weed with his peace-loving
hippie friend Johan.
Salim is at a crucial point in his life and
he has to decide which path he wants to follow.
There is this inner and outer conflict.
On one hand you have the things you should
Lead a good and honest life, love thy neighbor.
But on the other you have these difficult
and very real circumstances you live in.
The lack of opportunity, poverty, an atmosphere
There are several events that make Salim question
his path and the biggest factor is without
the doubt the character of Aslam, played by
He is the one Salim’s sister wants and should
Someone who studied and is now working an
honest job as a newspaper proofreader.
In a pointed early scene Salim visits Aslam
to see if he’s the right one for his sister.
But when he finds out that Aslam only makes
a very small salary, despite his college degree,
with a heavy heart he has to tell him that
he wishes for someone better for his sister.
Which is of course quite ironic.
The one without a proper job is making more
money doing shady things and is absolutely
baffed and perplexed that someone like Aslam,
an intelligent, well-educated man, is barely
But this won’t be the last conversation
between the two of them and it’s Aslam who
more or less functions as the movie’s consciousness
and way to transport its message.
And I have to say, while I of course am very
much on board with that message and appreciate
a film directly addressing these important
topics – for my own taste it becomes also
a little bit too didactic.
Too much a message movie.
I think it’s great when it lets its characters
and setting breathe.
When we follow Salim and his friends through
When we see them act the way they do.
These guys are just great together and there’s
a certain energy and panache to it.
And Makrand Deshande just has this perfect
look for someone who should be in movies.
When we get immersed into this low-class urban
setting there’s this almost documentarian
vibe to it.
Director Saeed Akhtar Mirza has made several
documentaries throughout his career and the
focus on young people and their place in society
has been a reoccurring thing as well.
And that’s where this movie really shines
Pawan Malhotra is great as Salim, even if
he mostly has just this one angry and frustrated
look on his face.
But he’s still such a big screen presence
and you are still able to see past that outer
appearance and feel a huge deal of sympathy
for this tragic hero, who tries to put his
When he’s confronted with the horrible things
going on around him, when he’s exposed to
the richer parts of society, or when he’s
just contemplating alone at the water.
These moments make the movie for me.
The scenes with Aslam are important and I
think it’s good to just directly address
certain things, especially at the time of
the movie’s release, but I can’t deny
that it felt too preachy and like a school
class for me.
Thankfully the movie has many wonderful and
powerful moments as well, like our three friends
breaking out in this little dance about their
new-found hope for the future.
So in German I’d say: SALIM LANGDE PE MAT
RO ist eine starke Milieu Studie, eingefangen
in kraftvollen, lebensnahen Bildern, toll
gespielt und noch immer aktuell.
Mir persönlich war er aber auch ein wenig
zu offensichtlich belehrend in manchen Momenten.
I give SALIM LANGDE PE MAT RO 7 out of 10.
It’s more like 7.1 but I don’t do that.
Alright, that’s it.
Like always, comment below and let me know
what you think about SALIM LANGDE PE MAT RO.
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