Justice for Salman Shah
Rashidul bari, a doctoral student at Columbia University, mathematics teacher at Bronx Community College/ The Times of Israel
In the four years before Salman Shah was killed on September 6, 1996, at the age of 25, he synthesized Bangla movies into a language everybody from professors to farmers could fall in love with. You can’t watch Salman and not say, “This is no Aamir Khan or Salman Khan —this is not even Shahrukh Khan, this is Leonardo DiCaprio.” Another person might say, “That was a mistake, he is no DiCaprio, he’s even bigger”. Salman was like a megastar in our eyes. His contributions single-handedly created a revolution in the Bangladesh film industry and removed Bollywood’s influence from the minds of millions of youth who started worshiping him in 1993 when his first movie, Keyamat Theke Keyamat, was released. He worked on over 27 movies, all of which were blockbuster hits in Bangladesh. This achievement alone would probably entitle him to place his name next to DiCaprio. One of the remarkable things about Salman’s short career was his influence. His acting was so influential that people not only received psychological pleasure from watching his movies but usually ended up becoming fans of his characters, such as Raj, who is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo. A grief-stricken Raj (Salman) is devastated by the death of Rashmi, and commits suicide with a dagger much the same way Romeo killed himself after Juliet’s death. But nobody imagined that Salman would die within four years of this fictional death. Salman’s death has spurred numerous conspiracy theories, which include accusations aimed variously at his wife Samira, Mostak Waid (Samira’s boy friend), Rabeya Sultana Rubi, Aziz Mohammad Bhai (who grabbed Shah’s wife in a hotel and kissed her in front of everyone there), Latifa Haq Lucy, Rizvi Ahmed, and Ashraful Haq Don. In an interview with the author of this article, Salman’s mother, Neela Chowdhury claimed that Samira killed her son around 4 am on Sep 6, 1996. However, Samira and her associates such as NTV claimed that Salman committed suicide. Kamaruddin and Nila Chowdhury, Salman’s parents, and Shaharan Evan, his brother, claimed that Samira covered up crucial information in the aftermath of the assassination, such as removing evidence by the little son of Rubi Chowdhury . They filed a murder case, but the post mortem report and the police report, stated that Salman committed suicide without leaving any evidence. On August 13, 2017, during an interview with Time Television, Rubi revealed that Samira killed Salman using her brother and others. To talk only about Salman’s acting would negate what makes him one of the greatest men of all time and why his acting has so influenced Bangladeshi history. Salman did what very, very few actors ever do. He created a revolution : He looked different, he talked different, and he dressed different. Even his hairstyle was different . By the end of 1994, the youth of Bangladesh, including myself, wanted to talk, look, and dress like him. When I acted in Mushfiqur Rahman Gulzar (He is now the President of Bangladesh Film Directors Association) telefilm, Professor Rashidi, I, too, wanted to impersonate Salman. Soon I realized that all my costars were trying to do the same thing.
Salman acted with a certain vigor, enough to remove all Bollywood influence from Bangladesh. With Salman’s acting style, tone, and delivery, you could fall in love with him. He was like DiCaprio in millions of Bengalis’ eyes. As a boy, I grew up in Bangladesh watching Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan’s movie. I didn’t want to leave them, but Salman was so much better. For me, Salman was never just an actor. He was the whole package. But the impact of that acting gave me hope. Bangladesh is a poor country. It does not have oil, coal, or fossil fuels. It badly needed a national hero who could unite the nation, and Salman delivered. His movies had a cathartic power, and he knew that. That’s why he could call himself the DiCaprio of Bangladesh—and nobody ever thought he was bragging. There is a difference between those who act and those who take acting to another level, who create a euphoria around themselves. It is transformation and Shah was a transformer. When I first watched his movie, Keyamat Theke Keyamat, in 1993, I sized him up. He wasn’t quite as light-skinned as DiCaprio, but like Leo, he had a very handsome look. He had a good chest, a resonator, and he was driven. I had five posters of Salman hanging on my wall. There was a tremendous intimacy and formidable intellect in everything Salman did, which is what made him a great actor. In Shopner Thikana, he started a revolution by changing his dress style.