On Naseeruddin Shah’s birthday, here’s revisiting ZNMD’s eternal hippie Salman Habib
On Naseeruddin Shah’s 68th birthday, here is looking back at Salman Habib, the carefree hippie from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara who probably had his self-actualisation moment two decades ago and who knows if it was just as spiritual as Arjun’s diving.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is seen as a quintessential millennial film that follows three men who go through their existential journey. Hrithik Roshan’s Arjun, Abhay Deol’s Kabir and Farhan Akhtar’s Imran lead their independent paths which eventually bring them to self-actualisation in the course of the film. But while these young men were still trying to find their feet, we saw a character who probably lived through the same journey probably two decades ago. His self-realisation happened before the events of the film and what we see of him now is a refined version of his younger self. This man was Naseeruddin Shah’s Salman Habib.
When we meet Naseeruddin Shah’s Salman Habib, we already have an image of him. He is the birth father of Farhan Akhtar’s Imran but has taken no responsibility of his child since then. And it’s not like the circumstances did not allow him, it was simple and dry for him, he never wanted to.
With a rolling paper in his hand, bailing his son and his friends out of jail, Salman walks out nonchalantly. He lives the life of an artist who has never regretted a day in his life. Imran has had questions about his father ever since he learned the reality but for Salman, who has known about his son’s existence throughout, he just never wanted the domesticity of a married life and hence chose otherwise. It was Salman’s decision that changed the course of many lives and who is to say who was right. Salman chose for himself and never looked back.
Naseeruddin Shah’s character is the kind that we could call an eternal hippie. The one who has lived his life knowing the repercussions of his actions but has chosen them anyway. His casual attitude has hurt others but he has kept his happiness over everything else and even in his later years, he lives by the same principle. He does not lie to Imran and is in fact very honest about his actions. He does not sugarcoat his words and does not pretend to be the father he never was. There isn’t an iota of regret on his face, and this breaks Imran even more.
Imran gets to know about Salman after his mother Rahila reveals the truth to him. Imran is confused about his own existence, the sacrificing nature of the man who he thought was his father. And all of this brings his own actions to light. His journey with Arjun and his subsequent apology for hurting him come only after he measures up his own actions against the life he has lived.
Naseeruddin Shah’s Salman probably had his moment of realisation when Rahila was pregnant. It was probably just as spiritual for him as diving was for Arjun, and who knows how one’s actions affect those who come after us. It is romantic to live in the present but living that reality every day makes the experience lackluster and mundane. Salman’s life seems hippie-like but like all actions, his too had consequences that everyone around him paid for.