What draws any artist to create something is how the subject speaks to him or her on an emotional level. To me as a documentary filmmaker, it is no different.
When the producers Zakir Thaver and Omar Vandal brought this project to me, they had invested ten years scouring every aspect of the remarkable life of Abdus Salam. What they had collected was so thorough and expansive, that it was hard to ignore. Their commitment to the project was unrelenting and that was the first thing that drew me in. When I did my own cursory research on the layered life of Abdus Salam it became instantly clear to me that this was a very important story and it had to be told in the present climate fraught with Islamophobia and other prejudices.
Abdus Salam led a very rich and accomplished life. Apart from being the first Muslim to win a Nobel Prize in Physics, he was only among a handful to have accomplished this task from that part of the world. More than his accolades, what drew me to his story, was the tortured life he led, ostracized, forgotten and exiled from his own country, just for his personal beliefs. Another aspect, which I found fascinating, was how Salam reconciled being a deeply religious man, while operating at the highest reaches of science, whose primary goal in many ways was to render religion and a belief in god obsolete. This dichotomy and paradox, which was peppered through his life, is intimately explored in “Salam” making it a deeply personal and intimate portrait to watch.
Salam was born in pre-partition India and was laid to rest in Pakistan in 1996. I was born and brought up in India but currently call New York home. Zakir and Omar were both born in Pakistan. The painful history of our birth nations seventy years on, is a constant reminder and the politics surrounding it only worsens. But the camaraderie we have found as collaborators speaks volumes about why this film is what it is. For this reason alone, this project is close to my heart and we hope to share this feeling with the world through the life of “Salam”.