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. It was so impassioned like he was stepping out from the shadow of DiCaprio. When you watch the movie, you suddenly realize: He’s talking directly to you. When I experienced it as a young teenager, it hit the nail on the head. It embodied the feelings I was living with every day until I left Bangladesh, completely burning with desire and believing that one day I, too, could become an actor like Salman.
I remember Gulzar saying, in 2008, during the shooting of Professor Rashidi, “Have you watched Salman’s movie last night? ” His acting generates the smells, sounds, and vibrations of feelings and moods, which are more powerful than those produced by Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, or Sharukh Khan. Physics talks about four forces in the universe: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak forces. However, Salman reminds us of the existence of a fifth force: the human force. When it comes to expressing through acting, there is no one who can be compared to Salman . He is the reason why Bengali youth return to cinemas again and again.
As a youth, I used to watch his movie several times a day because my mother played Mayer Odhikar every single day. I saw my mother cry when she watched those scenes again and again, where Robin restored the respect of his mother (Bobita) to the family. Then I discovered, years later, that my wife is also a big fan of Salman, watching Keyamat Theke Keyamat many times a week. But there was something else I didn’t realize until I watched Shotter Mrittu Nei 10 times in a row; eventually, I connected the dots, realizing how Salman’s acting won the heart and minds of my mom and my wife.
When you watch a Salman movie, you are hearing something deep within the man. Even the way he pronounces words, especially English words, is amazing. When he says, “Three cheers for Rana, hip hip hooray,” you can almost feel him next to you, like he’s up close and personal, and you’re still right with him. The powerful way he enunciates the word “Three cheers” makes you say, “Where did that come from? Where did he find that pure English pronunciation?”
Soborno Isaac, called the “Einstein of our time” by the President of the City College of New York, does not speak Bengali but when we watched Salman’s movie, it caught his attention. It was like an evangelical event. Salman was the minister and Isaac was the congregation. He got all fired up: “I fall in love with Bangla and English at the same time” said the Einstein of our time.
Millions of Bengali youth started watching his movies just for entertainment but ended up impersonating him, much the same way my mother, wife, Isaac, or I had. They are beautiful to see, because it makes us proud to be Bengali. My mother watches Salman over and over because she wants her son to be like Robin; my wife watches him because she wants her hubby to be as loyal as Raj; my son watches him because he wants to polish his accent like Salman; and I watch him in the hopes of acquiring a piece of Salman, whatever it may be.
Although Salman created a fever through his movies that spread all around Bangladesh, and unfortunately he still remains one of the great unsung heroes of human progress to those who live outside of the Indian subcontinent. With that said, movies, of course, are not all about recognition. Still, the fact that Hollywood did not ultimately embrace Salman with an Oscar is unfortunate, as it probably would have meant a lot to him. In a time when hardly any roles are being played correctly in Bangladesh, Salman played the role that was assigned to him well: actor. As a result, his name has become synonymous with the greatness of Bengali film.
Hence, to a Bangladeshi, his loss is felt in manifold ways. He made young people—especially students who had been bred to watch Indian movies—understand that a Bengali actor can be more powerful than Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, and Aamir Khan combined. Salman may be regarded as one of the world’s most important actors , but despite his innumerable professional successes, he found it difficult to maintain a harmonious love life with his wife, Samira.
It was September 6, 1996. My father asked me to go to Dhaka’s US Embassy, but I declined, saying, “I won’t go to the United States because there is no Salman Shah in America.” My father laughed at me that morning, but we all cried together that night when the news broke: “Salman Shah is no more. His body was found hanging from a ceiling fan in a room at his Eskaton residence in Dhaka.” For the next few days, like millions of youth in Bangladesh including Masud Rana Nakib, I could not sleep, I could not eat, and I could not enjoy anything. Many youth could not bear this pain and ended up committing suicide. I, too failed to bear the pain and decided to leave Bangladesh. I informed my father that I didn’t want to live in a country that not only failed to save the life of its most popular son but also seemed to be unwilling to punish those who killed him.
More than 20 years have passed, but Salman’s killers have managed to escape prosecution simply because they are too powerful. However, I always knew the truth would be revealed. On August 9, 2017 I was teaching a class at Princeton. In the middle of the class, I received a message from my wife: “You have to do with your pen what Salman does with his movies.” I received another message from her at the end of the class: “Salman didn’t kill himself, he was murdered and Rubi confessed it on a video posted on her Facebook.” I watched the video at the end of the class and decided to unleash my pen because Rubi said they also killed her brother to remove evidence of Salman’s murder. On August 13, 2017, Time Television took Ruby’s interview: “Salman was murdered by my husband Jan Lin Chan, and by my brother Rumi and his wife Samira Huq, among others.” She further claimed that Samira destroyed the evidence of Salman’s death by using her little son. She even claimed that Samira and her gang killed Rumi, Rubi’s brother, to destroy all the evidence.
I always knew that it was not a suicide, even after reading the post mortem report, as it is possible to change anything in Bangladesh through bribery. I’m sure the doctors who wrote the post mortem report took bribes from Samira’s family and that the police officers who investigated the death also took bribes. Salman did not commit suicide. Samira and her associates killed him. They tried to kill him before. In fact, Samira unleashed her terror on Salman in 1994 in Chittagong, stabbing him in his chest. Salman wanted to give her a second chance, but she cheated on him, kissing Aziz Mohammad Bhai in a hotel in front of witnesses. Salman got so angry that he slapped on Aziz, but ultimately decided to give Samira another chance. It appears now, however, that Samira succeeded in a second attempt to kill Salman and, with the support of many people, including Mustak, her boyfriend, make it look like a suicide.
Hanging, whether done with a rope, an electrical cord, or a belt, always leaves an inverted V bruise, and is easy to tell from ligature strangulation (murder), which leaves a straight-line bruise. There was no such evidence on Salman’s body. Following his death, Salman’s personal assistant Abul and domestic workers Doly and Monwara were reportedly given shelter by Samira’s family. I urge Sheikh Hasina, the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, to order the police to conduct a fair investigation of Salman’s death based on the following suspicious events and activities:
The suicide note was fake.
Why was the dead body brought down so quickly?
Why was there a delay in taking the body to a hospital?
Why didn’t Samira call Salman’s family after his death?
Why did Samira acquire the sedative JASOCANE-A (20 mg) the day before Salman’s death?
Why were the clothes inside the luggage wet (some wet clothes of Salman’s were also found inside luggage there)?
Why did they kill Rumi, the brother of Rubi, who kill Salman?
Why did Samira remove crime scene by Rubi’s son?
Why did Samira not go to the funeral?
Why did Samira disappear few moments after Salman’s death?
Salman is no more, but his movies are still the background melody for millions of Bangladeshis’ childhood experiences. They give us a reason to love our motherland, Sonar Bangla.
Because of Salman, the world’s most famous boy wrote “I love you Salman” on his cheek. This is why it is impossible for 165 million Bangladeshis to hold back their tears, or not to wonder what might have been if Salman had lived.
Salman’s tragedy is reminiscent of the plot of Hamlet, in which Claudius (Mustak) killed Hamlet (Salman) and married his mother (Samira). Shakespeare was more than a poet; he was a prophet. The exception here is that Samira and Mustak are happily married and Kamrudidin, Salman’s father, is dead.
Rashidul Bari, a doctoral student at Columbia University, teaches mathematics at Bronx C. Community College. His email is rb3080@Bari Science Laband website is