‘Salam: The First ****** Nobel Laureate’ is Not a Documentary But a Love Story
‘Salam: The First ****** Nobel Laureate’ is a film made on the life of the Nobel laureate Dr. Abdus Salam who won the Nobel prize for his contribution to Physics
Salam: The First ****** Nobel Laureate is bound to shake and move you at all levels. Thanks to the Digital media platform Netflix for making this film available to a generation that has no idea of the gem that once belonged to Pakistan. For many decades, Pakistan has been suffering from the image of a terrorist nation where progressive ideas and research is redundant. Little do many people know that the same land has produced a scholar like Dr. Abdus Salam who changed the face of the world with his efforts for the promotion and propagation of scientific knowledge and thought.
‘Salam’ is a love story
To be honest, despite being a Pakistani I never knew much about Dr. Abdus Salam. Directed by Anand Kamalakar and produced by Omar Vandal and Zakir Thaver, Salam is a labor of love. The filmmakers have invested their heart and soul to bring to the world what has been snatched in the name of bigotry and religious intolerance from Pakistan. Although documentary is not a preferred genre for Pakistani audiences, Salam is more of a love story. Unlike the typical documentaries which focus only on providing the information, Salam is more oriented towards a mélange of emotions and thoughts of the scholar Professor Abdus Salam.
He was never owned by his countrymen
Even the name is symbolic enough to take a dig at the intolerance of the society towards a sect which Abdus Salam came from. The film begins with the scene of a graveyard in Rabwah, the sacred town for the Ahmadiyya sect, where Abdus Salam was laid to rest forever. Then appears one of the greatest physicists in the world Dr. Abdus Salam who clearly states that no one can escape from the reality that this is the age of Science. The 53-year-old Salam winning the Nobel prize for his contribution to physics fills the hearts with joy for a while until you discover that Salam’s own country erased his name even from the textbooks for the children. The man who turned down the British and Italian nationalities was not even owned by his own countrymen.
The University of Cambridge inspired Salam to dream big
The film shows Salam’s past when he started from humble beginnings in a small village of Jhang, Punjab. A favorite of his parents, young Salam was always determined to create a mark in the world. Funded by a collective for the children of peasants by the Prime Minister of the State of Punjab, Abdus Salam had the opportunity to reach one of the world’s best universities Cambridge which opened many new worlds to him. It was his alma mater the University of Cambridge which gave Salam the hope that only sky was the limit. After completing his Ph.D., Salam was determined to go back to Pakistan and give back what he had gained through knowledge. However, Salam’s country was not willing to make the best use of his intellect at the Government College, Lahore. Disheartened and dejected, Salam left Pakistan for UK.
He donated one-third of the prize money to the Government of Pakistan for promoting scientific education
He only returned to Pakistan when the government of Pakistan wanted him back as an advisor. However, the heartbreaks did not end for him because soon Ahmadi community was declared non-Muslims and Salam could not handle the trauma. Backed up by his sons and two wives memories of the Nobel laureate, the film makes you question the injustice one of the greatest brains in the world had to go through. Although he donated 1/3rd of his prize money to the development and promotion of scientific education in Pakistan, the country never did and might never own him.
Salam was the prisoner of the heart
The film also takes the viewers to young Salam’s school, his college, the University of Cambridge, the ICT in Italy, and everywhere Abdus Salam had left a footprint at. It takes the viewers through Abdus Salam’s heart which was filled with love and loyalty for his own country that continued breaking the same heart every time.
The country that could not accept an alive Salam as its own was left with no choice when Salam breathed his last at the age of 70 and was brought home. He belonged to the people. He returned to his people. In Salam’s words, ‘We… have inherited a house which has no windows, and its walls are very high, and it’s very difficult to know whether we have inherited a house or a prison.” Only if this prison accepted Salam as a prisoner, this captive of heart would have lived here through tears and smiles.