All You Need To Know About Dr. Salim Ali, India’s Bird Man Who Inspired Akshay’s Role in 2.0

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salim ali

We cannot wait to bring to you more and more facts about the blockbuster 2.0. While the movie has started to woo audiences in various parts of the country, there are interesting tributes and inspirations which the filmmakers had in mind. One such inspiration is that of Akshay Kumar’s role – it is inspired by none other than the Bird Man of India, Dr. Salim Ali. Today, we bring to you the most interesting facts about India’s first ornithologist.


The Journey Of India’s Bird Man – Dr. Salim Ali

salim ali

Here’s Where It Began

The Bombay Natural History Society is where Salim Ali found his love for birds. Having shot a bird for sport, Salim could not identify its species and his joy knew no bounds when his uncle offered to take him to this society. It is here that Salim identified the bird as a yellow-throated sparrow, and was opened to a whole new world of birds.

Degrees do not make a man

Health concerns caused him to take gaps in his education. This became of the reasons why he could not pass the matriculation exam at Bombay University in 1913. This, however, did not hold him back from going on to becoming one of the most distinguished individuals in Indian history.

salim ali

Right from the start

Even at the age of 10, Salim maintained a diary where he made observations on various species of birds in his vicinity.

A Shot at Business

Salim went to Burma in order to help his brother manage the family business. Business, however, was not his cup of tea as he would spend most of his time watching birds. Soon, he was sent back to Mumbai.

His time in Germany

Back in Mumbai, he was studying zoology and working as a guide for the history section at the Prince of Wales Museum. It was during this time that his interest in birds drew him to Dr. Irwin Strassman, a German ornithologist who was renowned all over the world. Salim left everything in Mumbai to study under his guidance for a year.

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A slight Relocation

On returning from Germany, Salim found out that the position of a museum guide had been dissolved. Having lost his job, Salim chose to move to his wife’s house in Kihim. Here, Salim spent most of his time observing birds, thanks to Kihim’s richness in flora and fauna.

Following his Heart

Salim’s proposal to record birds in the princely states was sponsored by the Bombay Natural History Society. The princely states were more than happy to have their birds documented and readily agreed. This gave Salim an opportunity to follow his heart. This turned out to be a breakthrough in his career.

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The Gateway to Opportunities

Salim’s first paper, which was on weaver birds not only earned him the recognition he deserved but also opened doors to a lot of opportunities. He was never short of work since then. He would spend most of his time traveling across the country, in an attempt to document and record birds.

Humility amidst Success

Not only was Salim creating milestones with his books, but was also earning a lot of love, respect, and admiration all across the globe. He never grew proud or vain and was loved even more for his humility. At an instance when the Bombay Natural History Society was about to be shut down due to financial reasons, the birdman urged Nehru to save the society from closure. Such was the respect for his wishes that Nehru responded at once and the place was saved.

salim ali

A tribute to the doctor

In November 1996, ecologist Madhav Gadgil wrote in Current Science that, “Salim Ali will be remembered as the man who taught Indians to appreciate, to study at first hand, to treasure, and to work towards conserving the rich living heritage of the country.”
Such was his impact that even today, bird counts are held all across the country.

salim ali

Such greatness is what keeps the world from falling into ignorance. Akshay Kumar’s role is, in fact, one of the best ways to keep him in our memories. Having known so much about the legend, we hope that you’ll enjoy the movie a lot more.

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Piyush is a writer, singer and a dabbler who loves pursuing all things creative. You can always spot him with dogs by his side or with food in his hand, but never both.

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