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April 16, 2015

‘Sholay’: Forty years later


April 16, 2015

Director: Ramesh Sippy. Producer G.P. Sippy. Music: R.D.Burman. Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Amjad Khan, Hema Malini and Jia Bachan.
Mandviwalla Entertainment and Geo Films must be credited for bringing memorable smash hit ‘Sholay’ nationwide for theatrical release (both in 2D and 3D) starting April 14.
‘Sholay’ originally came out in 1975. Forty years for some may have gone like split of a second. Those were the years when VCR was just making a beginning and an Indian film with 198 minutes duration was available in three heavy cassettes (the VCR was even more heavier).
The 1977 martial law, imprisonment of Prime Minister Bhutto, his hanging, coming of democracy with ouster of two governments, arrival of Musharraf, tragedy of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and several other political and social milestones are part of what happened between 1975 and now.
‘Sholay’ is the most prestigious film in decades. It deals with two petty criminals Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra who are hired by Thakur Sanjeev Kumar, now a retired police officer. The criminals are asked to settle old scores with ruthless ‘daku’ played by Amjad Khan. Jaya Bachchan (then Jaya Bhaduri) is the young tragic widow and sister of ‘Thakur.’ She seldom delivers any line and is seen in white sari. At the end of the film when some intimacy develops between her and Amitabh, he is killed with body riddled with bullets; Jaya shuts the windows on the world outside her. Hema Malini then in deep romance with Dharmendra in real life is ‘tangewali’ who is mostly here for the sidekicks and then Helen. She is just for raunchy campfire sensual number ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba.’
Since content supersedes style and presentation, ‘Sholay’ reminds us of several films (screenwriters Salim Javed were seldom original). Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese classic ‘Seven Samurai’ and its Hollywood remake ‘Magnificent Seven’. The rest includes ‘Once

Upon a Time in the West,’ ‘Wild Bunch’ and several other Westerns with Clint Eastwood. And it is not just the matter of violence, revenge, vendetta and retribution but use of background music and even choice of locations. It was filmed for over two years in the rugged locales of Karnataka.
On opening ‘Sholay’ was a sleeper but it gradually picked up with heavy promotion and positive word of mouth from the audiences. ‘Sholay’ soon became not only the hit of 1975 or entire seventies but of entire box office history of Indian cinema. It became Best Film of Fifty Years (Filmfare) and one of the top ten Indian films (British Film Institute). It cost 250 million for its 3D version, which came out in India in January this year and the cost would hopefully be recovered in due course of time.
The author can be reached at [email protected]

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