Sholay revisited!

Posted: August 15, 2004 in Uncategorized

After enduring “Kyun..Ho Gaya Na?” for 2.5 hours (yeah, ‘enduring’ is the word; when I saw the morning papers, and they had given 2.5 stars to it, I wondered about it. I could have understood the 0.5 star just for having Aishwarya in it, but what for they gave the other two is beyond me), when I came out of the theatre last night, the posters of Sholay stared at me. I could not resist the temptation to pick up tickets for the grand classic of Indian cinema, for today itself. And I am so glad I did that.. seeing Sholay again, today, was just fabulous.

Well, everyone has seen Sholay. Most of us have seen it several times – too many times to even keep count. So it is hardly anything new that I will tell you about Sholay that you may not know, but still having revisited the classic in the cinema today, it is irresistible, to write about it again. By the way, I have also read the book “The Making of Sholay”, so I have a little more of an insight to the behind-the-scenes happenings related to the film.

Sholay was all Ramesh Sippy. A truly inspirational film from a (then) young and brilliant director. Kind of like what Dil Chahata Hai was for Farhan Akhtar, or KKHH was for Karan Johar, etc. But none of them, of course, come anywhere close to Sholay in terms of sheer scale of brilliance. Whenever a director really ‘thinks’ hard about the film that he is making, and then he is equipped with a very good script, then a great film can emerge. That takes a lot of time and effort, and in today’s times of churning out films, few film makers give that much to a film. Sholay took a lot more time and money than was originally budgetted for it. But that was because Ramesh Sippy was clear that he did not want to cut any corners in his vision for the film. It had to be exactly the way he had conceived the film. Which required more retakes, which required waiting for the right lighting, the right season, the perfect music score, the long hours at the editing table, etc. It is when all this happens, with a phenomenal potion of passion that a once-in-a-lifetime classic like Sholay can emerge.

I can bet that the toughest part of making Sholay would have been the editing. To finally deliver what was the 3.5 hours Sholay, must have meant a rejection of another 10 hours (at least) of shots taken.

According to me, the measure of a truly great film is one where you do not find ANY scene to be unnecessary. You do not wonder, “what was the need to show THIS”. Just to give you an example in total contrast, in Kyun Ho Gaya Na, till the interval, I kept wondering, what the entire first half of the movie was all about! And in Sholay, you could not spot one scene that was ‘extra’.

To list the few remarkable points about Sholay for me (and its MY struggle to ‘edit’ this list and keep only the really outstanding virtues here!):

1. The script and dialogues of Salim-Javed: as we saw it in the theatre today, there were just so many of us in the hall who kept mumbling the dialogues, even as they came on screen. Speaks about the effect that the dialogues had on the public. Memorable – kitne aadmi the, yeh haath mujhe dede thakur, hum angrez ke zamane ke jailor hai, tumhara naam kya hai basanti, etc. etc.

2. The cameos were memorable – whether it was Jagdeep with his Surma Bhopali character, or Asrani as the jailor. Small characters like Sambha (this was obviously his most famous movie, as I can barely remember his real name – for me, that chap will always be only Sambha), A K Hangal as the Imam, Mausiji, etc. were also well structured and left a mark.

3. Of course, the main characters were masterful. Starting with Gabbar. His entry was so well picturised – the noise of his shoes hitting stone as he went back and forth in the ravines, confronting Kalia and his two cronies, who have returned empty handed, the bullets holding belt swining back and forth, until he bursts out “suvar ke bacchon..” at which time, his menacing face jumps on the screen. The role was given so much meat, and the character was written out so well by the writers, that it was bound to be noticed, inspite of the galaxy of stars. Amjad Khan of coursed, grabbed this providential opportunity (originally, the role was to be played by Danny Denzongpa, but due to an accident and delay in being able to reach the sets, Ramesh Sippy had to make an alternate choice, and Amjad got the break) with both his hands, and delivered a masterful performance. Then there was Sanjeev Kumar, one of the best actors produced by India. A solid performance, as was consistently expected from him. Very controlled at times, and aggression and anger oozing out of him, at other times. Due to restricted movements, on account of being shown without hands for most of the film, his eyes and dialogue delivery did all the acting for him.Eyes were so expressive, almost spoke out his emotions completely. Amitabh and Dharmendra made a great pair. They complemented each other perfectly. Amitabh’s dialogue delivery and voice are his strengths, and its clear now, but those were early days, and he scored with those strengths even at that time. His repartee with Mausiji, when he taked Viru’s rishta for Basanti, is one of the best scenes of the film. Especially his last two dialogues there.. “kya karu, mera to dil hi kuch aisa hai… to me rishta pakka samjhu”!! And as for Dharmendra, he was just that perfect intuitive Punjabi Jat, who acted from his heart. Just gave it all. Did not ever convey that he was too intellectual, but obviously he was full of street wisdom. And that was what came out completely in this character. Total bufoonery, sincere friendship, undignified but couldn’t-care-less type of dancing, everything. Made to order role. Hema Malini was the perfect foil for Dharmendra. She also had a beautifully written role for herself, with some outstanding dialogues, and of course, her dances. The fact that at that time, the two of them, Dharmendra and Hema, were quite an item pair, did help in the on-screen chemistry. Jaya had a small role, in a way. And while she did justice to it, I would perhaps give more credit to Ramesh Sippy in bringing out that role creditably. The lighting that he used to project the widow Jaya, the close up shots, the background music, was what made the character so impressive. What she needed to do to support Ramesh Sippy’s vision, she certainly did that part well.

4. The music – well, what can you say.. it was vintage R D Burman. You know me, my blog is names I cannot find a fault in RD, so it will not be any surprise that I liked the music in this film. Not that there are many songs in the film that have reached outstanding heights, but all in all, songs like Mehbooba Mehbooba, Yeh Dosti, Holi Ke Din, and Haa Jab Tak Hai Jaan, were all good and very relevant for the film. (** This is again, so important for a good Bollywood film, at least in my books. That a song has meaning for the film and its story. In today’s times, the way songs happen in a film, is like this. A music director has created scores and kept them ready. When a director approaches him, he pulls out his stock and shows to the director. Quite like a salesman showing his wares. And for the world of me, I cannot fathom this style. I would always feel that music has to be CREATED for a story and for its situation. Not that you get a good score and find a way to put it inside a story. When the latter happens, you can see that the song jars, and seems so out of place. For that not to happen, the director has to demand, and the music director has to deliver. Both take effort which does not happen too often these days. The last movie in recent times, where I saw this dedication was Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, a kind of period film, for it shows not a typical city story where anything can go, but rather a small Gujarat town based film, and the music was indeed created for that specific period and place, and came out perfectly **) Besides the songs, the background score that comes through the film, in Sholay, was also so haunting. When Amitabh plays the harmonica, and Jaya is turning out the lights, that music in the background, is beautiful. I am not sure if RD was responsible for the background music also, or someone else was. Whoever it was, it was good.

Beyond all these, and far above it all, is the editing and the direction. Ramesh Sippy all the way. Hats off to him. Obviously a film like Sholay happens once in a lifetime, even for a great film maker like Ramesh Sippy. So it would be harsh to say that his subsequent films did not measure up. Nothing can measure up to Sholay. And even if it was just that one great film, I would still salute Ramesh Sippy. In fact, he did more than that – he also brought us Sagar, the return of Dimple Kapadia, after Bobby. And he was also responsible for one of the earliest successful soap operas on Indian TV, Buniyaad.

I also understand that G P Sippy needs to be given a lot of credit for Sholay for having backed Ramesh and his exuberance totally and completely, including the exceeding budgets. It takes a lot of courage to do so, and also gives the youngster so much confidence. (* I understand that Yash Johar showed similar confidence in Karan when Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was being made *)

Small trivia related to Sholay.

At a recent awards function where Amitabh and Dharmendra were on the stage together, Amitabh ‘Jay’ Bachhan thanked ‘Viru’ Dharmendra for having referred his name to Ramesh Sippy, for Sholay. Remember that when Sholay was started, Zanjeer had not even been released. So Amitabh was just that young raw talent that had still to really prove himself. Of course, by the time Sholay was being made, Zanjeer had been released and the angry young man had arrived. But AB does recognise the role of Sholay in his career and was generous to publicly acknowledge Dharmendra’s role in recommending him for the role.

They don’t make them like Sholay anymore. I think Sholay deserves the suggestion to be considered as India’s third great epic, after Ramayana and Mahabharata!

  1. RPM says:

    And I think we should give credit to Sippy for terminating Amitabh’s character. He could very well have gone the traditional way, with ‘all is well that ends well’ and ‘they lived happily ever after’, but by creating that tragedy at the end, they made the film even more memorable.

  2. Vc says:

    Hey i put a small article on Sholay at my Blog.
    But your thoughts are indeed thought provoking …..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s