Starring Sanjeev Kumar, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri and Amjad Khan
Written by Salim-Javed
Directed by Ramesh Sippy
If as Shakespeare told us, a rose by any other name smells just as sweet then Sholay in any format-3D,4D whatever-would remain just the same. An inviolable classic, timeless , as it is timely. As the new version , spruced up with flying bullets and thundering hoofs, comes to us at a time when Dhoom is trending. So it’s Sholay 3D weighed against Dhoom 3. Savour ‘D’ difference. Undoubtedly the current films that seem to make so much money seem to pale into flamboyant insignificance when weighed against the hefty impact of Sholay.
38 years have passed since Sholay and its astonishing lines(Salim-Javed at their pithiest) created immediate and enduring history. Yes, the film opened badly. But then Rome and Amitabh Bachchan’s career weren’t built in day.
With each viewing of Sholay I come away wiser, richer. Yes, this is what ‘Bollywood’ entertainment should always be, but seldom is. Rich in drama, vivacious and vibrant in its characterizations Sholay about one arm-less man’s two-men army and their battle against a sadistic dacoit(Amjad Khan in the most striking screen debut in the history of Indian cinema) spawns innumerable eras of cinematic experience.
It is the most well assembled screenplay ever. With the passage of time we can view the film in episodes-the stunning train-robbery sequence at the start, the massacre of ‘Thakur’ Sanjeev Kumar’s family by Gabbar and his ragged henchmen , Dharmendra’s ‘suicide’ drama from atop a water tower, ‘Jai’ Amitabh Bachchan’s marriage proposal on behalf of his buddy ‘Veeru’ Dharmendra, ‘Gabbar’ Amjad Khan’s Russian roulette in the ravines with his trio of petrified henchmen, ‘Rahim Chacha’ A K Hangal’s son’s poignant death scene, the widow’Radha’ Jaya Bhaduri’s flashback into a colourful Holi when she accosts her future father-in-law with incessant chatter(Radha could have been Basanti!), Jagdeep’s Soorma Bhopali and Asrani’s ‘angrezon ke zamaanein ka jailor’ episodes…. each of these and many others, have a throbbing autonomous life of their own.
And yet-and here lies the magic of a monumental classic-all the accentuated episodes come together in a compelling cohesive screenplay which blows your mind.
This is a revenge story with a supremely sustained momentum. The characters show no sign of aging with time. Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan’s Veeru and Jai are to this day roguish mercenaries who seem to convey an endearing amorality in their conduct even as they emerge as unlikely heroes in the Thakur’s fight against an oppressively cartoonish outlaw.
There are two romantic tracks navigated by two very contrasting female characters. While Basanti(Hema Malini) never stops chattering Radha(Jaya Bhaduri) seldom speaks.
They are portraits in contrasts done up in colours that have acquired deeper shades and relevance with the passage of time. Dissertations, theses, textbooks and essays have been written on the impact of Sholay on commercial Indian cinema. Does the narrative show any signs of wear and tear? Never! Except when monetary amounts meant to be astronomical in 1975 are mentioned. Thakur Baldev Singh hires the services of Jai and Veeru for a princely sum of Rs.50,000. That in today’s economical context would amount to close to Rs 10 crores. And if you have actors as exceptionally charismatic as Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra playing Jai and Veeru then the characters seem priceless.
Has there ever been a better celluloid illustration of male bonding than the Jai-Veeru jodi in Sholay? Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra came together once again as Ram and Balram in Vijay Anand’s film. But the same chemistry was missing.
No one can encore the magic of Ramesh Sippy in Sholay. Not even Sippy himself.And what a team of technicians Sippy had!Dwarka Divecha’s cinematography, M S Shinde’s editing(how on earth did Shinde put together this impossibly epic tale with such a fluent flourish?!!) and R.D. Burman’s background music will never cease to take our breath away.
I always found R D Burman’s songs in Sholay to be relatively week. I still do.
But that’s a very small quibble in a film that defies all analyses.
So does the 3D format effect Sholay ? I’d say Sholay in any format is …Sholay! Incomparably gripping, flawlessly cast and impeccably mounted, this is the mother of Bollywood classics.
Take a bow, Mr Ramesh Sippy.