<%-- Page Title--%> Slice of Life <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 133 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

December 12, 2003

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Sholay Revisited

Richa Jha

Six adults, a young boy and a girl, and a toddler sat down before the television to watch Sholay (a Hindi film released in 1975). It was an impromptu decision. Someone had a DVD handy, and one could see that the casual conversation on that particular day wasn't going anywhere. Watching an old favourite sounded like a good idea.

I have little knowledge about the impact this movie had on the viewers in Bangladesh, but in India, Sholay laid down a new set of rules in film entertainment, which till date directors scramble to emulate, but something that frankly, even Ramesh Sippy (the director of this movie) hasn't been able to recreate since.

As with everything else in Bollywood, every success spawns a series of clones over the next several years. It is everything to do with the dearth of original ideas in Bollywood and it's tendency to hitch a piggyback ride on someone else's success. In the case of Sholay, so stupendous was its success that Bollywood still hasn't tired of innumerable name-alikes and theme-alikes even after three decades. Angaarey aur Sholay, Sholay Aur Angaarey (the two are different movies), Ramgarh Ke Sholay (a comic deception in this name, as the original movie's story is also based entirely in a village with a screen name Ramgarh), Dil Mein Uthay Sholay, etc. As you would have guessed, these others sank without a trace.

The phenomenal success of this movie made it an institution in itself. In parts of India, Mumbai for instance, it ran for five years at a single theatre! People would give all to 'learn' more about the film and the behind-the-scenes stories. Sholay-specific quizzes and game-shows are organised till date.

Watching Sholay is a very 'male' thing to do. Indeed, this story is about male-bonding at it's cheerful, bonhomous, tragically inseparable best. I know I risk being branded a sexist, but that is indeed how it is. A recent issue of Time magazine says that it “maybe the burliest male love story ever made”. I'd say it is one of the most evocatively done movies ever. Sure, the concept may be a blatant lift from the popular westerners, blue denim, broad leather belts, sudden draw of guns, et al, but the execution was quintessentially Bollywood--the vibrancy of youthfulness pitted against the hurting blandness of a young widow in white, song and dance (and yet, no duet!), revenge, slick action, love gained, love lost, love yearned for, love found and lost again, comedy ranging from the slapstick to the subtle (but always so memorable) it is the microcosm of Hindi masala movies. And yet, there is no vulgarity, no crudeness, no gore, no clichés. If revisited now, most of the dialogues and situations may seem hackneyed, but that's because we have seen umpteen number of bad copies of this movie and the story-line. The rugged terrain, Gabbar's volcanic, yet remarkably restrained histrionics, the implied gun-shots, Sholay is a brilliant tale of gamesmanship, grit, and gumption.

Passions get heightened even on the 100th re-run of the film. You feel your senses numbing at the point the swords hack off the Thakur's arms. The gradual tragic build-up with the frozen frames of the wounded falling relatives in the prelude to this climax, the still silence exacerbated by the pathos of the squeaking oscillating swing. Most women instantly recoil in shock and fear at the impending gore, many plainly refusing to look at the screen. Those who have seen the film before urge these women to look on, “They don't actually show anything. It's all implied”. The men laud the scene for it's masterful conception and execution, the brilliance of showing the horror through the Thakur's eyes alone.

This is not a Mother India or a Mughale Aazam (two other Hindi classics) where the tears you shed are agonisingly personal. Not so with Sholay. This movie's pathos is meant to be shared, and as such, suffered together; the bonhomie between the two outlaws can be understood only when you have a Jay and Veeru in your midst. You need to have had a Jay or Veeru in your own life earlier. As I said ealier, the film is evocative. Bitter-sweet, but very evocative.

And so the legend lives on. Sholay transcends all barriers of language, which is what made it hugely successful even in South-India, which is usually quite circumspect of movies made in Bollywood. That evening, one of the adults, a male naturally, even after twenty eight years of it's release, knew all the dialogues verbatim. I know of many more like him in India. One of us challenged the others to spot even a drop of blood in this supposedly violent movie. He lost the challenge, we spotted four miniscule drops somewhere in the back-drop. The young boy was awestruck at the slick action sequences with horses and bandits and trains. The young girl guffawed at the vivacious Basanti's chatterings. The toddler refused to be put to bed. The adults remained transfixed.

The charm of Sholay still holds, ask this motley group!



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