Forty years in the life of a movie is a long, long time. So rarely do films last longer than a week in theatres these days that anything that continues to be such a huge draw, decades after, needs to be celebrated. And assessed. Just what is it about ‘Sholay’ which makes it have such an enviable shelf life? When the film released, there was no inkling that it go on to become so iconic.
The lanky Amitabh Bachchan was still struggling to find his feet in Bombay, and Hindi cinema. The more bankable stars at the time were Sanjeev Kumar and Dharmendra : the former would appear on screen as a taciturn revenge-seeking Thakur, and the latter would share space with leading lady Hema Malini. The Dharam-Hema romantically-linked-in-real-life ‘jodi’, which featured endlessly in gossip columns, was popular, but no one expected them to come off startlingly fresh. Many top stars had declined the role that an unknown first timer, Amjad Khan, went on to do. And the genre of menacing ‘dakus’ ( dacoits) and their exploits was not new. But ‘Sholay’ proved all nay-sayers gloriously wrong, and went on to become the most durable hit in Hindi cinema. Its run began slowly. Most reviews were not particularly favourable. But word-of-mouth, which was at the time the best social network, started gathering steam. House Full boards began appearing in front of theatres. More prints were released. More theatres were booked. Audiences were enthralled, and returned again and again and again, ensuring it became a runaway ‘super-duper’ hit. Four decades on, ‘Sholay’ continues to entertain, making us laugh and cry and clap. Director Ramesh Sippy desi-fied the spaghetti-western genre, and made it completely his own. There were many clunky rip-offs in later years, but nothing has come close to the `original’ ( some sequences in ‘Sholay’ appear very similar to the ones in famous Hollywood westerns, but Sippy’s re-creation still remains masterful) either then or since. Audiences bought truckloads of audio-cassettes of the movie’s famous dialogues, and returned to theatres to hoot and cheer and throw coins at their favourite scenes. Jai and Veeru careering around on a scooter with that side-saddle seat, singing ‘Yeh Dosti’. The electrifying train sequence and the galloping dacoits- on- the- horses. `Ramgarh- ke- vaasis’ flinging holi-ke-rang into the skies. Basanti the lovable chatter-box ‘taangewaali’. Bachchan’s brooding fighter-and-lover and that unforgettable mouth-organ riff. Jaya Bachchan’s shy smile behind the lanterns. Garam Dharam’s `chakki-peesing and peesing’. Sanjeev Kumar’s gravelly voice. Asrani’s ‘angrezon-ke-zamaane’ ka jailor. And so many, many more. Each element in the plot worked with the other seamlessly, and some deleted scenes ( featuring Jaya-in-a-flashback) were added later, as the film continued its rampage at the box office. ‘Sholay’ hit all the buttons of the `perfect’ Hindi film : it had everything- ‘action, emotion, comedy, tragedy’. And the inimitable Gabbar Singh : no one had seen a ‘daku’ like him, and no one ever would. ‘Kitney aadmi thay’? For ‘Sholay’ fans, there is only one right answer to Gabbar’s classic query. ‘Sarkaar, countless’. – See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/bollywood/sholay-continues-to-entertain-us-after-40-years-of-release/#sthash.gL4LdaJq.dpuf