So when I started writing this blog it took me all of my willpower NOT to start with “Sholay”. But recently I spoke to 2 persons who confessed not to have seen the movie ever. This prompted me to write about the “greatest film ever made”
There are all kind of films where ever films are made. You have cringe-worthy movies, super bad movies, bad movies, average movies, good movies and evergreen movies. And then you have “Sholay”. Sholay is -according to me and many others- the best movie ever made (in India). “Sholay” is the most remade, the most admired and the most referenced movie ever to have been made in the Hindi Film Industry. Books have been written about “Sholay”, thesis have been written and studies have been done to try to find out what made “Sholay” the movie it is. Whatever the outcome one fact remains: “Sholay” was, is and will remain the best of the best and think about the following: Whenever a top 10 list is made “Sholay” is on the list. Be it a list about action films, love stories, comedy films, the best on-screen pairing, songs that became an anthem… whatever the case “Sholay” will feature on the list.
There are too many facts and stories about “Sholay” to include in a simple blog like this. But I will give you my opinion about “the greatest movie ever made” with some facts and stories thrown in for fun. For all the people who have lived under a rock for the last 43 years and have not heard of or may not have seen “Sholay” beware that this blog has been written assuming that everyone – from the elderly to unborn babies- have seen “Sholay” at least once in their lifetime.
G.P. Sippy was a producer who produced 22 films in a time span of 46 years. He started out with producing films like “Sazaa” (1951- Dev Anand with the evergreen song “Tum Na Jane Kis Jahaan Mein”), 12 O’Clock (1958- Waheeda Rehman and Guru Dutt) ,Raaz (1967- which introduced Rajesh Khanna and Babita- the morher of Karishma and Kareena Kapoor) and “Brahmachari” ( Shammi Kapoor, Rajshree, Mumtaz, Pran, Jr. Mahmood and Sachin). Though everything would change with the movie that would release after “Brahmachari”.
Ramesh Sippy – who was the son of G.P. Sippy- was learning the ropes on the films produced by his father. He had been the assistant director on some movies and was the executive producer on “Brahmachari”. He would finally go on to make his directing debut with a film that would release in 1971 and that would make him a hit director with his first film. It was also with this film that he would work with the writers duo that would become not only an integral part of his success but who would also become an integral part of Hindi Cinema…
Ramesh Sippy would go on to direct some movies which would be all different in genre but would all become a benchmark for those genres: Andaz (1971- Shammi Kapoor, Hema Malini, Simmi Garewal, Ajit and Rajesh Khanna in the first special appearance for a superstar) would be the first collaboration of Ramesh Sippy and the leading lady who would feature in some of his best work -Hema Malini. “Seeta aur Geeta” (1971- Hema Malini, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar) , Shaan (1980- Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Sunil Dutt, Parveen Babi, Raakhee Gulzar, Shatrughan Sinha, Kulbhushan Karbanda, Bindiya Goswami and Mazhar Khan), “Shakti” (1982 – an underrated masterpiece with Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Smita Patil, Raakhee Gulzar, Amrish Puri and an unknown Anil Kapoor), “Saagar” (1985- Rishi Kapoor, Kamal Hassan and Dimple Kapadia- who would go topless for this movie) followed. After these movies the magic disappeared and movies like “Bhrashtachar” (1989 – Rajnikant, Rekha, Mithun Chakrevotry and Shilpa Shirodkar in her debut movie), “Akayla” (1991 – Amitabh Bachchan, Jackie Scroff, Meenakshi Shehshadri, Aditya Pancholi and Amrita Singh) and finally “Zamaana Deewana” (1995 – Shatrughan Sinha, Jeetendra, Raveena Tandon and Shah Rukh Khan) would follow and would all flop.
Ramesh Sippy would also be the only director to have another casting coup after bringing Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar together for the first and only time in “Shakti”. He started a movie with Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit as the two leading ladies. This movie “Zameen” also featured Rajnikant, Vinod Khanna and Sanjay Dutt. The movie started and shooting progressed. But due to lack of funds the movie was shelved and never completed. But Sridevi- my all time favourite actress along with Madhubala- and Madhuri Dixit did shoot for the movie together and even shot for a song together.
One movie made by Ramesh Sippy though has not been mentioned yet…
The casting of “Sholay” could be subject to an entire book. When the film was to be started Sanjeev Kumar -who eventually played the Thakur- wanted to play the role of Veeru (since he was in love with Hema Malini and after “Seeta aur Geeta” wanted another opportunity to be her leading man). Dharemendra -who eventually BECAME Veeru wanted to play the role of the Thakur. Amitabh Bachchan initially wanted to play the role of Gabbar Singh. Ramesh Sippy went to Dharmendra who was “silently” in love with Hema Malini (and it was common knowledge that Sanjeev Kumar was in love with Hema Malini as well) and told him that if he plays the Thakur Ramesh will give the role of Veeru to Sanjeev Kumar and Sanjeev would be able to romance Hema on-screen. Better judgement prevailed and Dharmendra accepted the role of Veeru. Sanjeev had no choice but to accept the role of the Thakur. Hema Malini was always there as Basanti. No second option was even considered. Jaya Bhaduri-Bachchan was cast as the widowed daughter in law of Thakur- Radha. Two more roles were to be cast: Jai and Gabbar Singh.
For the role of Jai Shatrughan Sinha was considered. And Danny Denzongpa was considered for the role of Gabbar Singh. Amitabh Bachchan however who really wanted the role of Jai approached Dharmendra and requested him to recommend him to the director. Dharmendra -who is all heart and emotion- could not say no to Bachchan and not knowing that his friend Shatrughan Sinha was considered for the role recommended him to Ramesh Sippy. But that was not enough to persuade Ramesh Sippy. Two others would have a big hand in the decision.
Danny Denzonpa was considered for the role of Gabbar Singh and was even offered the role. But Danny had just signed to play a role in Feroz Khan’s take on “The Godfather” which had a big cast as well (though not so big as “Sholay”) and his dates for shooting which were required for ‘Sholay” had already been alloted to Feroz Khan for his “Dharmatma”. The principled gentleman that Danny is he turned down the role of Gabbar Singh. And once again those 2 gentleman came to the rescue…
Salim-Javed were at the top of their game at that time. It seemed that every script they wrote turned into gold. They started as writers for G.P. Sippy films but didn’t get credit for films like “Haathi Mere Saathi” (1971- Rajesh Khanna and Tanuja). But they went on to turn out hit after hit including Ramesh Sippy’s own “Seeta aur Geeta”. And when they intervened with suggestions those suggestions were taken seriously as the past proved that they were right, not most of the time, but all the time in those days. Salim-Javed had in the meantime created the role of the angry young man and had made Prakash Mehra cast Amitabh Bachchan in “Zanjeer” 1973. Salim – Javed insisted (though “zanjeer” had not been released yet when “Sholay” started and Amitabh Bachchan had not yet become the God of Hindi Cinema) that Amitabh Bachchan be taken for the role of Jai and so happened. Salim ( who by the way is the father of current superstar Salman Khan) had seen Amjad Khan in a play many years ago and was impressed and had not forgotten him. Amjad Khan’s name was suggested and eventually he ended up doing the role. There are some other stories regarding Amjad Khan and Sholay like how he was disillusioned with Salim Khan later on and never worked in another Salim-Javed script which we will not get into in this blog.
As far as I know “Sholay” might be the only movie of which each and every character is remembered (and quoted in our daily lives) and loved. Who can forget Asrani as the “angrezon ke zamane ke jailor -HA HA” who would reprise this role in two other films (in one of these films he would see Amitabh en Dharmendra -a clip would be used from the song “Ek Rasta Do Rahi” from the movie “Ram Balram”- and it would be mentioned that those two were the sons of Jai and Veeru). Jagdeep as “Soorma Bhopali” who would eventually make an entire movie with this character in the lead, A.K. Hangal as the “chacha” , Sachin, Viju Khote as “Kaalia” and who will ever be able to forget McMohan as Sambha!?
The dialogues of this film are one of the many highlights. And the writers have seen to it that each and every character have dialogues that stand out. I am not going to quote any dialogues here but the dialogues are used even today in our daily lives. Though I must confess -and this is not because I am the biggest Amitabh fan on the planet- Amitabh has the best lines because I can identify with his sarcasm filled humor.
Now for the main star cast:
Each and every member of the main cast gave an outstanding performance and it is impossible to visualize any other actor in any of the roles. Sanjeev Kumar as the ex police officer intent on revenge is bang on. Hema Malini as Basanti “jinko fuzool baat karni ke aadat nahin” is so great it is still etched in our memory and even today when a girl talks too much we call the girl Basanti. Amjad Khan, what can be said about him as Gabbar that has not been said or written before. Amjad Khan is remembered till this date for his superb portrayal and he would go on to reprise this role in the spoof “Ramgarh ke Sholay” which had imitators of heroes in the lead. The actress who is not usually credited with the sublime work she has done in this movie is Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan. The way she emotes without actually saying anything is a masterclass in acting. You feel her pain and feel for her.
In the following clip which is the death scene of Jai you get to see a masterclass in Hindi Cinema by director Ramesh Sippy, music composer R.D. Burman and actors Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan. The scene itself is emotional but the song composed by R.D. Burman takes it to another level. The direction by Ramesh Sippy is nothing less then genius. But the performances by Jaya and Sanjeev are superb. Jaya emotes without saying a word (like for most of the movie) and Sanjeev wants to comfort his widowed daughter in love who was going to be married to the deceased Amitabh Bachchan but he can’t even comfort her as his arms have been chopped off. Masterful!
I have mentioned all the supporting actors in the movie as well as the main leads except for one:
What can one say about the greatest actor to have ever graced the Indian Screen? For the younger generation who only knows The Great Bachchan from his father roles in those Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan movies… watch this and anyone will understand why we love, admire and respect Amitabh Bachchan the way we do. And some people like me just worship him. There has never been anyone like him before him and, hell, there will never be anyone remotely like him again. No matter how hard people try. Some actors may try to remake his films like “Don”, “Zanjeer” or “Agneepath” and these movies maybe technically more advanced then the Bachchan versions but these remakes lack in one thing when compared to the original: AMITABH BACHCHAN.
Everyone I spoke to and all articles I have read question one aspect of the movie: did Jai have to die? I wish Jai did not die in the movie. Since I know he will die, whenever I watch the movie and the train comes in at the beginning and the title music starts to play, I start getting emotional knowing Jai will sacrifice himself at the end. I realise that the death of Jai gives the film an extra emotional graph that is needed near the ending of the movie, but, to be honest, I wouldn’t have minded it that much if Veeru would have sacrificed himself. There is no other actor who could have pulled of this role with that sarcastic humor except for Amitabh Bachchan.
The tracks of “Sholay” and the sublime theme music have been composed by R.D. Burman who was the house composer for Ramesh Sippy. Noteworthy is that for Ramesh Sippy films “Seeta aur Geeta”, “Sholay”, “Shakti” and “Saagar” a great theme music was composed by R.D. Burman. The songs sung by Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey, Lata Mangeshkar and R.D. Burman himself were all hits but not that big a hit as the dialogues. The Anand Bakshi written songs are remembered even today. Even today when we think of a song on friendship the songs that comes to mind at once is “Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin Todenge”. There is one song which was not used in the film which was sung by Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey, Bhupindra Singh and lyricist Anand Bakshi.
“Sholay” was the first film for which records were released (and sold out!) containing the dialogues of the movie.
There are 3 versions of “Sholay doing the rounds :
01. The theatrical version as the film was first released in cinema’s.
02. The version with the alternate ending. This was initially supposed to be the ending and was filmed first by Ramesh Sippy. The censor board (even in those days!) rejected the ending and wanted it re-shot.
03. The extended edition with some extra scenes including scenes of Sachin’s character and Gabbar Singh, a few seconds extra of Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan and a shot of Amitabh Bachchan before he is cremated and an extended scene (just a few seconds) of Amitabh and Jaya.
This is not the only Amitabh Bachchan film which has two different endings. There is another ’70s film which has two different endings doing the rounds. In one ending Amitabh dies in that movie and in the other ending he survives. And that movie stars Sanjeev Kumar as well. But that is for another post!
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produced by G.P. Sippy
directed by Ramesh Sippy
music by Rahul Dev Burman
lyrics by Anand Bakshi
singers Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey, R.D. Burman, Bhupinder and Anand Bakshi
cast Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan, Amjad Khan, Asrani, Jagdeep, Keshto Mukherjee, Viju Khote, Sachin, A.K. Hangal, McMohan, Om ShivPuri and others