From the Sholay history…

(got this off a forum… it’s very lengthy but worth its weight in gold.. a history as fabled as the film..)
Nothing in Indian popular culture has matched this magic. Critics might argue that ‘Mother India’ or ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ were better films, and trade pundits might point out that in 1994 ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ broke ‘Sholay’s box-office record. But none of these films can rival ‘Sholay’ in the scale and longevity of its success. ‘Sholay’ was a watershed event. Director Shekhar Kapur puts it best: ‘There has never been a more defining film on the Indian screen. Indian Film history can be divided into ‘Sholay’ BC and ‘Sholay AD.’

‘Sholay’ grew from paper into plans, and it gained weight and size and ambition.The Sippy’s wanted to make ‘Sholay’ the biggest and the best adventure film ever, and they would make no compromises. The traditional 35mm format, they felt, wouldn’t do justice to their vision. They were aiming for epic grandeur. So a decision was made: ‘Sholay’ would be India’s first 70mm film with stereophonic sound. The 70mm film format offered double the size. The major Hollywood action movies at the time, such as ‘Mckenna’s Gold’, were shot in this format because it gave the viewer, quite literally, a big movie experience. But the decision to do ‘Sholay’ in this format added another layer of compliations. Shooting in 70mm wasn’t easy. It required huge camera’s which could take 70mm film. Importing the camera’s was an expensive proposition. The most practical solution was to shoot on 35mm and then blow it up for 70mm. The format was screen-tested. Divecha suggested putting aground glass in front of the camera lens, on which Kamlakar Rao, a young but technically skilled cameraman, made markings so the margins of the 70mm frame could be identified. Ramesh’s brother Ajit, who lived in London, forwarded the test to Paris, where a 70mm print was made. The print came back with further instructions on how to perfect the technique. A 70mm film also required bigger screens, and most theatres in India weren’t equipped for it. Then Sippy’s decided to have two sets of negatives, one in 70mm and the other one in 35mm. In practical terms, this meant that every shot would have to be done twice. Each decision added to the cost.


Amjad Khan filled the doorway. He was not a particularly large man, but his lumbering gait, thickset face and curly hair gave him the appearance of one. Director Ramesh Sippy was lying on the diwan with his back to the door. From the low angle, Amjad loomed larger. Something clicked. ‘He had an interesting face,’ says Ramesh. ‘I felt very positive.’ Panic had set in after Danny’s departure. Shooting was less than a month away. And Gabbar Singh was no ordinary character. It was a pivotal role. The actor had to have both talent and charisma to hold his own against the galaxy of stars. Bad casting could destroy the film. Amjad was the younger son of character artiste Jayant. His home production, Patthar ke Sanam,which was supposed to launch him, was announced but never made. He had assisted K Asif in Love and God and also done a bit role in the film. The credentials were hardly impressive. But in theatre Amjad had a strong reputation. A few days after Danny left, Salim bumped into Amjad. Salim knew Amjad’s father, and had been visiting their home since Amjad was a little boy. A polite conversation ensued in which Salim asked Amjad about work. There wasn’t much, just bit roles and theatre.

Salim had heard about Amjad’s skills as an actor, and physically he seemed to fit the role. ‘I can’t promise you anything,’ he told Amjad, ‘but there is a role in a big film. ‘ll take you to the director. Agar aap ko yeh role mil jaaye, aap ki koshish se yea aapki kismat se (If you get this role, whether by luck or effort),I tell you, it is the finest role in this film.’ Amjad seemed to fit the part, but he was unknown. Could he carry the film? He was asked to grow a beard and come back. Meanwhile, Ramesh and Salim-Javed pondered. Salim-Javed were convinced that Amjad was the right choice.

A screen test was done. They shot pictures in the office garden. Amjad had grown a beard and blackened his teeth. His diction was right, his language was perfect. He was confirmed for the role. Amjad hurried ecstatically to hospital to break the news to wife Shaila. The date was 20 September 1973. His son Shadaab was born that afternoon. Amjad prepared for Gabbar. Normal life took a back seat; this was clearly the best role fo his career. Amjad devoured Abhishapth Chambal, a book on the Chambal dacoits written by Jaya Bhaduri’s father, Taroon Coomar. He marked out the pages on the real-life Gabbar, insisting that his wife Shaila read it too. He rehearsed his lines and fleshed out his character. He remembered a dhobi from his childhood days who used to call out to his wife: ‘Arre o Shanti.’ The lilt in Gabbar’s ‘Arre o Sambha’ came from his dhobi.

Amjad was enthusiastic but insecure, and badgered his wife constantly: ‘Do you think I’ll be able to do it?’ ‘Of course,’ she would say, ‘you’re a good actor. I’ve seen all your plays.’ ‘But this is a different ball game’ ‘So what? You’ve been part of ‘Love and God’… your father is an actor…’ ‘All that dosn’t matter. Do you think I’ll be able to do this?’

The morning Amjad was to leave for Bangalore, he put the Quran on his head and prayed. Shaila was surprised. Amjad was a spiritual person but he rarely prayed. As abruptly as he had started, he stopped. He placed the holy book back in its place, said, ‘I think I’ll be able to do it,’ and drove to the airport. The flight didn’t reach Bangalore. There was a hydraulic failure, and the pilot was forced to keep circling over Mumbai. After dumping fuel for hours, the plane landed back in Mumbai. Amjad sat at the airport but didn’t call home. After five hours, it was announced that the technical faults had been fixed and the plane was ready to take-off. Not many passengers had the stomach to get on that plane again Amjad was among the four or five who finally flew on it. He had to reach Bangalore. Through the flight, he wasn’t thinking about his wife or his one month-old son. His only terror was: ‘If this plane crashes, Danny gets Gabbar’ (the first choice for the role but lost out to date commitments).

Gabbar Singh was not having a good day. It was Amjad’s first day of shooting. They were starting with the scene in which he is introduced. His first line was, ‘Kitne aadmi the?’ All his life had led to this moment. The years of theatre rehearsals, knocking on doors for acting jobs, sweating it out as an assistant — the Gabbar role had made all that seem worthwhile. His army fatigues, picked up from Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar, had the right weathered look. His teeth were blackened. His face was appropriately grimy. He had lived the part for the last few months. But now, when it was time to deliver, he just could not get it right. Gabbar had to mince tambaku (tobacco) as he talked. The motion of one hand grinding against another added to his menace. It was supposed to be his habit. But Amjad could not make it look casual. He would grind the tobacco, speak a few lines, look around awkwardly and then return to grinding. He was nervous and it showed; his hands were stiff, his movements seemed rehearsed, and his dialogue delivery was shaky. There was nothing natural about his performances; Gabbar was a stranger to Amjad.

Ramesh kept talking to him, trying to help him get his lines right. They struggled for two days. After forty-odd takes, both Ramesh and cameraman Dwarka Divecha decided the actor needed a break. Divecha told Amjad to keep his costume on and just sit on the sets. ‘Tu apne aap ko season kar de (Season yourself).’ Amjad cried that night. His father was in hospital fighting cancer. His son was only a month old. His family’s hopes were pinned on this film. For the rest of the schedule, Amjad lived in the fatigues, trying to become Gabbar. He wrote often to his wife, but never shared with her the extent of his trauma. All he wrote was: ‘I’m very impatient… I don’t know… I hope I can do it.’ Since he didn’t drink, he would spend the evenings nursing endless cups of tea. Through the entire schedule, he didn’t do a single shot.

In the next schedule, Amjad was more prepared. He got it right in the first few takes. He was living his character, and would stay in costume even when he was not shooting. But some members of the unit, unable to forget his earlier awkwardness, didn’t seem to think this was enough. Besides, Amjad was the only new face in a sea of superstars and slowly talk started in the unit that perhaps Ramesh had made a mistake. The murmurs grew, till it became impossible even for Salim and Javed, who had been the most keen to have Amjad as Gabbar, to ignore them. Anxious, perhaps, to not be seen as people responsible for ruining the film, they spoke to Ramesh. ‘If you aren’t satisfied with Amjad, change him,’ they said. For a few days the unit was rocked by rumours that Amjad was getting the boot. But Ramesh finally put his foot down. Only Amjad would play Gabbar.

Amjad found out about the rumours much later. But the incident sowed the seeds of misunderstanding between him and Salim-Javed. He could not understand why two people, who had ardently recommended him for the role, had then tried to get him thrown out. He saw it as a move to sabotage his career. The hurt stayed with him till his death. Salim-Javed gave birth to the Amjad myth, but they never worked with him again.

The ‘Sholay’ unit had a ten – to fifteen-day schedule in Bangalore every month, from October 1973 to May 1974. Each time they managed to get some work done, but not enough. The delays were further compounded because 70mm required that each shot had to be taken twice. After seven months work, hardly one-third of the film had been shot. ‘Sholay’ had been planned as a six-month project. Nobody imagined that eventually it would take so long that Macmohan, playing Sambha, one of the smallest roles in the film, would travel twenty-seven times from Mumbai to Bangalore.

Ramesh retained his famous cool. He had a grand vision of ‘Sholay’ and wasn’t going to let delays force him to make compromises. As the budget soared beyond the original one crore, G.P Sippy did make the occasional noise. ‘What the hell is going on?’ he would ask. But he never pulled the plug. He was a gambler going for the big one. The funds kept flowing.

Yet, despite all the planning, things started to go wrong. The first schedule was ten days long, but very little work got done. Some days they managed to get ten shots right, and on others, none at all. In the November schedule, Ramesh completed only one scene. The No compromise resolve was set in stone. Ramesh and Divecha were like painters trying to perfect their canvas, with G.P. Sippy, a patron of the arts, bankrolling their dreams, budget and timetables took a backseat.

‘Sholay’s centerpiece – the massacre sequence in which Gabbar obliterates the Thakur’s family – was shot in twenty-three days over three schedules. It was a complicated scene with several parts: establishing the family, Gabbar’s arrival, the shootings, and then the Thakur’s arrival on the scene after Gabbar and his men have slaughtered his family and retreated. Half the scene had been shot when the weather changed and the bright sun was replaced by an overcast sky. For two days, the unit waited for the sun to reappear. Then Ramesh realized that the dark clouds were a celestial signal: the overcast look was perfect for the scene. It underlined the tragedy and heightened the sense of doom. It also logically led to the point where the wind starts to build up and dry leaves are blown over the dead bodies. He conferred with Divecha. ‘It won’t just look good,’ Divecha said, ‘it will look very good. But what will we do if the sun comes out tomorrow?’ Ramesh was willing to take he chance. ‘Let’s shoot,’ he said.

They shot furiously for the next two days. And then the sun popped out again. After a week of work, they had two versions of the same half scene, one against a bright sky and the other against an overcast one. But Ramesh was determined. It was going to be clouds or nothing. So they waited for the gods to do the lighting. With the sun playing hide and seek, there were days when they managed to get only one shot and some when they simply stared at the skies. Filming came to a complete halt. To speed up the process, Divecha asked Anwar to make a screen to bounce the light off. The screen had to be bigger than the house. Anwar ended up buying all the white cloth in the vicinity to create a seventy-foot-by- hundred-foot screen. He stitched it himself with strong canvas thread. With the huge screen in place, shooting was resumed, but there were shots for which the effect created by the screen wasn’t good enough. The gods had to intervene and bring back the clouds. But it wasn’t just the clouds. Nothing seemed to go right. As they neared the end of the sequence, the little boy playing Thakur’s grandson, Master Alankar, had exams. He would lose an academic year if he didn’t sit for them. Ramesh let him go. Then the propeller, which worked up an appropriate wind to blow dry leaves onto the dead bodies, decided to do its own thing. It wouldn’t start when they needed it to. And once started, it would just keep going. Finally, an aeronautics unit near Bangalore built another propeller. It worked perfectly. The wind blew yellow-brown leaves onto the bodies and the white shroud off them, Thakur mounted his horse in a raging fury, ready to look for Gabbar.

Almost as time-consuming were the sequences of Radha extinguishing the lamps while Jai played his harmonica and watched. These sequences establish the gradual, wordless bonding between the widow and the thief – the sympathy and admiration slowly turning into love. Capturing the right mood was critical. These were two sequences, only about a minute each in the final film, and it took twenty days to shoot them. Ramesh and Divecha decided to do the scenes in ‘magic hour’, a cinema term for the time between sunset and night. The light that falls during magic hour is dreamlike in its warm golden hue. The director and cinemtograher wanted specifically the velvety dusk which arrives at the tail end of the golden hue. A shadowy darkness precedes nightfall, but it is still light enough to show the surrounding silhouettes. Essentially, they had only a few minutes to capture the shot. The preparations for the shot would begin after lunch. The lights and the camera set-up would be in place well before time. At around five in the evening they would rehearse the shot and the camera movements.Then between six and six-thirty as the sun started to set, there was total pandemonium. Everyone ran around shouting, trying to get the shot before darkness. sometimes they would get one shot, sometimes two and very rarely with great difficulty, a third re-take. But there was never any time to change the set-up. Ramesh wouldn’t settle for anything less than perfection. Invariably there was always some mess-up. The sun set earlier than expected, a light man made a mistake, the trolly movement wasn’t right, some object was lying where it shouldn’t have been. There were times when Jaya lost her cool: ‘Ramesh, no one can see me,’ she would say. ‘It’s a long shot, no viewer on the planet is going to be able to see the mistakes in continuity.’ The answer always was: ‘No, no, one more take.’ Ramesh dressed each frame. The Lady-of-the-lamps shot became a kind of a joke. It took several schedules to get it right.

In fact, in terms of time taken, each sequence seemed to compete with the next. Ahmed, the blind Imam’s son (played by Sachin), for instance, took seventeen days to die. It was a long and complicated sequence, and originally it also included the actual act of killing: meat is roasting in the foreground; Gabbar points a red-hot skewer at the boy and with a gleeful look tells his gang, ‘Isko to bahut tadpa tadpa ke maroonga.’ But this never made it to the final cut. Instead, the scene cuts from Gabbar killing an ant to Ahmed’s horse carrying his dead body into the village.


The songs were as hard to execute as the scenes. They took several days over many schedules and involved hundreds of dancers, special camera devices, a tanga and even a train. As usual, Ramesh pulled out all stops. ‘Yeh Dosti was a twenty-one-day endeavor. The song establishes the friendship between Veeru and Jai. Its easy camaraderie is the foundation of the film. The cheer of the happy version perfectly offsets the dirge-like version at Jai’s death. It was decided that a motorcycle with a sidecar would capture the spirit of the male-bonding anthem. But to shoot the entire song from a moving vehicle was static and limiting. So they built a special contraption, which would enable the crew to use different kinds of camera movements. The contraption allowed for varied camera angles. Divecha could start on a tight close-up of one character, pull back, move around to include both and then turn almost 180 degrees to the other side. Shots like these would make the audience feel that they were traveling with Veeru and Jai. But they weren’t easy to get. First the bike would be fitted onto the contraption, and then the whole paraphernalia would move along with the camera and tracks and a low trolley moving up and down. Coordinating the elements – reflectors, sun-guns, speakers – needed minute organization and the patience of a priest. There were frequent mechanical faults: the towing hook would come off, or the pulling vehicle would get so heated up that it woudn’t start. None of which stopped Ramesh and choreographer P.L Raj from planning even more intricate moves. ‘Yeh Dosti’, they decided, would end with the sidecar breaking away, doing a short solo run and then coming together with the motorcycle again. It was a neat gimmick. If only they could make it work. The sidecar had to be pulled away from the motorcycle without making the pulling obvious. And then there was the toughest part: the two had to reunite after separating on the fork on the road. They attached the sidecar to the camera on a trolley and rehearsed the shot with Amitabh, who was riding the motorcycle. It all depended on his sense of timing, because he was on a moving vehicle while the camera was on a fixed trolley. Amitabh would have to time it to perfection – start at the right moment, and accelerate or slow down according to the movement of the camera. Amazingly, he brought in the motorcycle for a smooth, perfect docking on the very first take. It was a miracle. The unit broke into a spontaneous applause and even the normally reticent Ramesh jumped off the camera stand and hugged Amitabh.

The hardest part was the editing for the final cut. Ramesh spent hours sitting at the editing table with his editor, Madhav Rao Shinde, affectionately called Dada. Shinde had a gargantuan task. Salim-Javed’s script was brilliant, and so many of the cuts were suggested by the script itself, but the film was simply too long. Ramesh had exposed over 300,000 feet of negative. It had to be whittled down to less than 20,000 feet. Shinde had edited all of Ramesh’s films and by now had an instinctive feel for what Ramesh wanted. But he had never had so much material to work with.

Entire sequences ended up on the Film Center Floor. Among the best that didn’t make it was a comedy sequence that preceded the Soorma Bhopali section. Maruti, a popular comedian of the day, played a dhaba owner in it. Veeru and Jai eat at the dhaba, gargle and spit vigorously, and have a fight with Maruti when he objects to their doing quli in his premises. Mushtaq Merchant playing an eccentric Parsi gentleman had a scene in which Veeru and Jai steal his motorcycle. He was reduced to a figure ebbing into the horizon just before the ‘Yeh Dosti’ song.

Saachin’s death scene was also cut. Shinde kept the brutal lines of dialogue out, slicing from Gabbar killing an ant to the horse carrying Ahmed’s dead body into the village. The edit fit with the overall tone of the film, in which violence is more often suggested than seen. The audience never sees Thakur’s arms being hacked off. Like the cut from Gabbar raising the sword to an armless Thakur, Ahmed’s unseen death had far greater impact. ‘Sholay’ was finally ready in July 1975. Two and a half years labour lay spooled in tins. Looking at the film, Ramesh thought he had turned the curve, that the hardest part was behind him. He did not know that the battle had just begun. Gabbar dies in ‘Sholay’ Or at least does in the original ‘Sholay’ that Ramesh had shot, Salim-Javed had written. The Thakur kills Gabbar with his feet, wearing shoes that the servant Ramlal has fashioned with nails fitted in the soles. The armless Thakur first crushes Gabbar’s arms. Then they stand face to face, two armless warriors, two equals. And then the Thakur pounds Gabbar to death as if he were a venomous snake; he does not stop till the dacoit is a bloody mess under his shoes. Then he breaks down and cries. He weeps long and hard: his life’s mission is complete, but all he feels is a vast emptiness. It is a a pyrrhic victory. Revenge begets loss.

The Central Board of Film Censors hated this ending. The board objected to the suggestion that a police officer – even one who was no longer in service – would take the law into his own hands and commit a murder. They also objected to the film’s balletic violence. It wasn’t graphic, but it was so finely choreographed that it had far greater impact than actual gore. The audience wouldn’t see Thakur’s arms being chopped off, but the visual cut from Gabbar raising the sword to the Thakur standing with his empty shirt sleeves flapping in the wind was unforgettable. Ramesh had made violence aesthetic and attractive. If passed, ‘Sholay’ would open the floodgates for lesser filmmakers. There would be cuts in ‘Sholay.’ But first, the Sippy’s would have to change the end.

Ramesh was incensed. It was almost as though he was being penalized for being talented. Every nuance in the film had been carefully considered and crafted. Not a frame was superfluous. The board wasn’t just asking for cuts, it was asking for a totally different conclusion – an ending that would have the police intervening at the crucial moment to prevent the Thakur from killing Gabbar. It seemed like a parody of what had been done in a hundred other films. It had none of the bleakness or tragedy of the original. With a conclusion so feeble, ‘Sholay’ would no longer be Ramesh’s vision. It would become another film altogether.

In the resolutely repressive environment of the Emergency, fundamental rights did not exist. Neither did artistic freedom. Compromise wasn’t a choice, it was the only option. But Ramesh was adamant. He hadn’t toiled for two years to cop out now. He wasn’t going to change the end. Ramesh tried to reason with the members of the Board, pointing out to them the flaws in their own argument. But the Board would not budge. Increasingly frustrated, Ramesh did something most uncharacteristic of him – he raised his voice.

The Sippy’s called on every connection they had. G.P Sippy was a resourceful man with considerable clout. He worked the phone for hours, arranging high-powered meetings. Anyone who might have influenced the Board got a call. Father and son also had bitter rows. Ramesh argued as an artist who was watching his work being mauled, and G.P as a realist who knew that compromise was inevitable. At one point, Ramesh even considered taking his name off the film. But eventually the producer prevailed. G.P explained ground reality to Ramesh: If they were stubborn, the film woudn’t get released. Being a lawer himself, he knew better than anyone else the futility of going to court. In an Emergency they had no rights. And at the of end three years of production, they had very little money. They couldn’t afford to take the higher ground.

The release date had been fixed for 15 August 1975. As was the practice then, Ploydor had released the music two months earlier. In a extraordinary display of comfidence, they had released 30,000 records, double the usual film launch. They had also offered the dealers a special scheme. At the end of the year, dealers could traditionally return 7.5 per cent of the goods that they had not managed to sell. Polydor told the dealers: Take as many records of ‘Sholay’ as you want, but return the unsold ones before the film’s release. After the release, if the music ran and dealers wanted records they would have to pay more. Any delay in release would adversely affect Polydor’s business. There really was no option; Ramesh would have to re-shoot the end.

It was a Herculean task. It was already July 20. Within the following week the ending would have to be re-shot and re-dubbed, the background music redone and remixed in London, and the film printed for release. The cast was hastily summoned. Sanjeev Kumar was attending a film festival in the Soviet Union. He flew to India immediately. For two days, the cast and crew assenbled in Ramanagaram. It seemed like old times again. They were back amidst the giant boulders, in the harsh sunlight, all commited as before to the ambitious project that had brought them together.

With the cuts implemented and the new ending inserted, the Board of Film Censors was satisfied, and the final 70mm prints were then made in London. The negative for the 35mm was brought back to Mumbai and printed at Film Centre. And so ‘Sholay’ was ready for release-a weaker version of ‘Sholay’, with a new, lesser ending.

Somewhere in the world, rumoured to be impossible to trace now, a few prints survive of the original, untouched film, with all its final bleakness intact. Occasionally, videotapes and dvds of the original film surface, copied from copies of copies. Those who have seen these nth-generation copies say that despite the fuzziness and the bad sound, the Thakur’s hopeless weeping is chilling, and it becomes clear to the viewer that all the visceral of power and violance lead inevitably to this agony, this loss. In those long-ago days of the seventies, this was the moral vision that Ramesh Sippy and Salim-Javed tried to bring to the Indian viewer. Due to the wisdom of our censors, what we got instead was an easy pabulum about the virtues of following the law, and a film that least in part had an aesthetic clumsiness forced into it.

‘Sholay’ flopped. The critics were harsh, the performance at the box-office was mixed, and the industry, waiting for the smallest hint to knock the mega project of the brash young director, was merciless. For the first time since Salim-Javed narrated the four-line idea two and half years ago, Ramesh panicked. The weeks leading up to the release had been a blur. Ramesh was bug-eyed from lack of sleep. The climax re-shot and re-mix had increased the birth pangs ten-fold. Prints and negatives were flying between Mumbai and London. There was no time to savour the finished product. Meanwhile the hype had assumed a life of its own. The trade could talk of little else. Every day there was a new rumour: the film was being offered an ‘Adults only’ certificate; the censor board wanted further cuts; the 70mm prints were not ready, so the Sippy’s postponing the release date… and on and on. A column in ‘Trade Guide’, the industry trade magazine, wrote: ‘Wherever we went, we heard nothing but ‘Sholay’… sometimes we also thought we would get allergic to it. Everyone wanted to see nothing but ‘Sholay.’ Many people in the industry preffered to discuss ‘Sholay’ to their own film.

Minerva, on Mumbai’s Lamington Road, had been selected as ‘Sholay’s main theatre. Minerva was known by its tag line: ‘The pride of Maharashtra.’ It was the only theatre at the time with a screen big enough for 70mm and six-track sound, and with 1500 seats it was also the largest cinema in the country. The theatre was dressed up like a bride for the release. Outside stood 30-foot cutouts of the star cast: Dharmendra, Amitabh, Sanjeev, Hema, Jaya and, of course, Amjad Khan. Inside were rows of photographs from the film, and garlands of flowers.

The premiere night was a glittering affair. On 14 August, two premieres were held simultaneously, one at Minerva and one at Excelsior. For the cast and crew, it felt like life had come full circle. It was pouring outside, just as it had been on the first day of the shoot, and Jaya was glowing again – this time pregnant with Abhishek. The industry’s top names, all spiffed up and shiny, walked into Minerva to see what the fuss was about. But there was a problem – the 70mm print hadn’t arrived yet. It was still stuck at the customs.

The 70mm saga was a plot worthy of Salim-Javed. A senior bureaucrat in the finance ministry had declared war on the Sippy’s. Since a large part of the post-production work was done in London, several permissions were sought. The bureaucrat felt he hadn’t been given adequate importance and was still simmering. He decided to use every ploy to throw ‘Sholay’off track.

When the unit went to London, he wrote to the Indian High Commission there to keep close tabs on them. The Commission obliged. When the 70mm print came out, Ramesh decided to have a screening for friends and family. It was fixed for 10 one morning at the Odeon at Marble Arch. Ramesh also rang up the High Commissioner. ‘But how,’ said a senior secretary at the commission, ‘can you have a screening? You don’t have permission for that. Your contract says materials must go straight from Technicolour to India.’ Then suddenly the secretary changed track: ‘Okay, we’ll come.’ Ramesh had an intuition that all wasn’t well and at the last minute cancelled the screening. It was fortunate. Because at exactly 9:50, people from the High Commission turned up to seize the print. Orders were sent out to stall the Sippy’s at every level. When Ramesh landed in Mumbai, he was stripped searched. When even that didn’t produce anything, the bureaucrat simply told the custom officials not to clear the print. On the morning of 14 August the prints were still lying in tins at the customs.

G.P Sippy, never a man to take a beating lying down, went into action. He organized a high-level meeting. Attending on G.P’s terrace were Rajni Patel, a noted lawer and a close confidant of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and V.C Shukla, minister for Information and Broadcasting, who was also the chief guest at the premiere. Shukla simply called Delhi and blasted into the bureaucrat: ‘What are you trying to do? Tell them to release the prints now.’ The bureaucrat, taken aback by the reach of the Sippy’s, mumbled a quick ‘Yes sir.’ But he managed to delay the prints by a few more hours. By the evening they still hadn’t reached the theatre, so ‘Sholay’s premiere audience saw a 35mm print.

Through the screening; there was little reaction. The audience seemed unmoved. There was no laughter, no tears, no applause. Just silence. ‘It was very scary,’ recalls Geeta (Sippy). In the stalls sat Prakash Mehra, who had once been one of the contenders for the four-line story. ‘Maine yeh kahani kyun cchod di? he asked himself aloud. After the film, as the audience streamed out of the hall, Pancham, who had been sitting next to Mehra, whispered to him: ‘Log to gaaliyan de rahen hain.’ ‘Don’t worry,’ Prakash replied, ‘this film is a hit. No one can stop it.’

The morning-after-the premiere grapevine dripped poison. The film was dubbed ‘Chholey’, and the main cast, ‘Teen maharathi aur ek chooha (Three warriors and a mouse)’. Everything was wrong with the film. Why would women and family audiences want to see so much gore? The friendship was in such bad taste. Amjad had no presence, and no voice… ‘Hindustaniyon ko aisi picturein nahin achhi lagti hain (Indians don’t like films like this),’ pronounced a prominent industry figure. The critics agreed. Taking off on the title of the film, K.L Amladi writing in ‘India Today’ called it a ‘dead ember’. Thematically, its a gravely flawed attempt,’ he wrote. Filmfare’s Bikram Singh wrote: ‘The major trouble with the film is the unsuccessful transplantation it attempts- grafting a western on the Indian milieu. The film remains imitation western-neither here nor there.’ The trade magazines weren’t gushing either. ‘The classes and families will find no reason for a repeat show,’ said ‘Film Information.’
‘Trade Guide’ called it a milestone but qualified the praise with a negative comparison with ‘Deewar’ Now it was upto the audience. On 15 August 1975, ‘Sholay’ was released in the Bombay territory with forty prints.

Dispite the notorious Mumbai ki barish which was coming sown in torrents, the crowds turned up; in fact, many people had started queuing up outside the theatres the night before the advance booking had opened. The demand for the tickets was so high that in some theatres the managers just put the phone off the hook. Looking at the advance, trade pundits were predicting that the film would cross a business of eleven lakh rupees in its first week.

The buoyancy was balanced by the legions of cynics. After the premiere, the critics and indusrywalas had already given their verdict, and their had been more brickbats than bouquets. Even the black marketeers- those most knowledgeable of critics – were a little apprehensive about the film. Sure, it was the Midas touch of the Sippy’s and Salim-Javed, and yes, the film had an impressive starcast, but the story sounded strange: Sanjeev was playing a handicapped man and Jaya a silent widow, and there was some new villain who wasn’t in the mould of the suave smugglers of the day like Ajit and Pran.

The Sippy’s only hope was that the audience would prove them all wrong. There was no reaction. On Friday, 15 August, the first day of ‘Sholay’s release, Ramesh drove from one theatre to another to assess the reaction of the audience. As on the premiere night, there was only silence. Over the weekend, panic set in. The theatres were full but the reports were mixed. Pundits were now predicting disaster. No one told Ramesh that, but he could see it in their faces of all those he met. Every one wore that peculiar expression of pity and awkwardness. They met him like he was a man in mourning.

The Sippys moved into damage-control mode. On the weekend, a hurried meeting was convened at Amitabh’s house. G.P Sippy, Ramesh and Amitabh put their heads together to try and come up with solutions. Since there was no fear of piracy at the time, the release of the film in the major territories was being staggered. They could make substantial alterations before ‘Sholay’ hit the rest of the country. One suggestion was re-shooting the end again. Amitabh, post’Zanjeer’ and ‘Deewar’, was too big a star to die. Jai was just a petty thief, he hadn’t done anything to deserve death. Perhaps an ending in which the two couples walk into the sunset would salvage the film. Salim-Javed were vehement that the film shouldn’t be touched. Ramesh considered the suggestion for a new ending, but not for long. His head said he should do it but his heart wouldn’t allow it. He went with his heart A happy end would compromise his film even further. It was important that the audience leave the theatre with a feeling that something had been left unfinished. That slight ache in the heart was part of the film’s appeal. Not a frame would be touched. He would swim or sink with the film.

As the week wore on the anxiety of the crew turned into depression. On Monday morning, when the second week advance booking opened, there were modest queues outside Minerva and Excelsior where the 70mm prints were showing. At other theatres, hardly two or three people stood for tickets. In most of the suburban theatres, matinee shows had less than fifty per cent collections. For Ramesh, this was confirmation that all was lost. He was devastated. That evening he walked into Film Center, where more prints were being made, and told Anwar, ‘Printing band kar do. Abhi kuchh samajh main nahin aa raha hai (Stop the printing. I don’t understand what’s going on.)’ At home the unflappable demeanour cracked. It was the first time in his remarkable career that he was facing a flop. ‘I think I’ve failed,’ he told Geeta.

At the Sippy house the tension was palpable. G.P Sippy stood rock-steady and characteristically optimistic. He was sure that the film would turn around. But at the back of his mind sat unpleasant thoughts: The film had gone way over budget and creditors had to be paid back. They might never be able to make another film again. This was one gamble that could put them back years. There were even rumours that the Sippys were packing up and leaving the country. One week later, on 22 August 1975, ‘Sholay’ was released in Bangalore in six theatres. Suresh Malhotra, the distributer, organized a grand premiere. The entire main cast and crew flew in for the night. Suresh loved ‘Sholay’. When interviewed by ‘Film Information’ in July, he had predicted that the film would do a business of one crore. But it didn’t look like the business would bear his claim. Even before the first week was over, collections took a dip in Bangalore.

But the worst affected was Amjad. As negative feedback filtered in, Amjad became more and more silent. The normally effusive and volatile man retreated into a shell. His house was enveloped in gloom. An equally disheartened Asrani visited him in the first week. Asrani had been shooting at the nearby Mehboob Studio with Aruna Irani and she had suggested dropping in at Amjad’s. ‘Maine dam laga diya, ab nahi chali. kya kar sakte hain (I gave it all I had, but it hasn’t worked. There’s nothing to be done now),’ Amjad told them mournfully. ‘Lekin aapki taareef to bhut ho rahi hai (But theres great things being said about your performance),’ Asrani countered. Praise was little consolation. ‘What’s the use, yaar?’ Amjad replied, fighting back tears. ‘Salim-Javed have told Ramesh that my voice ruined the picture. Sorry folks, I’ve missed the bus.’

In all the sound and fury, Salim-Javed stood firm. ‘Nothing doing,’ they said to re-shooting proposals. ‘This film will run.’ It was the cockiness of youth and the confidence of a job well done. The following week, the two put an advertisement in the trade papers. The ad said, ‘Salim-Javed predict that ‘Sholay’ will be a grosser of rupees one crore in each major territory of India.’ The trade predicted that going by the response, the Sippys would be lucky if ‘Sholay’ managed forty lakh per territory.

Salim-Javed were wrong. As it turned out, one crore was a conservative estimate. Mid-week, a curious thing happened: there was little advance booking, but the theatre’s were full. The proprietor at Geeta cinema in Worli told Ramesh, ‘Don’t worry, your film is a hit.’ It was the first time Ramesh had heard the word used in connection with his film. ‘How can you say that?’ he asked. ‘Because the sales of my soft drinks and ice-creams are going down,’ the man replied. ‘By the interval the audience are so stunned that they are not coming out of the theatre.’.

Finally Ramesh understood why there was no reaction. People were overawed by what they were seeing. They needed time. Now, clearly ‘Sholay’ had found its audience. Word of mouth spread like a juicy rumour. The visuals were epic and the sound was a miracle; when Veeru threw the coin in the climax, people in the 70mm theatres dove under their seats to see where it had fallen. By the third week, audiences were repeating dialogues. It meant that at least some were coming in to see the film for a second time. Polydor noticed this and was quick to act. Record sales weren’t good and the music company was in a panic. Even though people came out of the theatres with smiles on their faces, they didn’t buy the music. The music men were bewildered. What was the problem here? Some key managers were dispatched to the theatres to see the film with the audience. They realized that the reaction to the dialogue was extraordinary. Obviously ‘Sholay’s visuals and dialogue were so overpowering that the music barely registered. If Polydor wanted to sell more records, it would have to give the audience what they remembered when they left the theatre: the dialogue. The strategy succeeded. Polydor couldn’t keep up with the demand as records flew off the shelves.

The tide had turned. ‘Sholay’ was beginning to prove all doomsayers wrong. As the film caught on, tickets became priceless. The lines at Minerva stretched a few kilometres, from the theatre to the nearby Tardeo bridge. The bus stop outside was renamed ‘Sholay’ stop’. The Minerva manager, Sushil Mehra, could barely keep up with the demand. He stayed at the booking window from 8 a.m to 8 p.m and finally just moved his family into a two-room apartment at the theatre; going home seemed pointless.

The Sippys stopped listening to the trade. As the collections mounted, it became obvious that they were looking at something big. In September, Ramesh left for London to take his much-deserved holiday. But every week the collections were given to him over the phone. Ten weeks after its release the film was declared a super hit, and on 11 October 1975 ‘Sholay’ already a blockbuster, was released in the territories of Delhi, U.P, Bengal, the Central Provinces and Hyderabad to a record-breaking box office.

Several months later, Asrani ran into Amjad. Both had been invited to inaugurate a studio in Gujarat. On the flight, Asrani laughed: ‘Haan ji, did you miss the bus?’ Amjad broke into a broad grin. The studio was about forty kilometres away from the airport. While driving there, Amjad’s son felt thirsty, and they stopped at a small roadside stall. It was a ramshackle place selling cold drinks, biscuits and cigarettes. There was no other building or even a hut to be seen for miles. As they entered the shop, a voice crackled on a rickety gramophone:

‘Kitne aadmi the?’

Gabbar Singh’s dialogue boomed through the shop. The stall owner served the group drinks but did not recognize the star. For a minute, Amjad stood absolutely still. His eyes squinted in recognition of his own voice. Then, listening to his voice playing in a shanty on a dusty, deserted road in the middle of nowhere, Amjad Khan sat down and cried.


1. Released on 15 Augast 1975.
2. Real Bullets were used for the close up action scenes.
3. Amitabh was almost killed at the end of the movie when a stray bullet from dharmendra missed him by inches.
4. First scene shot for the movie was Amitabh returning the keys to the safe to Jaya.
5. There are two sets of negatives, one in 70mm and one in 35mm as every shot/scene was done twice.
6. The last shot done in the village was Jai’s death scene.
7. Basanti’s chase sequence was shot over twelve days.
8. Jim Allen,Gerry Cramton,Romo Commoro,John Gant…some of the foreign technicians who worked on the action sequences.
9. The train sequence took seven weeks to shoot.
10. The last scene shot for Sholay was the Thakur meets Veeru and Jai outside the jail and offers them the job.
11. Sholay took nearly two and half years to complete (450 shifts)
12. Amjad’s voice was nearly dubbed as there were whispers it not being strong enough for a villain.
13. The background music took a whole month to complete.
14. Sholay’s Budget was close to three crores.
15. Jaya was pregnant during the shooting of the film with Shweta Bachchan.
16. Jaya was glowing again during the premiere of Sholay…this time with Abhishek Bachchan.
17. Sholay’s premiere audience saw a 35mm print as the 70mm one was stuck at customs.
18. Sholay was released in Bombay with 40 prints.
19. Saachin was a veteran film actor with 60 films behind him from 1962…. but A.K Hangal was a newcomer to films.
20. Amjad’s first scene shot was his introduction scene …..his first lines “Kitne Aadmi The”?

139 Responses to “From the Sholay history…”

  1. masterpraz Says:

    This is mindblowing……


  2. aajkaarjun Says:

    Fantastic piece

    As somebody said, The sun never sets on Sholay 🙂


  3. aajkaarjun Says:

    We all know that Sholay ran for more than 5 years at Minerva, Ramesh sippy discontinued it because he wanted to play his next film Shaan over there

    Sholay has been released more than six times in MInerva and each time it did excellent business there


    • never knew this!


    • also the ONLY reason SHOLAY was taken off from Minerva was to release Sippy’s next opus SHAAN which was a mightly flop 😦


      • didn’t know this until Aajkaarjun mentioned this earlier.. the flopping of Shaan is a bit of a myth though.. it clearly didn’t live upto the humongous expectations post-Sholay but hardly any Bachchan film in the first half of that decade surpass its gross, actually not that many match it either! Now obviously Shaan was an expensive film, that’s another matter but it had enough audience attendance.


      • check out these grosses (all from IBOS):

        Shaan — 6.25 crores
        Dostana — 6 crores
        Ram Balram — 5 crores
        Naseeb — 10 crores
        Laawaris — 9 crores
        Yaarana — 5.25 crores
        Kaalia — 5 crores
        Barsaat ki ek raat — 5 crores
        Namak Halal — 7.5 crores
        Khuddar — 7.2 crores
        Shakti — 6 crores (another myth)
        Desh premee — 4.2 crores
        Satte pe Satta — 4 crores
        Coolie — 13 crores
        Nastik — 4.5 crores
        Mahaan — 4 crores
        Sharaabi — 5.5 crores
        Inquilaab — 5 crores
        Mard — 9.5 crores

        now admittedly I have questions about some of these numbers.. have my doubts for example that Desh Premee did so much less than some of the others even if it wasn’t a big one by Desai standards. again Nastik and Mahaan did not work. So these did as much as Desh Premee?! Inquilaab was a box office disappointment though here it is only 25 lakhs behind a hit like Sharaabi (which I know wasn’t huge). I haven’t mentioned films like Silsila or Bemisaal which had low numbers. But overall within this spectrum Shaan is hardly the worst grosser. Shakti too was regarded as a disappointment though it too grossed quite well. Of course the Bachchan bar was so much higher than everyone else’s. Most of his flops were hits/superhits for others!


        • Desh premi suffered more because of Namak Halaal which was released just a week after Desh Premi.

          Nastik comes a year later and did semi hit business, Mahaan was of course big budget flop(opening was superb). Nastik got benefit of small budget and declared semi hit, which was not the case with mahaan. Desh premi perform better than both despite of tough compition it got in the form of namak halaal.


  4. aajkaarjun Says:

    Has anyone read Anupama chopra’s Sholay-The making of classic? A must buy for all Sholay fans


  5. This is a joy! Thanks man!

    I must be in a tiny minority but to my mind Ramesh Sippy is one of the best directors Bollywood has ever produced – technically and fundamentally. He really deserves one of the Padma awards if not the Bharat Ratna. Don’t wait for a posthumous one – the Indian government.


  6. I precisely remember the days of “SHOLAY ” when i was in my teens and i used to live in kandivali ,a suburb of bombay,although now i live in uk but the sholay days i still remember.When it was released the film was also released in Sona talkies which used to be in kandivali and on friday the day it was released there was only a small que and there it was shown in 35mm because sona cinema only catered for 16mm or 35mm.
    Anyway first three days of the film according to rumours the film was declared a “FLOP” but onwards tuesday the film was on the up normally in kandivali that time the films changed every friday but in this case in sona talkies it was re-booked for two more weeks,thats the a fact of what had happened to “SHOLAY .
    tHIS WAS ONE OFF SHOLAY which had become one of thee best of “BLOCLBUSTERS” ……


    • hi vijay ..lately offline due to exam month.. but looking forward to 25th october… that sunderland game was real bad… hopefully we are ready for this one..



    • you’re a lucky guy to have been around for the release..


    • Sona Talkies in Kandivli has had me watch many movies. IJAAZAT, DHUAN, CARAVAN(re-release)…fond memories of the place. There was a quaint bar/restaurant next to it which always seemed to display ‘PERMIT ROOM’ on the board outside. There was once a time when you actually needed a permit to drink alcohol and long after that law was done away with, restaurants continued to carry the board, not bothering to change the legend.


  7. Hi rooney,
    we will beat bolton because fergie is really going beserk,it will be 2-0

    Yes satyam i really miss those days and you are right i have been lucky and vary lucky that i have seen in 70mm on grant road “MINERVA”
    9 times i have seen and here in uk 5 times…


  8. Magnificent piece here, Satyam.

    ‘Absence of reaction and absolute silence’ – very true; exactly as I had felt when watching the movie on the second day of its release. The audience were completely absorbed/mesmerized during the entire run of the movie, an experience that I have never had for any other movie.


  9. Thanks rooney it just did bring the old memory back, 1975 was a special year for BIG B,
    SHOLAY at minerva and

    DEEWAR at Liberty cinema completing 100 weeks

    KABHI KABHIE silver jubelli at Metro

    “What a year” —– 1975


  10. Anupama Chopra’s complete into in her book:

    Kitne Aadmi The?

    Dolores Pereira was dabbing on more powder when the doorbell rang. She gave herself a once-over in the mirror: salt-and-pepper hair framed a dark, fine-boned face made grey by the film of talcum powder. Orange lipstick filled out her thin lips. A string of pearl lent a quiet dignity to her knee-length dress and closed shoes with little heels. She looked like a respectable Anglo-Indian woman going to mass somewhere in Bangalore. Actually, she was a fortune-teller getting ready for work.

    Dolores was frail but feisty. In her mid-fifties, she loved to gossip. She loved to bitch. And she loved to look at male derrieres. But what made the fabulous Dolores quite exceptional was her skill with tarot cards. She would lay down the cards and foretell the future, and she had hit the bulls-eye enough times to build a widespread reputation. Dolores didn’t need to advertise. Word-of-mouth along ensured streams of Bangaloreans from every walk of life at her doorstep.

    That balmy evening in 1974, she opened the door to three people. One, a short man in a funny-looking floppy hat, was a film director. The second, a tall man with a beard who looked like he needed a bath, was an actor. And the third, attractive women with fair skin, was the actor’s wife. They were making a film somewhere on the outskirts of Bangalore. They had heard a lot about Dolores. The shooting had wrapped up early that day, so they had decided to come and meet her. It was the actor’s first film. He was playing a villain against a league of big stars. For him, everything hinged on this film’s success. Could she please peep into their future?

    Dolores spread her cards out and started to talk. The wife leaned forward, all ears. The director and actor, both a little skeptical and amused, listened too, more curious than credulous. ‘This man,’ Dolores said, pointing to the actor, ‘is going to be right on top.’ She paused dramatically, and then declared: ‘And this film is going to run for many years.’ The actor and the director smiled, tempted to believe but wary of doing so.

    Sholay ran for five years, and changed the course of Indian cinema. And Amjad Khan became a legend-Hindi cinema’s first advertising icon: Gabbar Singh, the gravelly-voiced, unwashed villain who sold both records and biscuits equally well.

    Even Dolores could not have imagined the spectacular degree of Sholay’s success. The film changed lives, transformed careers, and even twenty-five years after its release it remains the box office gold standard, a reference point for both the Indian film-going audience and the film industry.

    Over the years, Sholay has transcended its hit-movie status. It is not merely a film, it is the ultimate classic; it is myth. It is, as director Dharmesh Darshan says, ‘part of our heritage as Indians’. The characters-Veeru, Jai, Gabbar, the Thakur, Basanti and Radha-are familiar in something of the way that Ram and Sita are. The peripheral players-Soorma Bhopali, the Jailer, Kaalia’ and Sambha-are the stuff of folklore. Even the starring animal, Dhanno the mare, has been immortalized.

    The film, still as compellingly watchable as it was when first released (in 1999 BBC-India and assorted internet polls declared it the Film of the Millennium), arouses intense passions. Its appeal cuts across barriers of geography, language, ideology and class: an advertising guru in Mumbai will speak as enthusiastically and eloquently about the film as a rickshaw driver in Hyderabad. And the devotion is often fanatical. Sholay connoisseurs-to call them ‘fans’ would be insulting their ardour-speak casually of seeing the film fifty, sixty, even seventy times. Dialogue has been memorized. Also the unique background music: the true Sholay buff can pre-empt all he sound effects. He can also name Gabbar’s arms dealer who is on screen for less than thirty seconds (Hira), and Gabbar’s father who is mentioned only once as Gabbar’s sentence is read out in court (‘Gabbar Singh, vald Hari Singh…’)

    Bollywood buzzes with Sholay stories: how a Jaipur housewife obsessed with Veeru convinced her husband to assume the name of her beloved screen hero; how Prakash bhai, a black marketer at Delhi’s Plaza Cinema, sold tickets for the film at Rs 150 for five months and eventually bought himself a small house in Seelampur, which he decorated with Sholay posters; how a tough-looking immigration officer in New York waved actor Macmohan through because he had seen Sholay and recognized Sambha, ‘The man on the rock with a gun.’ There are autorickshaws in Patna named Dhanno, and potent drinks in five-star bars called Gabbar.

    Sholay’s dialogue has now become colloquial language, part of the way a nation speaks to itself. Single lines, even phrases, taken out of context, can communicate a whole range of meaning and emotion. In canteens across the country, collegians still echo Gabbar when they notice a budding romance: ‘Bahut yaarana hai.’ The lines come easily to the lips of Indians: ‘Jo dar gaya, samjho mar gaya’, ‘Ai Chhammia’, ‘Arre o Sambha’, ‘Kitne aadmi the?’, ‘Hum Angrezon ke zamaane ke jailer hain’.

    Predictably, Sholay has been used to sell everything from glucose biscuits to grip water. And copywriters are still milking it dry. An Aiwa print advertisement, circa March 2000, ties prices for its electronic products with the run rate of the Indian cricket team, exhorting: ‘Bhaag, Saurav, mere paise ka sawaal hai,’ which echoes Basanti’s command to her mare: ‘Bhaag, Dhanno, Bsanti ki izzat ka sawaal hai.’ A Channel V filler spoofs the song ‘Yeh Dosti’. And pop star Bali Bhrambhatt makes a remix album called Sholay 2000 and subtitled ‘The Hathoda Mix’, which alludes to the Thakur’s lines to Veeru and Jai: ‘Loha garam hai, maar do hathoda.’

    Nothing in Indian popular culture ahs matched this magic. Critics might argue that Mother India or Mughal-e-Azam were better films, and the trade pundits might point out that in 1994 Hum Aapke Hain Kaun broke Sholay’s box office record. But none of these films can rival Sholay in the scale and longevity of its success. Sholay was a watershed event. Director Shekhar Kapur puts it best: ‘There has never been a more defining film on the Indian screen. Indian film history can be divided into Sholay BC and Sholay AD.’

    There is more to Kapur’s statement than just the passion of a hopeless admirer. Sholay is, in fact, the Indian film industry’s textbook. The film married a potentially B-grade genre narrative to the big budget of a mainstream extravaganza, and taught the industry how formula can beget a classic. It changed the way Indian films looked and sounded. ‘It is,’ says adman and scriptwriter Piyush Pandey, ‘undoubtedly the best film made in this country.’ Sholay transformed action into high art. Stylized mayhem replaced the sissy dhishum-dhishum fist fights of the past. Violence became a Hind-movie staple for nineteen years, until Hum Aapke Hain Kaun flagged off the feel-good era. Sholay also set standards for technical excellence. Other films of the seventies seem shoddy and dated, but Sholay is a masterpiece of craft. To this day, directors quote Sholay in their films, allude to it in their frames.

    The big-budget multi-starrer, where the filmmaker plays for broke, is also a legacy of Sholay. In its wake came endless imitations, spoofs and barely disguised remakes. The first Hindi film of the new millennium was Dharmesh Darshan’s Mela, a multi-crore extravaganza about a girl who uses two truck drivers to avenge her brother’s death at the hands of the daku (dacoit) Gujjar. It flopped. As did director Raj Kumar Santoshi’s China Gate (1998), which featured ten retired army officers rescuing a village from the ferocious daku Jagira. Santoshi went blue in the face insisting that the inspiration was Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, but the audience didn’t care. ‘It’s not Sholay,’ was the verdict.

    What is it about Sholay that works on us still? When people watch Sholay today, certain aspects of the film seduce them all over again: the soaring imagination of the story and the way it is today; the vitality of the scorching rocky landscape, charging horses and falling men; the gritty directorial conviction that allows an unhurried tale to be developed, full of texture and rhythm. The elements fall into place perfectly a marvelous chemistry between the actors; a fable-like story detailed into a superb script; unforgettable dialogue and fine performances. The film skillfully blends traditional and modern elements. It has, as author Nasreen Munni Kabir says, ‘Differences in lifestyles which co-exist without appearing illogical.’ The steam engines, the horses, the guns and the denim give the film as ageless quality, a feeling of several centuries existing next to each other.

    The morally ambiguous characters-the heroes were jean-clad mercenaries-captured the Zeitgeist of the seventies, when the idealism of the freedom struggle and the optimism of newly independent India were things of the past; when politicians and bureaucrats had lost the respect of the people, and the young had come to believe that while it was desirable to be good, it was more important to be effective. This, pretty much, is the mood even today. What appealed to audiences a quarter century ago, does so even now.

    Sholay was also a film made with grand passion for a madly passionate audience. The seventies were the tail end of Hindi cinema’s golden era: the film industry had the audience’s undivided attention for the last time, before widespread television, videotapes, and satellites changed the entertainment landscape for ever. Producer G.P. Sippy and director Ramesh Sippy dreamed big, and they had the courage to follow their instincts. Money, market, box office-all of these commercial considerations became, in the final analysis, secondary. The prime motive was to make a mega-movie, the like of which had never been seen before on the Indian screen.

    The Hollywood western, which itself had drawn lessons from Kurosawa’s Japanese samurai epics, was an inspiration for both material and attitude. A sort of cowboy zeal permeated the Sholay unit. Ramesh and his crew were like pioneers heading out to the Wild West; warriors fighting for a just cause. They selected a barren landscape in South India, inhabited it, transformed it against mind-numbing odds to suit their vision, and created a compelling work of art. Sholay’s magic comes from the sweat and courage and ardour of every member of that unit. This is their story.


  11. you are right as 70s did bring some big hits combinding stars like shatru,rajesh khanna,vinod khanna,shashi kapoor but after deewar Amitabh just brought thee “ANGRY YOUNG MAN” IMAGE and nobody stood any chance of competing with him,not only he brought a charisma but everthing he did brought the best out of him and the writer salim-javed were main responsible for Amitabhs …

    He was on every-ones lips as he was taged as “lambuju”……


  12. Great post,
    I remember listening to the LP of Sholay as a kid with my entire joint family siiting around the record player.


  13. Rocky that is absolutely true, noy only LP but small booklet full dailogs of SHOLAY film,
    The one i loved was “kitne aadmi the”
    sarkar do
    woh do the aur tum teen

    sardar mene aapka namak khaya he

    GABBAR says lo aab goli khaa

    jo dar gaya woh mar gaya

    a big silence
    and really gabbar scared me


    • Vijay – I used to love the Mausi track the most, and the Mandir scene where amitabh takes Hema behind Shiva Jee. LOL


      • mksrooney Says:

        hey rocky hows u…

        i love the well there are many but most favourite is how they fool surma bhopali and angrez jailer.. all time favs


  14. jab daru utregi to woh bhi utter ayega

    mosi with amitabh

    was brilliant Rocky


  15. yes behind the mandir where dharmendra ,also when he teaches to shoot at mango tree

    ha james bond ke pote he


    • doing great Rooney.
      Vijay- for some reason I remember that line was – Taatya Tope ka Pota hai( at least on the LP it was that), later on they changed it ti James Bond ka pota hai!
      anyone remeber that ??????


      • Hey Satyam- Can you try and find out the truth behind Tatya Tope and james bond- it has been killing me since many years !! LOL


      • in the film it was definitely James Bond.


        • Yes, I remember watching it on the video tape in early 80’s and it was indeed “tatya tope” since migrated to US and many versions of DVD’s has only james bond, few years back it was a Bachchan movie weekend (every weekend matinee show from his zanjeer to coolie were played for 5 $ – should have seen teh crowd, weekend and matinee, can you believe he still has the pull from those movies), so yeah, in the re-released version that I watched in the theaters in US was James Bond too as the DVD.


  16. “‘There has never been a more defining film on the Indian screen. Indian Film history can be divided into ‘Sholay’ BC and ‘Sholay AD.’”

    I don’t think there has ever been a more precise statement on the film than this Shekhar Kapur one. Sholay is not just a seminal film but an entire culture on its own.


    • Sholay BC and Sholay AD doesnt make sense. It could be BS or AS. Bollywood beofe Sholay and After Sholay.
      Ceratainly a perfect storm where everything just came together brilliantly.
      I dont think there is one particular hero. Every one has roughly equal ‘phootage’ from Sanjeev, Dharam, Amitabh and Amjad.
      Dharam might have been the bigger star at the start of the shooting but Amitabh had gotten bigger by the time the movie was completed.
      I remember initial reaction to Amjad was negative and people saying the villian is wierd and has a weak voice! Even the media soon after release was saying the movie is not doing well at the BO!


      • LOL, true though I hope you appreciate the problems ‘BS’ offers! But agreed on everything…

        Interestingly enough and much as I appreciate the utter brilliance of this film at many levels it has never been one of my very favorite ones. I’d take a number of other Bachchan films over it. But this film is a feat in so many ways and one where being aware of the original contexts in terms of the inspirations makes one appreciate it even more.


  17. kesto says

    pistol jail me aachooki hai

    hum angrez zamane ke jailor hai
    right rooney!


  18. Yes satyam,
    even if you watch it now it just brings joy,sadness,entertainment and also

    acting of sanjeev kumar,amjad khan
    amitabh ,dharmendra

    the direction,

    film picturisation


    the title theme…..


  19. Rocky,
    as far i know it has been james bond ke pote but
    in a dialog booklet it did say taatya tope


  20. Thanks so much Vijay, I am happy that I am not crazy !! LOL
    must have been under some pressure to change then !!


    • I think the Emergency must have been the reason for that change. Consider Tatya Tope’s politics. here’s a guy rebelling against the British. if they’d retained that reference by extension who would Veer be up against? The Indian state?! He has a gun in his hand too! The James Bond reference makes it completely neutral and even silly.


    • actually you are right Rocky. Look at this discussion on a forum:

      a member claims that some of the prints had Tatya Tope which means that they must have made the changes later.


    • here’s another account:

      “Interesting the film was shot both in 35mm and 70mm for two reasons. First – most of the theatres in india were 35mm and second – Blowing up 35mm to 70mm made no sense because it would effect the quality. So all the talkie scenes excpet the action ones were shot twice. Maybe thats why there r two versions of the dialogues when Amitabh says ’’ Tatiya tope ke pothe hai’’ and the other version ’’ James Bond ke pothe hai’’.”

      of course this doesn’t address why the line should have been changed but confirms that it was. I never knew about all of this. You learn something new every day when it’s Sholay!


    • here’s what someone said at another forum:

      “As for the “line”…oh, my god! I’m so confused. At the Walter Reade Theater, it was “haan, yeh to James Bind ke bhatije [or “potay”; I forget] hain.” I don’t recall the “Tatiya Tope” line, there. Nonetheless, thinking back on it, it is the “Tatiye Tope” one that I remember from when I was a child (I don’t recall whether or not the VHS I saw of it also had the “James Bond). I recall asking someone, immediately, who the hell “Tatiya Tope” was. …Hmmm… “


  21. probably they might have,but you are not crazy but true fan of “SHOLAY”


  22. A well scripted thrilling Drama.
    But No mention of Dharmendra,the main hero of Sholay.
    Also,there is the talk of Dharmendra palying thakur which I don’t think is true.Dharmendra is the first chopice for veeru.
    And ofcourse Abhishek was already born by the relase of sholay.
    And is it true that Amitabh did a lot of lobbying for the role od jai in sholay?
    Sholay is like mahabaharat.
    veeru,jai represent bheema,arjuna..The kaurav sena being gabbar’s men.
    Veeru is more of Bheema than arjuna.Jai is more of arjuna than bheema.
    Basanti is ofcourse draupadi.That’s the reason it is considered some kind of an epic.
    The only flaw is jai should not die.He should have lived and the film would have had a more logical ending.


    • Dharmendra is not the main hero of Sholay at least in the version all of us have seen! Jai’s dying gives the film a properly tragic ending. The scene with Jaya at the end observing he funeral and closing her shutters is extraordinarily moving.. we mourn for Jai but should mourn even more for her..

      I’ve said this before. The two most intelligent characters in the film are Gabbar and Jai which is why they have nothing to say to each other! For order to be restored in the world of Sholay both Gabbar and Bachchan must be ‘sent off’. It’s quite logical really!

      Dharam is lovable but a dumb yokel compared to what Bachchan here is.. brooding and enigmatic.

      And the Thakur is every bit the maniac that Gabbar is!


      • But Satyam, that has always been the case, the funny character is always seen as the best! AB’s brooding character with the sarcastic humour is played amazingly by AB and I think his death scene is one of the best i’ve seen in Indian cinema. Dharamendra has always been an entertainer on screen….not too much an actor!!!


      • masterpraz Says:

        “Thakur is every bit the maniac that Gabbar is!”-insightful reading! My dad once said it is possible to watch SHOLAY through the eyes of every character and you’ll discover something new about the film (his fave character in SHOLAY remains Jaya Badhuri)


    • but this is the classic example of an ‘event’ (Bachchan) where not just all ensuing history is ‘different’ but all preceding history is also reconfigured. Anand proves this point. It is always a bit of a shock these days to see this iconic Rajesh Khanna film being treated as only a Bachchan work and even screened in Bachchan retrospectives!


    • Dharam once said in an interview that he suggested Bachchan’s name for the part but he did not know that Shatrughan was also interested in it. Similarly Yash Chopra wanted Rajesh Khanna for Deewar but Salim-Javed said they’d walk out of the film if that happened. Prakash Mehra considered both Dharam and Dev for the Zanjeer role. But what Bachchan had on his side was divine favor!


  23. satyam,I disagree.Dharmendra is the main hero of sholay according to ramesh Sippy.Yes,we say it is a two hero film which slightly gives more importance to dharmendra.But Amitabh is never the main lead!

    Actually,there is some confusion as to who the main lead is because of the climax.In the end Amitabh was given more importance.
    Yes,Dharmendra fights his way to gabbar and defeats him but we will remember Bachchan’s fighting more.I think this has more to do with
    Bachchan’s post deewar popularity.Ramesh sippy may have realised that
    he can cash in on the newly popular bachcan.The script probably might have been altered to suit bachchan more.But the fact that Dharmendra gets basanti and he gets more importance till the end should leave us with
    no doubt as to who R.sippy envisaged to be the hero.
    But I will say again that sholay was saved by the stardom of dharmendra,Amitabh.The ending definitely a dampener.


    • where did Ramesh Sippy say this? In any case I doubt that’s his opinion of the finished product. If it is I disagree with him. Actually I think there’s a much better case to be made that Sanjeev Kumar is the hero of the film. In a more Western ‘central protagonist’ sense Gabbar might himself be considered the main figure.


      • venkatesh Says:

        By the time the film released, AB was already the number one star. Neither AB nor Dharmendra had much to gain from Sholay. The actor who benefitted most was undoubtedly Amjad Khan for his memorable performance as Gabbar. Looking back I think almost all the stars gave in their best, even Asrani was outstanding!


      • masterpraz Says:

        This is a superb discussion! In my view, the real “hero” of SHOLAY is Sanjeev Kumar and Amjad Khan! THE GOOD (Sanjeev Kumar), THE BAD (Amitabh, Dharmendra) AND THE UGLY (Amjad Khan)!


    • I agree that Dharmendra was the main lead. There’s no question about it. Am actually surprised that it’s even a counter-argument against it! SK was the central character, though. The script writes the main lead, not Ramesh Sippy, the director.

      However, there wasn’t much time between Deewar and Sholay release to reinforce Amitabh’s sudden superstardom and translate that into his ‘larger’ part, as you say.

      The SJ wouldn’t have allowed last minute tinkering anyway.


      • Ramesh Sippy wasn’t the sort of director who’d tinker with a film. I doubt very much that an audience even then saw this more as a Dharam film than a Bachchan one (within the context of those two)..


        • We have mutual admiration for Bachchan – on different levels perhaps – but we do.

          Now, I’m quite surprised at your suggestion that Amitabh is the main lead out of the two (if between them, that is).

          It’s very interesting but I’ll keep it as our benchmark for a stark disagreement. We’ll hereby agree to strongly disagree, then, politely but firmly.

          So, Sholay brings out another fascinating aspect I didn’t know!

          Until another bone…


          • I made the case that Sanjeev Kumar might be considered the proper ‘hero’ of the film. I also suggested that Gabbar himself might be considered the central protagonist (though an Indian audience would never see it that way, at least consciously). Between Dharam and Bachchan it is the latter who has the far more interesting character (this could be attributed to Bachchan’s own performance) but also the grand death scene (this is always a winner for a character whether in Homer or in masala cinema! but we also need to retrieve that epic sense, which is not beside the point for a consideration of Indian commercial cinema, where it is not just footage that defines the ‘hero’). Also remember that Dharam doesn’t take care of Gabbar, he merely makes the delivery for the Thakur who then has the final confrontation with the latter. The crux of the film is really this battle between the two and the revenge promised right at the outset. In the original version the Thakur crushes Gabbar under his feet, quite literally. In the censored version he lets him go but there is an ethical dilemma he faces. So Dharam isn’t central to this scheme of things. Again the Bachchan/Jaya angle is far more significant for the world of the film. The Dharam/Hema one is just regular fare. I made this point earlier that in one sense Gabbar and Jai were analogs of each other. Jay is constantly associated with moments that upset the order of the film’s world than Veeru ever is. Jay pretends to bow down before Gabbar in that crucial post-Holi scene and saves the day, Jai rescues a tied up Dharam and a Hema left to dance before the ‘villains’. Jai ultimate ensures the safety of Dharam and hence the ‘couple’ of the film. It is Jai who has the grand death scene. It is Jai who threatens the domestic values of that world by contemplating a match with a widow. Jai is the film’s ironic commentator. The only reason Dharam could even be seeing as getting priority is because of the scenes he shares with Hema (though Bachchan is often around..) and the extra footage he has at the end. There is nothing else. These two ‘extra footage’ factors are to my mind superficial ones. And again my wager stands. I doubt an audience in ’75 so Dharam as more central to the film than Bachchan (let alone today!).


  24. Thanks Satyam, this is a great read. I have seen Sholay about 25 times.


  25. Excellent, stunning, mind-blowing post ….. Satyam how much research and time you spent for all these theses ???

    I have spent more than 15 days on sholay, still i couldn’t go beyond 2 pages … 🙂

    Look like it took years for this post .. 😀


  26. awesome post. thanks!!!


  27. What a post ! Mind blowing….Good to know some history around Sholay….
    Nothing more to add on Sholay what others have said here…I saw the movie in a small theatre in one of the remotest place of Orissa in 1987 when i was just 9 years old…Was just blown away after watching the movie…This was my first Bacchan movie and goes without saying i became a huge fan of the AB thereafter…So much so that i wanted Mrityudata to become a big hit and watched the movie first day first show afterv standing about 4 hours in the que..It is only from the year 2005 onwards that my disillusionment with AB have started …


  28. offside,You havent read much of satyam and his arguments.He will prove with his intellectual arguments that a Donkey can fly.
    Actually Sanjeev Kumar might be the main lead according to the script but Dharmendra is the main lead in the film.SK assigns a task and Dharmendra finishes it.
    Last minute changes do happen.There is a sudden importance gives to Amitabh in the climax which I found surprising.Ofcoure R.Sippy considered changing the climax but it was not needed.


    • Donkeys fly in cinema all the time. I wouldn’t even need to prove this!


      • For some reason, there’s no reply option above…

        I reiterate that you’re seeing something quite different as far as the main lead between the two is concerned. We have already taken out the SK factor.

        I seldom get into proving a case. This is no different. It’s absolutely fine that you think Amitabh is the main lead. I’ll just disagree. It’s pointless writing an essay to prove my point.

        Cinema has concrete templates. Easier thing would be to do a poll amongst common people and come up with obvious answer.

        That would be it from my side.


        • The reply option can be used only upto a certain number..

          I am not saying Bachchan IS the lead.. I thought I made that clear.. but nor do I see a case for Dharam either.. finally I did make a case for why Bachchan’s might be considered the more significant role compared to Dharam’s.

          A poll today wouldn’t be worth much when people consider even Anand to be Bachchan’s film!


        • Also I am not ‘seeing’ it differently. I have just made a case. I don’t think Dharam’s role in the film has the symbolic potency Bachchan’s does but I am willing to hear the opposite case.

          And of course as I suggested already there is no scenario where I can call Sholay Bachchan’s film though I could call it Sanjeev’s film or Amjad Khan’s film. This is an overall team effort as Rajen said yesterday. No one can really argue this point. But I was just resisting Sunil’s idea that Dharam is the main hero here.


  29. Fair is fair.I dont think Ramesh Sippy will cast a some unimportant charecter opposite hema malini.Actually Amitabh’s greatness should be seen from the fact that he made the public think it was his film and his role was more important while Dharmendra was supposed to be the hero.About Sanjeev Kumar I already said above.


    • “Actually Amitabh’s greatness should be seen from the fact that he made the public think it was his film and his role was more important while Dharmendra was supposed to be the hero.”

      Your own statement implies Bachchan has priority!


  30. I cant accept what is not true satyam.


    • I’ll try one last time and leave it at that. I am not referring to ‘footage’ here, not even talking about Sippy’s original intention when he was casting for the film but the final result that we have. Let’s agree to disagree though I note that neither you nor Offside have offered me a single reason in favor of the ‘Dharam is the main guy’ argument (i.e. within the pair).


  31. Well, lets leave it at that then.


  32. omrocky786 Says:

    At the time of Sholay’s release- Dharmendra was considered the Hero,no questions about it.
    he gets the girl, he is the one who recommended Amitabh to Ramesh, even in the credits- it is- Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini and then Amitabh Bachchan.
    but as Satyam said Perceptions change, I have seen posters of Sholay in the eightees- where only Amitabh was in the center , all others were shown as sidies.
    Amitanh had the best lines and the better scenes than Dharmendra though,


    • Rocky, The credits are done by seniority so that’s not a suprise here.

      I would though challenge the idea that post Zanjeer and post Namak Haram, let alone ultimately post-Deewar, that Dharam was considered the film’s real hero with Bachchan on the side. This does not appeal to me instinctively. Not just because Ramesh Sippy clearly seems to have put the symbolism on Bachchan’s side (within this male pair). But also because an audience that had been through Namak Haram and had seen Bachchan really getting the better of the reigning superstar would have had a certain impression of Bachchan. Not least Bachchan had had other successes like Benaam and Majboor and Abhimaan leading upto Sholay and really had an impressive record.

      Dharam recommended Bachchan, sure, I find this point extraneous to this debate. About Dharam getting the girl this too I have countered elsewhere in this thread.

      Was Dharam set up as the traditional hero with a traditional lover and so on in the film? Sure! But this most unorthodox of films isn’t really about respecting those traditional film codes. Sanjeev has the sort of central role that normally older characters did not have in such films. Gabbar ran away with the film in many ways but he was also delineated as a very strong character. Again Bachchan has all the symbolic weight on his side. So Dharam serves as the film’s normal reference point except that it is the ‘abnormals’ here that are ultimately privileged.


      • You know Rocky I once ran into someone who was around for the Roti Kapada aur Makaan release and suggested that Bachchan was what drew them into the theater. I thought this was a big joke given his very limited footage in the film but she insisted that for her and her friends that was the big deal.


    • O.K.- at the cost of giving away my age, have to add this-
      Satyam, I remember me and my friends at my boarding school being pissed off that our fav. hero Amitabh has been given the sidie role in Sholay and RKAM. so IMO the perception AT THE TIME OF It’s Release t was that Dharmendra Paa ji was the main lead.
      Now with greater analysis we can all prove that either one of them- Dharam, amitabh, sanjeev, amjad and Hema malini were the main lead.

      as for senior credits- in later movies- Amitabh’s name was always before Hema Malini. LOL!!


      • Agree that the perception was that Dharam was the main lead . also one has to remember that the movie probably would have commenced shooting in 73/74 when definitely Dharam was leading.
        Incidentally in the credits of Ram Balram if I can recollect correctly Bachchan’s name appears before that of Dharam!


        • Nope.. see here at the 6:17 mark:

          In the initial credits all the actors are mentioned, later on Dharam and Amitabh in a different segment. Bollywood always respected seniority for anyone who had relatively major standing. Also there are two issues being confused here. What an audience perceived WHEN Sholay released (for which the shoots in terms of the dates are irrelevant) and what Ramesh Sippy perceived (which then led the film to be structured a certain way).


      • Rocky, because unfortunately there’s a sexist code as well and major female stars almost never get top billing even when they’re senior.

        Note the paradox in your anecdote though.. if you and your friends expected bachchan to be the main show in Sholay (which is odd given that so many males here had very important parts) then you guys already had a sense that he was somehow bigger than Dharam. Otherwise why would you expect this at all? Did anyone expect Bachchan to have more footage in Anand?!

        Also and as I’ve said before I cannot make a case for Bachchan being the MAIN LEAD of Sholay and I’ve said this before. What I can argue for is that Sanjeev was the MAIN LEAD or that Gabbar in a sense was the main lead in a Hollywood sense (which is not Indian). In terms of the traditional Bollywood hero Dharam/Bachchan were the pair. Again note how Bachchan has his spouse in the film and the Dharam/Hema pair was anyway famous. So there is symmetry even in this sense. This is all that I’ve been suggesting. Within this pair of Dharam/Bachchan one cannot argue for the former. But again I am less interested in what anyone intended and far more in what the text of the film reveals. Note how Bachchan wanted to play Gabbar more than anything else and Dharam wanted to do the Thakur (proving some of what I’m suggesting)! Neither one would have done so if they’d felt their own roles were central to the film. Certainly Dharam ought to have been very happy playing veeru.

        Again how much of this Dharam perception to the extent that it existed was shaped by the media which was always anti-Bachchan, even then. But going from the sublime to the ridiculous let me throw in the Dus example. When they started working on the film Dutt was clearly the only star. Post-Dhoom and Yuva and BnB who did audiences really show up for? and who again had symbolically the most important part (death scene et al)?These things happen all the time.

        I would reiterate, the only way one could be disappointed with Bachchan in Sholay is by expecting Sholay to be Zanjeer! As for Roti Kapada aur Makaan there might have been some false advertising here.


        • We are going by the traditionally accepted reasons why an actor is supposed to be the main lead.That is the way to judge 1970s films where the western influennce is very less.

          I have seen sholay full version on zeetv in 2003.
          And I am convinced that Dharam is the main lead and both veeru,jai had equally important parts.
          There is no paradox in this.For those who have been following hindi commercial cinema this is very much possible.

          Dharam wanting to play thakur and bachchan wanting to play gabber is trash.These are all publicity stunts.


          • Bachchan has himself said in interviews he wanted to play Gabbar! On Dharam wanting to play the Thakur I’ve heard this in many places. But the following version is more or less from Anupama Chopra’s book on the film:

            “Initially, `Dharmendra` was keen to play the role of Thakur Baldev Singh. He eventually relented when the director informed him that Sanjeev Kumar would play Veeru if that happened, and would get the heroine. Sanjeev Kumar had just then proposed marriage to Hema Malini. Dharmendra was in love with her and quickly went back to the role of Veeru. “


  33. This is a great post. Thank for your sharing. after i read this, i thing i agree with you.


  34. Thanks omrocky786,you analysed rightly.There is no doubt that Bachchan’s increased importance in the end balances out the importance given to dharmendra through out the film.But the main guy is veeru because he defeats gabber in combat,and finishes the main job.That is only symbolic and not of much importance.Sometimes it is good to have a charecter like jai than veeru which is more impressive.


    • actually Sunil the Dharam/Gabbar combat at the end isn’t really the point of the film. It is only a transitional feature that sets up the Gabbar/Thakur duel which is what the film has been constantly leading upto.


  35. What a fantastic piece!

    Btw, did Dharam utter the now (in)famous dialog “Kutte kamine, main tera khoon pee jaonga” in Sholay?

    I dont know who was the lead or who was not, but only one small fact remains, when it comes to dialogbaazi, Dharam remains famous for this one dialog only. Amjad remains famous for his Sholay dialogs only. Whereas Amitabh can count on Sholay to be one of his 20-odd movies whose dialogs are widely rememebered today.


  36. Mazaaa Aa Gaya, Though I have read Anupama’s book, (still have it on the shelf), Dont think this piece was from there, This a bit more detailed on the falling and then the roaring success of Sholay. Don’t quote me on it though guys, I could be wrong, But again, dont remember her book being as detailed. Wish I could get my hands on the whole book of this writer (if there is any).


  37. Rajendra Patil Says:

    The following statement occus on Wikipedea in its entry “Sholay”:
    However, since actual 70mm cameras were deemed too expensive at the time, the movie instead was shot on traditional 35mm film and the 4:3 picture was subsequently blown up, cropped and matted to a 2.20:1 frame.[13]
    (where ref [13] is “Sholay (1975) Region 0 DVD Review”. thedigitalfix. Retrieved 9 August 2010, which directs to “”)
    I thought the movie was shot in 70 mm. What is the truth? Does anyone know?


  38. and here’s an India Today recap from much later…

    1975-Sholay: 70mm spectacular
    December 17, 2009 | 17:21

    The first Indian film to adopt western techniques told a very Indian vendetta story.

    For one week after the release of Sholay on August 15, 1975, director Ramesh Sippy was a puzzled man. The trade papers had declared it a disaster, reviewers had been more than unkind-India Today’s K.M. Amladi had called it a dead ember-and no one in the audience was either clapping or whistling at even the most powerful dialogues.

    And yet, shows were house full. “I saw that the audience was not reacting at all,” says Sippy. What he failed to realise was that they were actually stunned into silence. A theatre owner in Worli, Mumbai, told him later that people weren’t even buying popcorn in the interval because they were riveted to their seats.

    “It was only in the third week that people were repeating the dialogues and singing the songs,” says Sippy. After six months of declaring it a dud, a trade paper finally woke up and said it had made a mistake. It even became the first Indian film to run in one theatre, Minerva in Mumbai, for five years.

    Developed from a four-line idea that Salim-Javed scripted in 1973, the story was first offered to Manmohan Desai. He ignored it and Sippy, the 26-year-old filmmaker who had made Seeta aur Geeta, took it on. Danny Denzongpa was set to play Gabbar Singh but pulled out due to date problems.

    Shatrughan Sinha was initially being considered for Jai but Sippy had his reservations. The film already had too many stars. Amitabh Bachchan was just starting out. It’s a different thing that by the time the film released two years later, Bachchan had become box office gold thanks to Zanjeer and Deewar. A week before the Indian release the filmmakers decided to have a screening at the Odeon Marble Arch in London. The Indian high commissioner was also invited.

    “He was courteous but his tone was guarded,” recalls Sippy. This was the time when Emergency was declared and the director didn’t want to take chances. Acting on instinct, Sippy cancelled the show but reached the venue. As if on cue, officers zeroed in to arrest Sippy but backed off when they saw the show had been called off.

    “We later realised that the fine print said the sealed reel could only be opened in India,” he says. It was because of this political climate that Sholay didn’t end the way Sippy wanted it to. The ending shot originally had Thakur kick Gabbar to death. But the Central Board of Film Certification didn’t want a former police officer killing a dacoit for personal vendetta. They wanted the police to arrest Gabbar alive. The film’s cult status gets reaffirmed when music channels continue to spoof the characters, including Dhanno; when advertisements still allude to Gabbar; and when 20-year-olds, who weren’t even born in 1975, declare with as much force, “Arre O Saambha, kitne aadmi the?”


  39. OMG….I LOVED THIS BLOG POST….absolutely loved reading every line of it!!! What a great hidden treasure..a complete gem…!! Everything on Amjad Khan, Sippy, Bachchan and Sholay itself is priceless.
    Thanks for posting Satyam.


  40. Rajendra Patil Says:

    I did not see this scene in the original Sholay:

    where Dharmendra and Amitabh are sporting (working?) in the jail–probably in a quarry–Dharmendra holding a pod on his head, a truck being loaded in the background.
    Was this scene cut? Why?


  41. Rajendra Patil Says:

    I always believed that the quality of pictures in Sholay was very high. I noticed that all the images were so clear! I had wondered what the reason was. I used to say, “for sure, the technique of shooting itself must have been different than that for other movies.” My naïve mind reasoned that they must have shot only in the afternoons (for more light and clear picture). Now I know, it could not have been that way, because they had very busy and prolonged schedules.
    I am also being told now that the 70 mm picture was “blown up” from the 35 mm camera! Then how was the picture quality so good? What technique(s) did they use?
    Does anyone know the answer?


  42. Rajendra Patil Says:

    Will anyone answer my (above) question?


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