When I blogged about Sholay’s 3D version in August last, I promised myself I’d see the first show. That didn’t happen, but I did see the movie on its fifth day.
Ok. I admit it. I went to see Sholay-3D because I wanted to see Helen in 3D, gyrating to ‘Mehbooba, mehbooba’.
Of course, everyone knows that RD Burman’s Mehbooba, mehbooba is a direct copy of a Greek song called Ta Rialia, composed by Cypriot singer Michael Volaris. And there are several other aspects of India’s most successful movie that are not original.
But hey, don’t you dare say anything bad about Sholay!
Almost four decades have gone by. Four decades. And not one, but two generations of Indians have been born since Sholay first hit the screens, but Sholay is still Sholay.
These days when I watch a movie, I’m usually the oldest guy in the theater. But this time almost everyone in the audience was my age. All nostalgia buffs like me, all of us had seen Sholay several times, and all of us knew each scene, each dialog, each lyric by heart.
I first saw Sholay in 1975, during my school days. I last saw it in 1983 during my postgrad days. In the intervening eight years, I lost count of how many times I saw the movie (especially at Minerva Talkies, Bombay, where it continuously ran for six years).
And today, after thirty years, I was young again, as I thoroughly enjoyed the 3D version of Ramesh and GP Sippy’s immortal contribution to Indian cinema.
Considering that Sholay dates back to 1975 and was obviously never made with the intention of converting it into 3D format forty years later, the Sippys have done a creditable job.
The 3D effect is quite impressive, the color is rich and the surround-sound is good. What I love about digital movies is the absence of scratches and flecks of noise. Sholay-3D has a nice fresh look. I found it easy to convince myself that the movie was made just yesterday – and that I was twenty again.
Some visual and sound effects have been digitally added, like bullets and debris flying into the viewer’s face and that sort of thing. As a result, there are a couple of glitches here and there, but the late Dwarka Divecha’s original cinematography is still as awesome as it was in 1975.
Let today’s kids rave about Dhoom 3. Sholay was made in 1975 remember. No fancy software, no CGI, no digital tomfoolery. Divecha did not even have proper 70 mm cameras. He used ordinary 35 mm cameras and manually converted the entire movie to 70 mm format, to produce the stunning visuals of Sholay.
The stunts in Sholay are very real. The actors and the horses really tumble down in a horrifying manner, bricks and mortar really go flying, bombs really explode. I always remember the scene in which a mother desperately runs behind her infant as thundering horsemen chase her down to a crashing fall. And one learns that real bullets were used in some scenes, one of which almost hit Bachchan. That is the real stuff.
Sholay was not filmed in an exotic firangi location with half-clad videshi dinchak females in every shot. Sholay is absolutely desi, filmed in Ramanagaram, near Bangalore. Ramanagaram is now a congested suburb of Bangalore city, but Gabbar Singh’s rocky den is still there, more or less. That place is the abode of the critically endangered Long-billed vulture, and is now protected by the government.
In 1975, Ramanagaram was a small village, surrounded by rocky hills. Divecha’s deft camera work nicely captured the wild beauty of Ramanagaram, and is another reason why I love watching Sholay.
Many members of the original cast are dead now, but it is nice to see them in their young days, and in 3D at that. Hema Malini is simply beautiful, her oversized wig notwithstanding. Garam Dharam looks quite garam in his role as the garrulous, fun-loving Veeru, while Amitabh Bachchan as the brooding Jay is just as memorable. The late Haribhai (Sanjeev Kumar) as the armless Thakur is excellent as is Jaya Bhaduri as the tragic widow, and the cameo roles by Jagdeep and Asrani are still hilarious.
But for me, Sholay is about one character – Gabbar Singh. He gave me nightmares thirty years ago, and now in 3D, he is even more menacing.
Sholay is all about legends – how Amjad Khan spent months in the Chambal valley studying real dacoits, how Amitabh Bachchan was almost rejected for the movie, how Dharam bribed the filming crew to deliberately mess up his scenes with Hema so that he could hug her repeatedly, how Hema Malini ensured that there were no scenes with her and Sanjeev Kumar because she had turned down his marriage proposal, how Macmohan travelled twenty seven times from Bombay to Ramanagaram to dub his dialogs, all of which were finally deleted from the movie – except for the single line that made him famous – Poore pachaas hazaar.
Several scenes were removed and the climax had to be entirely re-shot, because the Censor Board at that time felt that those scenes were too violent for Indian audiences. You can see the original climax in which the Thakur brutally slays Gabbar Singh, here.
I presented some more interesting facts about Sholay in an earlier blogpost, that you can have a look at if you wish.
All I can say is, after watching Sholay yesterday, thirty years after I last saw it, I came out of the theater with the same feeling – Paisa vasool ho gaya!
So go watch it guys. And take your kids along. Maybe they’ll understand what a real classic looks like.
Classics are never re-made. Classics can be refurbished, refreshed, and re-released. But never re-made.
Shri Ramgopal Verma, please note!
Cheers … Srini.