Movie Report: Sholay

by Padmini Jha


Directed by: Ramesh Sippy

Release Date: 15th August 1975

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmender, Amjad Khan

One of the legendary movies in Indian cinema “Sholay” was released in 1975.The time this movie was released there was an emergency period in India. Often described as India’s best known “masala”, Sholay was ‘patterned’ on western but the addition of romance, comedy, and songs gave it the ambiance that one expects of a Hindi film. Sholay had all the elements of a Western – rugged countryside (the film was shot in the rocky landscape of Ramgarh a small village about 30 miles from Bangalore), bandits on horseback, fierce gun fights etc.

The plot sounds very simple on paper. Notorious dacoit Gabbar escapes jail but he is enraged at the man who put him there in the first place- Thakur. As an act of revenge, Gabbar and his followers kill Thakur´s entire family (except for his daughter-in-law who was not present there but was in the temple at the time the incident took place). Now Thakur wants to bring Gabbar to justice. After his arms are lost he has to come out of the police force. Therefore, he employs the help of two brave but badmaash layabouts, Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra), to bring Gabbar to him with strict dialogue saying “Alive Not Dead”.

Sholay allows suspense to build-up through several characters. Gabbar does not make his screen appearance until after one song and a lot of scenes have gone past. Even then his face is not shown immediately at first. The sound of shoes clashing onto the rock signifies Gabbar’s entrance. This is a comment on the power that he wields over his yes-men. Sanjeev and Jaya bhaduri (who plays Radha, Thakur’s widowed daughter-in-law) give powerfully understated performances. But one of the reasons why all the actors shine in their roles is that their characters can easily be distinguished from one another. Each of the characters possess individual traits we can identify them with. There is the silent sarcasm inherent in Jai’s character. Veeru’s childish sense of humor, Basanti’s habit of talking too much. Thakur’s sincerity and determination.

Silence is something that the director uses very well in the movie. It serves as a way of understating the violence in scenes where slaughter occurs. Like when the dacoits spot a boy from Ramgarh riding on his horse. They intend to capture him and bring him to Gabbar. They creep up to the boy silently. The next scene shows Gabbar squashing a fly on his arm- an act that represents the death of the boy. To a certain extent, the musical numbers tend to be overshadowed by the famous dialogues and action scenes but, nevertheless, everyone has their own particular favorite. Each song has become an anthem for a certain theme. Ask someone to name a friendship song and it is more than likely that “Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin Todenge” will be mentioned. Likewise, “Holi Ke Din” is also a favorite as a song to listen to on the occasion of Holi.

Clearly, modernism does not exist in the outback of Ramgarh. This proves too much for Basanti (who shows a rebellious streak by working as a tangewali, which she herself admits is unusual for a girl) and Veeru, both who eventually leave the village so that they can live their lives as they wish in a more tolerant place.The success of the movie can be attributed to perhaps the way it was able to blend the various items or ‘masalas’ required in a Hindi film in exactly the right doses. Practically every scene, dialogue and even a small character was a highlight. Even Dhanno, the horse of the tangewali, Hema Malini is remembered till today! Every small character be it the Jailor (Asrani) with the dialogue aadhe ustaraf, aadhe istarf aur baki mere saath chalo, Mausi (Leela Mishra) or Sambha (Mac Mohan) – they have put on mark in the viewer’s mind.

Basanti complains to Jai and Veeru, “Tum shaherwale samajhte ho ke hum gaonwale ka akal hai nahin (You city people think that we have no brains)”. Her thought nails the argument of city versus village that lies in the subtext of “Sholay”. Jai and Veeru are outsiders to the locals of Ramgarh. To the villagers, they represent change and the symbol for a happier and progressive future. However, they are also an antithesis to traditionalism. Basanti’s aunt refuses to allow her marriage to Veeru go ahead because he lacks any redeeming qualities from an educationary or financial perspective. Elders are respected tremendously in Ramgarh but Veeru’s refusal to accept Basanti’s guardian’s final decision shows a rebellious streak inside him against tradition. The only way he finally wins her hand in marriage is by getting drunk and making a hilarious attempt to commit suicide in Basanti’s name. In rural parts of India, widows are still stigmatized and treated as society outcastes. Jai dares to break this rule by asking for Thakur’s permission to let Radha marry again. The narrative does not let Jai see happiness by breaking this tradition. Nature intervenes and takes Jai’s life away leaving Radha broken-hearted once more. At this point, fate and nature concurs with traditionalism.

Some of the most memorable diaologues:

 – “Arre o Saambha, kitne aadmi they? 

– “Bahut yaaraana lagta hai, eh? ”

– “Khota sikka to dono taraf se khota hota hai “

– “Wohi kar raha hoon bhaiya jo Majnu ne Laila ke liye kiya tha, Ranjha ne Heer ke liye tha, Romeo ne      Juliet ke liye tha… SOOSIDE “

–  “Tumhara naam kya hai Basanti?

– “Saala nautanki, ghadi ghadi drama karta hai 

 Some of the Hit and most popular songs from Sholay:

 1.             “Sholay”  – Rahul Dev Burman

2.             “Yeh Dosti”- Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey

3.             “Haa Jab Tak Hai Jaan”-        Lata Mangeshkar

4.             “Koi Haseena”- Kishore Kumar and Hema Malini

5.             “Holi Ke Din’ – Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar

6.             “Mehbooba Mehbooba” – Rahul Dev Burma

Critical response

According to critiques “Sholay” was an unsuccessful mixing of Western style with Indian milieu, making it an “imitation western—neither here nor there. It is also been looked as a revolution in the Hindi filmmaking with professionalism to Indian Script writing as well.

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