When Sholay was trashed

August 15, 2010 1 By Noyon Jyoti Parasara

This issue of Fried Eye happens to come out on quite a day. Apart from being the 63rd Indian Independence day, the day also happens to complete 35 years of presence of Sholay in our lives. The film released on August 15, 1975. Interestingly there are many known and unknown stories that have been a part of the Sholay journey.


Even as people today are struggling to get budgets right and doing everything possible to keep business sensibilities intact, GP Sippy backed his son Ramesh Sippy as the latter went about shooting the film. Sholay was supposed to be an expensive film initially budgeted at Rs 1.5 crore. But by the time it was complete the budget had gone up to Rs 3 crore. While Ramesh Sippy admits that he did get nervous about the budget his father blindly trusted his son. “The film would have never been possible if the producer was not my father. He agreed on spending more money in love for his son!” Sippy told me once.

When Sholay released it was quickly packed away by the critics saying it was a bombastic mistake on GP Sippy’s part to invest such huge money on a movie which was neither Indian nor western. Sholay was indeed heavily inspired by movies like Akira Kurosawa’s Roshomon and John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven. The film was to become a flop. The biggest magazine slammed Sholay. In fact a trade analyst BK Adarsh, the father of now famous Taran Adarsh, had run a series of articles in his magazine for six weeks dissecting the movie and stating why it would be the colossal failure in Indian filmdom. Funnily enough even as the series came to an end, the film gathered pace at the box office – a pace that didn’t slow down for over a year. The movie went on to become the biggest hit of Bollywood ever and also ran at continuously at the Minerva theatre (Mumbai) for over five years, breaking all previous records.

Today Sholay stands tall among all multi-star movies. It made a small village called Ramanagara in Karnataka a tourist location, it gave directors like Ram Gopal Varma learning’s of a life time and has given audiences like us a great source of entertainment and inspiration. This is probably one film which probably every average Indian must have watched at least once.

Looking back at it the man behind Sholay – Ramesh Sippy admits, “It’s a lot of mixed feelings. It feels great, humbling and frightening. Frightening because once you have created something like this, it’s very difficult to recreate it. To take a film to that level that it becomes a myth and a part of India psyche, where all the characters have become legends… you don’t know. You certainly can’t plan a phenomenon.” How true is that! And who better to comment on the movie than Rajnikanth – one of the biggest stars of India cinema ever. “Sholay worked not because of one star or the huge budget for those times. Sholay worked because of the story and the connect with the audience, something that still exists and promises not to wither,” he says. Ram Gopal Varma concludes saying, “Why is it that Sholay doesn’t age? It just seems to stand still at the “pause” button of a Cinematic era for the last 35 years without aging one bit and I won’t be surprised if it stays that way for still another 35 years if not another 70 years.”

Some trivia about Sholay

1) Shatrughan Sinha was to play the character of Jai before Amitabh Bachchan stepped in on Dharmendra’s recommendation.

2) Danny Danzongpa was approached play Gabbar Singh but he declined the offer as he was doing another movie where he played a bandit.

3) Manmohan Desai and not Ramesh Sippy was not first director that writers Salim-Javed approached with the idea of the film.

4) Best Film in last 50 years from Filmfare, the same magazine which trashed the film when it released.

5) Held the record of biggest grosser for 15 years before Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge beat it.

6) Got just one award – The best editing award in the year of release.

7) The village Ramgarh was created in a village called Ramanagaram which lies between Bengaluru and Mysore.

8 ) The first schedule of the movie had to be cancelled as it was raining in Karnataka and it became impossible to shoot in the weather

9) It is referred to as the first Indian movie with stereophonic soundtrack. No earlier history of stereophonic sound is recorded in Bollywood.

10) It ran for 286 weeks straight (more than five years) in the Minerva theatre of Mumbai.

11) Gabbar Singh was modeled on a real-life dacoit of the same name who menaced the villages around Gwalior in the 1950s. He terrorized the local police. Any policeman captured by the real Gabbar Singh had his ears and nose cut off, and was then released as an object lesson to other policemen.

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