Sholay in 3D, powered by Rishtey CINEPLEX, which is presented by Bollywood Fever, had the largest indoor 3D screening of a Bollywood movie ever to take place in the UK. A custom-made screen was erected at The ICC Birmingham on Saturday March 17th and Sunday March 18th 2018, that show cased Sholay, one of India’s most iconic, most loved films, like never before.
We had our film reviewer to attend this event, check out his Sholay 3D Film Review at the ICC Birmingham…
Sholay (‘Flames’) is unquestionably the most beloved and famous Bollywood film ever made. It is perhaps Indian cinema’s ultimate masala movie – a glorious mixture of action, drama, comedy and romance that forms a strangely cohesive whole being as it is part extravagant musical with its many colourful song-and-dance numbers and part spaghetti western with its Magnificent Seven-inspired plot. Now we have the film remastered in 3D. Sholay still remains an exhilarating slice of entertainment and is one of the few motion pictures from Bollywood’s crazy 1970s era to look as impressive today as it did forty three years ago.
Two petty crooks – the scruffy, fun-loving Veeru (Dharmendra) and the tall, brooding Jaidev (Amitabh Bachchan) – are back in jail for the umpteenth time after an extended run from the police. One day, they are unexpectedly released on orders from retired police chief ‘Takhur’ Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar), who remembers the twosome from an encounter years ago on a goods train when they saved his life in assisting him thwart a siege by bandits. Baldev Singh offers Veeru and Jai a hefty reward of 50,000 rupees for the capture of a wanted outlaw – the maniacal Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan), a man they later learn murdered the Takhur’s family before mutilating him by chopping both his arms off. Arriving at the Takhur’s rural village, the remote settlement of Ramgarh which Gabbar Singh is terrorising, Veeru and Jai soon fall in love with two village belles. Veeru with feisty chatterbox Basanti (Hema Malini) and Jai with the Takur’s daughter-in-law Radha (Jaya Bhaduri) – a once-carefree girl, now a dispirited widow after the death of her husband under Gabbar Singh’s tyranny. As Gabbar and his bandits continue to wreak havoc on the village, Veeru and Jai vow to put an end to him and his loathsome followers..
Sholay was produced all the way back in 1975, holds up superbly with its gritty, realistic fight scenes that blew away everything being made at the time in India. Ramesh Sippy’s direction was innovative in that violence had never looked better on Indian silver screens, yet its deglamourisation meant that it also looked anything but pretty. No superhuman leaps, no razzmatazz: just rough, down ‘n’ dirty brawls. The film’s highlight is its slickly-edited opening action sequence aboard a train that rivals anything Hollywood westerns have offered in terms of sheer adrenaline-pumping excitement.
Among Sholay’s cast, it is difficult to decide upon who steals the show more as almost everyone involved has given career-defining performances. The late Sanjeev Kumar was still in his 30s when he donned his grey wig and moustache to play the ageing Takhur Baldev Singh. One of Indian cinema’s few performers to shun a screen persona in favour of immersing himself in completely different characters, Kumar is almost unrecognisable in Sholay with his cherubic babyface hidden under his make-up. The movie’s final battle between Gabbar Singh and an armless Takhur could easily descend into farce, but Kumar’s confident performance ensures the scene retains its suspense.
Dharmendra had been a huge star in both romantic and action movies for over a decade by the time Sholay rolled around, but it was in his role as Veeru that his flair for comedy was fully exploited. Indeed, Dharmendra is hilarious as the drunken Veeru vying for the uninterested Basanti’s affections. Life also imitated art on the set as Dharmdenra fell in love with Hema Malini during the film’s shooting and is said to have bribed the camera crew to purposely botch takes so he could cuddle his future wife a few more times.
As evidenced by his fourth credit billing, Amitabh Bachchan in 1975 had not yet quite achieved the unmatched level of megastardom he would soon attain, but his role of Jai is regarded as one of Bachchan’s early defining star appearances alongside 1973’s Zanjeer and 75’s Deewaar. In Sholay, it isn’t hard to comprehend why ‘The Big B’ has earned such iconic status over the years as he simply exudes cool with an understated charisma, a smooth command of action and even a knack for deadpan comedy.
Sholay was both the making and, one might say, the ruination of Amjad Khan’s acting profession. So convincing and accomplished was Khan at portraying the utterly detestable villain Gabbar Singh that it became almost always impossible for audiences to accept the actor as anything but the baddie for the rest of his career. Khan never complained, however, as he remained grateful for the success he achieved. The character of Gabbar Singh was also one of Hindi cinema’s most unique creations as Bollywood bad guys had previously usually been played with some degree of suave and sophistication by the likes of Pran, but there was zero civility to be found in the demeanour of nasty Gabbar. Here was a greasy, grubby, gross beast with no redeeming qualities whatsoever – he was and still is Indian cinema’s all-time biggest and best bastard.
The heroines of Sholay, Hema Malini and Jaya Bhaduri, receive less screen time than their male counterparts. Jaya has barely any dialogue at all in the movie in fact, while Hema receives a better chance to shine, although it would always be hard for her to top her award-winning turn in her tailor-made vehicle Seeta Aur Geeta. Providing the film’s music is R.D. Burman, Bollywood’s most popular composer throughout the sixties and seventies. Burman’s filmy songs, frequently consisting of a heavy dose of Western (not the spaghetti kind) beats and melodies, were known for their irresistible catchiness and while Sholay is far from his best work, the soundtrack does feature two bona fide instant classics. The first, ‘Yeh Dosti’ (‘This Friendship’), is a foot-tapping road anthem picturized memorably on Amitabh Bachchan and, with harmonica in hand, Dharmendra driving wildly down a highway on their stolen motorcycle in a well-choreographed sequence. And also, ‘Mehbooba’ (‘Beloved’) – a thumping psychedelic number filled with Arabian riffs and sung by Burman himself that sees sex siren Helen make a cameo appearance as a gyrating belly dancer in a gypsy camp.
Today, those who are viewing Sholay for the first time may not initially realise the kind of impact the picture has had over the years. It has earned a cult status the likes of which have never been seen before or since. The film was amazingly set to be declared a flop upon its release due to the early receptions it was receiving from shocked audiences who were in awe at what they were witnessing on screen. Critics deemed its narrative as too alien to Indian culture for the film to succeed, but word-of-mouth had already spread and Sholay soon ended up breaking box office records, going on to run non-stop in theatres for five years straight – a feat not bettered until 1995’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge 20 years later.
For India’s disillusioned population, the movie’s rebellious tone was a potent antidote to the country’s depressing political climate in 1975, at which time corruption was rife and constitutional rights had been suspended. In addition, many Bollywood clichés are notably absent in the film, particularly with a lack of overstated ‘family values’. Social stigmas were dealt a blow with the character of Radha being encouraged to re-marry instead of living a life of solitude, as society would have her do. Jokes are even made by Jai at Veeru’s propensity for gambling, boozing and visiting whorehouses – all traits that were usually associated with Bollywood villains brainwashed by the ‘evil’ ways of the West. Clean-cut heroes were definitely out and anti-heroes were very much in.
Even now, Sholay continues to be a phenomenon like no other. Much like The Wizard Of Oz, every scene has become a classic and each line of dialogue can be quoted by its fans. For those who’ve already watched and loved it, no amount of subsequent viewings will diminish the enjoyment and for those who haven’t seen it, it will be an excellent example of Bollywood masala at its best. Either way, for newcomers or long-time fans,
Sholay 3D is essential viewing as an all time classic.But what lets the film down is that the new sound and music recorded for this new version lets the full enjoyment being missed.