Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sholay (1975)

Puh! Three and half hours later and I've finally watched India's most beloved super-hit ever, Ramesh Sippy's Sholay! From the beginning (the first weekend more or less) considered a huge flop and they even planned to shoot a new ending, a happier one, to attract more audience. But the word of mouth spread fast and soon it was the biggest hit ever! It played in Indian cinemas for many years and I think it played, at one cinema, up until 2007! That's friggin' amzaing. So of course I had to watch it to see what it all was about! So was it worth the watch? Let's see....

Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan is Veeru and Jai, two cunning criminals and sometimes even gentlemen. After being caught by Inspector Thakur (Sanjeev Kumar) they spend some years in prison, under a Hitler-styled hysterical warden, and tries to escape from time to time. When they finally get out Thakur is waiting for them. He's not a police anymore and wants to hire them to catch a bandit, the evil Gabbar (Amjad Khan), alive so he himself can kill him! Gabbar killed his whole family and the only one's he think is brave and skilled enough to catch Gabbar is our heroes. Reluctantly, after being offered a healthy amount of money, they agree - but soon find themselves protecting a whole village from the bandits!

What to write about a movie that's been analyzed, turned inside-out, remaked, spoofed, celebrated and for a moment even considered to have a 3D conversion for a new release in cinemas? Well, I have no fucking idea except that I can understand that it became such a big hit. Here we have over three hours that feels like one hour, seriously. There's not one boring second and the story actually struggles along really good, without jumping around too much in genres or having too many musical numbers. Sholay is basically a western, a spaghetti western done the curry way.

From the opening action scene, a train robbery that is extremely spectacular (it took 20 days to shoot) with lots of stunts and fighting and of course a big explosion in the end to the numerous shootouts and fights along the way to the dramatic and sad ending. Much of the success is built upon the sparks between Dharmendra and Ambitabh, which also makes this a typical buddy movie of the best kind. Maybe it references Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid here? Another sequences is a successful homage to Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, who manages to do that without just ripping the original scene angle for angle. If it works for the story, that's what matters in the end.

I'm always amazed when watching action scenes in Indian movies. It really doesn't matter if the movie is cheap and crappy, or a big budget extravaganza like this, the action is always totally over-the-top. Why? I guess to deliver as much entertainment as possible to the audience that will sit there for a couple of hours. Sholay has also very complicated scenes with a lot of stuntmen involved, lots of advanced editing, squibs (the first thing that would suffer if this was a cheap movie) and a creative you're-there-with-the-characters angles and set-ups. I'm always happy when the stuntman do what ever they can to not fall right into the camera. That's passion!

Sholay is a masterpiece, without a doubt. It has enough action and drama to keep the energy up for three and half hours. Not many movies can succeed with that!


Anonymous said...

One of the first Bollywood I've seen, and I can still remember the feeling. Cult.

SMS said...

Ramesh Sippy was a doctor of Sholay besides being family. The grand kids were not born or involved in a ny aspect of the film Sholay and are just copyright inherotors by way of succession. Ramesh has succession rights that have more value than the grand kids hierarchically speaking. And additional stakes as director creatively speaking. Besides responsibility to all other minor shareholders whose faith in Ramesh Sippy might tilt the balance in his favor for treatment of the classic.