Saturday, July 11, 2020
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Revisiting the 1975 hit Sholay

The year was 1978 and I remember two kids waiting eagerly for their treat — a trip to the cinema.

Dubai in those days had a limited source of entertainment, especially for the Hindi- and Urdu- speaking population. Films were it.

So here we were, waiting for Dad to fetch us. For some reason he couldn’t get away on time that day. He came home and promised to take us to watch a “much better” film soon.

The film was Bollywood magnum opus Sholay, which released soon after. I have a sketchy recollection of watching the film in the theatre. I remember how scary Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) and those nail-studded mojris (leather shoes) that Thakur (Sanjeev Kumar) wore were to the seven-year-old me. I remember laughing aloud when Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmemdra) arrived at Soorma Bhopali’s lumber yard and the romantic song Koi haseena jab rooth jaati hai on Basanti’s (Hema Malini) tonga.

These were indelible images, reinforced by UAE television over the next year or so. The film was so liked by Emiratis that every other weekend film al Hindi Sholay was screened on the channels, which showed mainly Arabic programmes except for the weekly Bollywood or the occasional Hollywood film.

Watching Sholay, for me, is like eating hot dal-chawal (tempered lentils and rice) with a dollop of ghee (clarified butter) — the ultimate Indian comfort food.

So the thought of a 3D version of the film was quite appealing (remember the climax scene when Thakur’s nail-studded mojri was centimetres away from Gabbar’s face?) But be it Titanic or Lion King, I’ve not found any 3D-revised film appealing. Somehow the effect isn’t the same as an original 3D film. The same goes for Sholay. However much one might try, you cannot change the technical quality of the print and so the film seems fuzzy at times and visual effects seem absurd.

However, there’s no denying that this has given diehard fans a chance to view India’s first 70mm production once again on the big screen.

Due credit must be given to the creativity and genius of the original makers of this epic film. The whistle-worthy dialogues by Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, R.D. Burman’s foot-tapping music and Ramesh Sippy’s awesome direction is what makes Sholay the cult film it is — nothing that new-fangled technology can enhance or take away from.