Almost every fan of Bollywood movies has probably seen Sholay at some point of time but Pakistanis will finally have a chance to see it on the big screen when it hits theatres on March 20, nearly four decades after its release.
Nadeem Mandviwalla, the owner of Karachi-based Mandiwalla Entertainment, said it had always been a personal dream of his to put the iconic 1975 film on the big screen in Pakistan.
"Yeh mera eik shauq tha and I kep pushing for it. I’ve seen it myself 15-20 times and this is a movie that really resonated with people of my generation. When Sholay was released in 3D last year, we tried to make a deal for it but it didn’t go through," Mandviwalla told Hindustan Times on phone.
"Now the date has been finalised and we have locked it for release on March 20."
Indian films are a big hit with the Bollywood-crazy people of Pakistan and most movie buffs across the border have watched cable broadcasts or pirated DVDs of Sholay.
But Mandviwalla, one of Pakistan’s leading film distributors, remains hopeful that the film directed by Ramesh Sippy and starring Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra, will attract a new generation of fans who will be eager to watch it on the big screen.
"In the case of old movies, we have learnt that there isn’t much excitement because they are out on DVD or on television. But Sholay was made for the big screen. It is so iconic because it is not meant to be seen on television. Pakistan has not seen it on the big screen and we’re hoping to take advantage of this fact," he said.
In 2006, when former president Pervez Musharraf finally lifted a ban on the screening of Indian films that was imposed after the 1965 war, it was Mandviwalla who led the charge by releasing the colourised version of another Bollywood classic, Mughal-e-Azam.
Since then, Bollywood films have became a staple on Pakistani screens and even fuelled a drive to build more multiplexes across the country despite protests from producers and directors in Lahore, who have complained that their movies were no longer finding audiences.
Several Bollywood productions have also been banned by Pakistan’s censors for their "negative" portrayal of Muslims or for their depiction of the country’s powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence. Among these films are Akshay Kumar’s Baby, Haider, which focussed on the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, Salman Khan’s Ek Tha Tiger, which had Katrina Kaif as an ISI agent, and Agent Vinod, which had Saif Ali Khan as an Indian spy taking on ISI operatives.
Mandviwalla said his firm is yet to decide whether to give Sholay a limited or wide release. "We will put out both the 2D and 3D versions. It is an older movie so we will have to use a different strategy for its marketing. It may be a limited release so that it can have a sustenance value in theatres. It will be competing with newer films but if there is only one show but it can be sustained, it’ll be fine.
"I have a biased opinion about ‘Sholay’ but the biggest question is can we get the younger people excited enough to watch it. Will my son connect to it in the same way that I did or will he say ‘I’ll watch it at home’," he said with a laugh.
Given that Mughal-e-Azam was a huge hit about a decade ago, Mandviwalla is hopeful that Sholay – which is about two petty criminals hired by a retired police officer to hunt down the ruthless dacoit Gabbar Singh – too will do roaring business.