‘Sholay’ in the age of bullet train
Even movies evolve, since the audience matures and its preferences change. Even a cult film such as ‘Sholay’ might fail to sweep the nation again, as the era of dacoits riding the galloping horses and competing with a speeding train is long gone. No Dhanno can outrun the superfast trains of today. It is another matter that the old Sholay is still popular, courtesy the mimicry artistes.
Out of the old movies, the ones close to our culture still make us nostalgic and sentimental. All the romancing screen couples of yesteryears acted with grace and respect for family values. For today’s dating (mating) lead characters, conning and cheating the partner is no issue. The new cinema glorifies the mad race for money. A film’s worth today is measured not by its creative idea but by the amount that goes into its making. Gabbar, Sholay’s dreaded dacoit who could give sleepless nights to children 50 miles far, would want to shoot himself today. The reward on his head was just Rs50,000.
I miss out-of-the-world villains such as Shakaal and Mogambo, who killed by remote control, and would take a superhuman to eliminate. Much before they became real, they struck fear in us as the camera zoomed to their boots when they alighted from luxury cars or helicopters. The automatic doors of their mansions opening and shutting; and captives dropping into crocodile waters through a hole opened under their chairs when the baddie pressed a switch on the arm of his mega chair were a thrill to watch then. We’d keep an eye on the villain’s wrist watch, from which he could launch nuclear missiles, and pray that he never pressed that red buttons.
Can we forget the never-ending spiral staircase in the bungalow of the heroine’s rich ‘baap’? The steps were for two purposes — for the heroine’s father to walk down in a long gown, with cigar between his lips; and for the heroine to descend, adorned like a fairy, into the party downstairs, where the hero crooned on a dummy piano surrounded by girls in bell bottoms and floral-print frocks. We loved it when the sari-clad heroine would walk towards us holding a ‘thaali’, only to be greeted by some bad news, at which the platter would come crashing on the floor, followed by a long shriek: “Naheeeee!”
The emotions of the twins separated at birth were also memorable. The clever screenwriter would exploit Indian sentiments to the maximum. He’d bring the brothers closer many times but reserve the reunion for the end. If the audience wept when the siblings got back together, the film was a hit. I’m surprised how this formula clicked in the age of Facebook and WhatsApp, and the audience was made to believe that Rancho’s engineer mates in ‘3 Idiots’ took years to trace the famous inventor. But in Indian cinema, sentiments have always lorded over rationality.
The writer is a medical technologist based in Chandigarh