Over the years, Sholay has become more than just a movie. It’s been celebrated, analysed, formed the subject of dissertations in film and cultural studies.
It has more recalled punch lines than in arguably any other Hindi film that, along with characters like Gabbar and Thakur, have established their place in pop culture, and on funky coasters and shot glasses. It was a roaring success when it released in 1975 — a creative high point in the good-versus-evil sub-genre; with elements and stylisation liberally borrowed from Western Hollywood films of the 1960s, but adapted deftly to the Indian setting.
It plays out in a village, has roguish heroes who are flawed but capable of outdoing themselves, a gangster who is all evil, and, an ultimate showdown following protracted, high-pitched emotional drama.
As it re-releases now, it is more an opportunity to relive the nostalgia than to discover Sholay. The only thing it can be judged on, then, is the added effect: the 3D.
The opening credits leap off the screen, as does the train reaching Ramgarh in the opening shot. But you soon realise that a majority of the scenes appear to be in 2D. As with any upconverted 3D film, the images are brighter without the glasses. So we couldn’t resist taking them off, and putting them back on during action sequences.
Most of the thrill the 3D adds comes in moments where things are getting blown up or shot at. So, as Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) shoots a pair of handcuffs off Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra), it splinters and flies straight at you. But the effects get predictable as the 3D keeps bringing elements — from bits of wood to rock to an entire bucket — to life.
So, go see Sholay only because it’s an opportunity to see it again on the big screen, to see a young Amitabh and Dharmendra, and to introduce your kids to it. They might complain it’s a bit long (close to three and a half hours), but the gimmick of 3D should help convince them to come along.