Ramesh Sippy's Sholay, the most successful cult Bollywood film, turned 35 today. The film, which was released on August 15, 1975, opened to lukewarm response but soon the word of mouth spread and the rest was history
Sholay was Ramesh Sippy's third film and the most ambitious to date as it included a galaxy of stars.
Dharmendra and Hema Malini were one of the leading pairs of the 70s, Sanjeev Kumar was a versatile actor, Amitabh Bachchan was a rising star who had proved himself in Anand and Zanjeer and Jaya Bahaduri was an established actress.
Also, there was the biggest sensation of all, Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singh, the ferocious dacoit. The audiences lapped up Gabbar, imitating him, loving him and completely ignoring his mean streak once they stepped out of the cinema hall.
An entire generation of youth which has grown along with the film cannot help but recall the mesmerising effect the movie had cast on them during their growing years.
The main plot is simple... a police officer loses his entire family and has his hands chopped off after he arrests a dreaded dacoit. He then hires two mercenaries to carry out his revenge, which they achieve but one of them dies in the process.
But, Sholay's mastery lay in its sub plots and minor characters, all of which were etched out with the greatest of detail and completeness, says Mahesh Sarang, a 35-year-old computer engineer who has lost count of the number of time he watched the movie in theatres when he was young and now too on television.
There isn't a single unnecessary line or shot, every thing is well connected and the intensity never drops, said V K Srivastava, a retired banker.
He said Sippy uses silence to devastating effect. There is no background music in the scene of Sachin's death and another terrifying scene after Gabbar has shot Thakur's entire family dead, takes place in spine chilling silence.
Another sequence was of Gabbar in his hideout taunting three of his men for a failed mission. He removes three of the six bullets from his gun and holds the barrel of the gun to a man's temple and fires. When the gun doesn't go off, he exclaims almost in a child like glee "bach gaya sala".
Similarly, this happens with the other two men. Laughing at his own cruel joke, his men too think that they have got away with it and the other dacoits too join in. When the laughter reaches a feverish pitch, the entire ravine echoing it, Gabbar turns around and shoots the three men. A deathly silence follows.
The film ran for incredible five years in one of the cinema halls in Mumbai to be replaced by Sippy's next film Shaan.
Gabbar became and has remained a cult figure. Audio cassettes of the film, containing the dialogues were sold like hot cakes.
The film also catapulted writer duo Salim-Javed to unprecedented level of prestige and with them, the writer came to the absolute forefront.
Late Amjad Khan would lament that the success had become a noose around his neck, and recount that no matter how versatile and able his later output was, people always told him, "Sholay jaisee batt nahi bani".
Technically, the film was a trailblazer in terms of camera work as well as music.
Shot in 70 mm with stereophonic sound, Sholay was the ultimate big screen experience.
Sakshi Malhotra, a 32 year old finance professional feels Sholay's phenomenal success can be attributed to perhaps the way it was able to blend the various items or 'masala' required in a Hindi film in exactly the right doses.
Practically every scene, dialogue or even a small character was a highlight. Even Dhanno, Jailor, Mausi or Samba are etched in the viewers mind.
Sholay set several trends in its aftermath. Spate of multi-starrers, and film with male bonding followed. The theme of Sholay was imitated but none could match up to the film's standards, says 30-year-old Rakesh Gupta, another Sholay follower.
Five years ago when remakes were Bollywood's obsession, Ram Gopal Varma attempted remake of Sholay and he had to name it Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag. Bachchan stepped into Amjad Khan's shoes by essaying Gabbar. Despite a stellar cast of Mohan Lal, Ajay Devgn and Bachchan, the film was a dud and sank without a trace at the Box Office.