Exclusive | Ramesh Sippy says Sholay was one of the first pan-India films

Updated on Sep 02, 2022 06:47 AM IST

Sholay director Ramesh Sippy says the 1975 hit was a pan-India film decades before the term was even invented, and also lauds current pan-India hits for their success.

Ramesh Sippy's Sholay is one of the most successful Indian films ever made.
Ramesh Sippy's Sholay is one of the most successful Indian films ever made.

The term pan-India film is very recent, possibly gaining traction after the success of the Baahubali franchise, which made money in every corner of the country. But the concept itself isn’t something new. Decades before SS Rajamouli had even conceived the film, there were others that had achieved the same success nationally. And one of them was Sholay, one of the biggest Indian films ever made. In an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, Ramesh Sippy, director of the 1975 film talks about the film’s legacy, his OTT aspirations, and his new role as the chairman of the Media and Entertainment Skills Council. Also read: This 'extremely cruel' scene of Gabbar poking Ahmed's eyes out was removed from Sholay by Censor Board. Here's why

Many have remarked that Sholay as the predecessor of all modern pan-India films, a film quite ahead of its time. When asked if that is the case, Sippy simply says, “If it means appealing to a wide audience, then yes. It was pan-Indian in sense that it appealed to the whole of India.” The director adds that today’s pan-India hits like RRR and KGF are to be noted for what they achieved as well. “Today, India is also global. Our youngsters have gone out, experienced new cultures and learnt new things. So, today they are making films that appeal to large parts of audience in the country. They are dubbed in other languages in the country and they are being quite successful too,” he says.

Most of the big successful films in the last couple of years have been the big-scale larger-than-life dramas. But Ramesh Sippy argues that all films can still work. He says, “You can still make those smaller, specialised films because there is an audience for everything. You can have a little story set in a little village and you can also have a grand story with a large reach. It all depends on the content, in the end. If that works, the film works.”

The filmmaker has now assumed a new role, replacing Subhash Ghai as the chairman of the Media and Entertainment Skills Council (MESC), a skill council set up by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI). The filmmaker says his focus in the role will be to develop professional skills in the entertainment industry to bridge the gap with the international setup. “Today, there are a fair amount of institutions, which wasn’t the case earlier. Back then, we had the FTII and the Satyajit Ray Institute. Now, there are quite a few more. But it is still not a full-fledged UGC-certified setup. Peope still specialise in what they want to work in and learn on the job,” he says.

MESC recently launched India’s first creative aptitude test MECAT (Media and Entertainment Creative Aptitude Test) for students aspiring to join the media and entertainment industry. Talking about its relevance, the filmmaker says, "MECAT has been created with the vision to propel the industry towards growth. We want to identify the best aspirants with the right aptitude and creative bent and offer them the option to choose amongst the best training institutions and the right program."

He admits that Bollywood has changed a lot in the five decades that he has been a part of, and he feels it is for the better. “What the industry was 50 years back and what it is today is a whole different ball game. We not only continue to have films and television but now there is OTT as well. It is endless today, the kind of opportunities people have,” he says.

He mentions the streaming platforms and the 75-year-old does not rule out a return to direction with a web series. “I watch a lot of work in the long format, both the Indian and Western shows. I keep acquainting myself with that. As a production house, we are into OTT. But as an individual, I haven’t yet found something worth doing. The moment I find something interesting and exciting, I might just direct it myself,” says Sippy.

As he talks about developing skills to make better cinema, Sippy adds that creativity is something that can’t be taught. “Some of our best directors in the olden days did not have specialised training. K Asif, Mehboob Khan, or Guru Dutt did not have a school to learn from. One’s instinct will always count,” he argues. But he then adds that training can enhance that, which is what the Indian entertainment industry needs today. “Creativity cannot be denied to people who have not gone through a film school. The need is to teach people the technical aspects and develop professional skills. In the end, that will be supplemented by that vision. And that learning never ends. I am still learning to this day. With the new technology, there is a whole new world opening up,” he says, signing off.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Abhimanyu Mathur is an entertainment journalist with Hindustan Times. He writes about cinema, TV, and OTT, churning out interviews, reviews, and good old news stories.

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