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Arre O Sambha! Kitne Sholay honge?

Indians are now talking about something other than the rise and fall of the stock market, writes Sunil Lala.

india Updated: Oct 17, 2005 19:58 IST

The Indian community in Boston is shocked. Stunned to a point of complete

disbelief. There is speculation. There is denial. There is anger. People are confused. There is a desperate search for answers. Religious texts are being consulted. There are impromptu street corner meetings at Copley and at Southie, where it's common to see tense desis wearing long dark overcoats, huddled together, and talking in hushed tones. You can see them anxiously exchange bits of information gathered from secret, unnamed sources, as their nervous, shifty eyes look around for signs of traitors. Conspiracy theories abound. There are rumours of our very own Deep Throat. Talks of an imminent revolution are in the air.

At weekend parties, you can notice a dramatic change as well. The sight of young mothers with spoons in their hands, running animatedly after their unwilling kids in a desperate bid to stuff chaawal down their throats, is a thing of the past. And for the first time in decades, Indians are talking about something other than the rise and fall of the stock market, or the different kinds of baby diapers available at the local mall. The issue is too crucial to be ignored.

I am talking, of course, about the reaction of the Indian community in the US, to the recent news that Sholay is going to be remade! This, my friends, is sheer madness. Complete lunacy. Why anyone in his right mind would ever attempt to do such a thing is beyond me. What results are they trying to achieve? Indeed, what results could they expect to achieve?

There is a reason Sholay was such a trendsetter. In a film industry that churns out amazing stupidity with an alarming regularity, and where movie characters are shallower and more superficial than the actors who play them, Sholay was refreshingly different. It had the ingredients that are sorely lacking in most Indian movies - extremely well defined characters, and that one little thing that Bollywood so frequently forgets about - an actual script.

And it wasn't just the major characters in the movie that stole our hearts. Even the most minor roles - from Asrani's "Jailer" to Jagdeep's Soorma Bhopali, from Keshto Mukherjee's Hariram Nai to MacMohan's Sambha - left a lasting impression, because they all looked and sounded different from each other. Each character had its own nuances, its own idiosyncrasies, its own strengths and thankfully, its own flaws and failings. Each character had depth. And each role was played superbly in its own right.

So the question remains.

How do you "remake" the magic of Amitabh as the calm and composed Jai, coolly sipping hot tea, as Dharmendra, playing his wild, intoxicated buddy Veeru, attempts suicide? How do you "remake" the suppressed, yet smouldering anger of Sanjiv Kumar's Thakur, as he tells the story of his amputated arms. How do you improve upon Hema Malini as the constantly chattering Basanti? How do you top the graceful Jaya Bachchan as the quiet, suffering daughter? How do you replace Leela Mishra as Mausi?

And finally, ladies and gentlemen, how in God's name do you recast Gabbar Singh? Amjad Khan was single handedly responsible for transforming our image of a Bollywood villain, and I don't care if the mighty Amitabh himself tries to recreate that magic - in my view, it ain't gonna happen. Whether the new Sholay is a flop or a blockbuster hit, it will end up ruining the magic for all of us. And that is a low down, dirty shame.

It is my firm belief that in this world of constant and sometimes unnecessary change, some things are better left alone. You do not repaint the Mona Lisa. You do not rebuild the Pyramids of Giza. My dear friends, you do not, repeat, DO NOT remake Sholay.

So I appeal to Mr Sippy and Mr Bacchhan and Mr Ram Gopal Verma to put an end to this insanity now. It is only once every fifty or so years that Bollywood comes up with something that's mildly original. Don't make a mockery of it. Don't let money be your guiding light - you already have tons of it. There is nothing to gain and everything to lose.

And if they fail to heed our call, I appeal to all movie buffs in India and in the US to rise up as one and drive fear into the hearts of these Bollywood moghuls who take the silence of our long suffering viewers as acceptance of their errant ways. I call for an uprising. I call for a revolt. No, I call for a revolution. I call for a total boycott.

My fellow Indians, it's time to acknowledge the facts. Bollywood has cast an evil spell upon you. They have hypnotized you with their cheesy storylines, dubious plots, and tasteless song and dance sequences. They have insulted your intelligence for decades, and lulled you into a false sense of grandeur. And you have taken it lying down. More than once, you have gone to watch a movie, and come out of the theatre scratching your head trying to make sense of it. And yet you have put up a brave face in front of your friends. You have tried to convince yourself that it's all good, while knowing in your heart of hearts, the dark and painful truth.

But this time, they have gone too far. Wake up my countrymen and women, and make your voice heard. Tell them that you're not going to take this nonsense anymore. As Captain Picard says when he realises that the Borg are on their way to Earth to assimilate humans - "The line must be drawn here! This far and no further!".

Stay away from the movie hall in droves. Do not buy or rent that DVD. Punish these people for this travesty, by hitting them where it hurts most - in their wallets.

Or as Gabbar himself would have said - Iski Sazaa milegi. Barabbar milegi.

First Published: Sep 23, 2005 19:52 IST