15th August 1975, a historic day. 33 Years post Independence; a new era of dependence was unleashed. A dependence on high quality cinema, a dependence on brilliant screenplay, a dependence on amazing dialogue, a dependence on top class ensemble acting. For this was the day of the release of the most iconic film in the Indian Film Industry – Sholay.
That, it was bashed up by critics when it was first released was a measure of their ignorance. That, it did not get raving reviews by the public initially was an omen of the lull before the storm. To appease the “Junta” and the censor board, the director made one small change in the climax and viola – the dams broke, the theaters flooded and the mania sustained for a long long time. Made in 3 crores, which was a huge deal in 1975, it made 35 crores in its first run !!! But the mania didn’t end there, the film grossed 162 crores overall ( inflation adjusted figure ) which is a staggering figure for that era.
What makes Sholay, such a break through success? What makes Sholay the greatest movie in Indian Cinema? What makes Sholay an iconic movie? What gives it a near perfect 9 in my scale of 10?
Here’s my take:
Movie making has various important aspects: Story, Screenplay, Cinematography, Acting, Dialogue, Characters, Character Building, Direction, Editing, Music.
Many a films have an amazing story, but fall flat in terms of execution. Many a films have the most amazing making possible, but have ‘a damp squib’ of a screenplay.
But if you analyse any part of Sholay, it always comes up trumps in almost every department.
1) The backbone of a great film is always its writing. Though inspired from many films like “Seven Samurai”, “One upon a time in the West” - it was an entirely original film.
a. Dialogue: This film was revolutionary in terms of dialogues. Can you name one other film which has so many catchy one-liners, with dialogues with so much impact? That, it sold innumerable cassettes just containing the dialogues of the film, was a testament to the amazing feat of Saleem – Javed. The dialogues made the Brand “Sholay” and every dialogue stood firm on the 2 pillars of Brand building “Recognition and Recall” – 10 / 10 for Dialogue.
b. Characterization: Think about it, if I ask you to name the characters of Sholay would you stop before you name atleast 10? Name one other film with so many amazing characters? That a character as insignificant as “Soorma Bhopali” or as inhuman as “Dhanno” became iconic, was a tribute to the keen observational/sketching power of the writers. They had created characters which were unique and had an eye-catching trait. – 10/10 for Characterization.
c. Story and Screenplay: The story though inspired was entirely an Indian story. It had a perfect balance of fun, action and drama. The screenplay had a perfect graph, with no lulls as one great scene followed another. That each scene was littered with such memorable dialogues was a plus. Yes, the story was melodramatic at times, but in comparison to other films it was ahead of its times. Melodrama was the distinct feature of Indian films and it remained true to its soil. – 8/10 for Story and 9/ 10 Screenplay.
2) If you think about Sholay, you imagine the rustic locales, the gripping action sequences, the rugged terrain. It was captured beautifully by Dwarka Divecha – the cinematographer. Though shot in 35 mm, this was the birth of 70 mm film making in India. – 8 / 10 for cinematography.
3) The editing by M.S.Shinde was inch perfect. Imagine having 300,000 feet of film and reducing it
18,000 feet!He basically cut 55 hours of footage to 3 hours 20 minutes!! And for this he was the only person to receive a Filmfare award for this film! Imagine that – just one Filmfare award for Sholay in 1975! – 9/10 for editing.
4) Another great thing about this movie is casting. When you have such amazing characters you need brilliant actors to fill their shoes. Casting Amitabh, Dharmendra, Hema, Sanjeev Kumar would have been a piece of cake, but casting Amjad Khan – a rank newcomer - as Gabbar was pure genius! To say that Gabbar was the true hero of Sholay would not be an exaggeration. Even Amitabh fell flat on his face, attempting a Gabbar! - 10/10 for casting.
5) The actors justified the casting decisions by giving some splendid performances. From Hema Malini’s motor tongue to Asrani’s Jailor antics, this movie has some wonderful performances.Think about it, lives of many-a- insignificant actors were made due to this film. MacMohan remained Samba for years to come ! Yes, there was a bit of over the top acting by Sanjeev Kumar, A.K.Hangal, but that was the flavor of the times. – 7+1/10 for acting. (1 for Amjad Khan’s brilliant debut.)
6) The weakest part of the film (in comparison to a lot of films in that era) was the Music by R.D. Burman. I know it had some awesome songs, but alas, in comparison to the competition, it was average. Still, the songs were apt and their placement acceptable. The songs were not placed at astounding places! and were a welcome break from all the tension. – 7/10for Music.
7) And to top it all, Ramesh Sippy’s direction. All important decisions are taken by the Director and all credit goes to Sippy for the success of the film. Even if Writing is exemplary, the execution has to be perfect. Sippy did an amazing job of building the tension in the scenes. From comedy to Action to Drama – he handled every scene with equal panache. – 9/10 for Direction.
It was an epitome of Friendship, Revenge, Villainy, Sacrifice, Courage and all packaged in a huge Masala canvass.
Even if I take an average of all the individual scores of various aspects – its 88/ 100 – 8.8/10 !!! And ofcourse, the whole is greater that the sum of the parts and hence the final rating
Rating - 9/10 - Astounding for a Masala Film !