The Cult of Gabbar Singh and Sholay

Amjad Khan in the role of Gabbar Singh was in his feature film debut in Sholay, who became the most famous villain of all time and was copied and taken inspiration in many other films. The character of Gabbar Singh was modeled on a real news event. It seems that in the 50's a bandit with the same name terrified villages near Gwalior. The same figure also appears in a story written by the father of Jaya Bachhan, the writer Tarun Kumar Bhaduri.

Sholay was potentially a miraculous event, a phenomenon that just happens, a coincidence for which every character involved in the creation succeeded in this context to bring out their best. Each artist can do their best in front of an interesting project but no one has the power to predict at what point in their career will see their greatest work.

Ramesh Sippy, the director, said that he have never been too sure of his work and never have guessed the star giving birth to a legend. I wonder if he has thought seriously, perhaps, even a small change in the cast would have changed the harmony of a perfect film, which is probably not only the fruit of wise insights and talents but also of unexplained confluence of fortunate happenstance.

Jai and Veeru (Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra) were two adorable mercenaries linked by a deep friendship. Veeru happily was courting the lively Basanti (Hema Malini) while Jai established a strange relationship of respectful confidence with the widow Radha (Jaya Bhaduri). They are hired by a former police officer (Sanjeev Kumar) to hunt for Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan), a ruthless bandit who sows panic among his people.

With the desire to free the village from the grip of Gabbar and not at all intimidated by the threats of the bandit, Jai and Veeru continue to reject his attacks and gain the support of the populace who rediscovers the will to fight and hails them as heroes.

Do not be fooled, Sholay is the quintessence of Indian cinema where values, synergy, vibration and drama alternates with the moments of entertainment, quiet and spiritual love, redemption, anxiety, revenge, songs, colours, music, contrasts, courage and dialogues that are fixed in the mind as powerful rhymes or pierce like a volley of poisoned arrows.

The story unfolds through constant flashbacks and interesting narrative chains. The real protagonist is the ruthless Gabbar Singh, who appear for the first time after more than an hour of the film and his entrance on the scene is dramatic and unmissable. The villain in the Indian cinema history is so well defined as to arouse conflicting sympathetic reactions, (and later Shekar Kapoor manages to recreate a similar effect with his Mogambo in Mr India) evil to the core, sadistic with hysterical laughter and his jokes fall perfectly over one another between grotesque actions and infantile reactions.

But Sholay is above all a film about friendship. In the first part of the film Jai and Veeru appear as one, and their inseparable relation is represented symbolically in the Yeh Dosti song, where they hold on each other's shoulders, finding the balance to support each other without letting go. In the second part, the two begin to experience some differences, as Veeru tries to conquer Basanti while Jai remains in thought. Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra discover a unique and perfect interaction.

If Jai and Veeru convey the performance of the track, Thakur adds to this philosophy. But what is the message? The desire to overcome the liabilities to tyranny or personal sacrifice for the happiness of those who love? Or the search for revenge or a second chance? Maybe it is the emergence of a sense of responsibility towards others according to which the word and the confidence placed become a contract for life.

With compelling drama, rich content and powerful, but also light and amusing scenes, Sholay is a strange experiment that takes place in an exotic location. The village is a microcosm in which coexist the temple and the mosque and the rhythms of life are marked by festivities and celebrations. The train, with which the film opens and closes, is the connecting point between the village, hidden among the arid hills, and the city, from which come the protagonists.

The film has moments from the camera that follows the breathless gallop of horses, ranging in desolate panorama, the wind that removes the unseemly cloth from the bodies of the dead officer, the terrified faces of the victims of Gabbar Singh to clouds of colour in the joyous festival of Holi, passion and melodrama in Jab Tak Hai Jaan to Basanti attempting to save his beloved with an endless dance in the hot sun, up to the item song of Helen, a provocative dancer in gypsy camp in Mehbooba Mehbooba, until the silent glances between Jai and Radha, a love punctuated by the sound of the accordion, and by the light of lanterns, extinguished one by one according to a slow and suggestive nightly ritual.

The film is a constant fire and public attention becomes magma. Sholay is the fire of the explosion of gunpowder or the funeral pyre, bonfire by gypsies, but above all the flames in the eyes of Sanjeev Kumar, mysteriously wrapped in his gray coat, who is soft-spoken but has the burning anger inside. The inconsolable rage of those who reach the point of no return.

Sholay Trivia

The story of Sholay was written by writers Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, better known as Salim/Javed, who also some cult movies like Don, Zanjeer and Deewaar.

The dialogue is one of its most obvious strengths. Among the most popular phrases were Kitne aadmi the?, Tumhara naam kya hai Basanti?, Jo darr gaya, samjho marr gaya, Kyunke mujhe befuzool bate karne ki nahin aadat hai nahi, Tera Kya Hoga Kaliya?, Hum angrezo ke zamane ke jailor hain!

The natural setting is the arid landscape of Ramanagaram, near Bangalore in Karnataka and is now a place of tourist interest and renamed Sippynagar or Sholay rocks.

Satrughan Sinha was the first choice for the role of Jai, then Amitabh Bachchan showed interest in the character and persuaded Ramesh Sippy to replace Sinha with him.

Danny Danzongpa was to play Gabbar Singh but due to an overlap of dates had to refuse the role, who was in Afghanistan for the shooting of Dharmatma by Feroz Khan.

During the filming Jaya Bachchan was pregnant with her first daughter Shweta. Dharmendra and Hema Malini were married in 1980. Rumors reveal that Sanjeev Kumar asked Hema Malini to marry him shortly before they started filming and it seems that this is the reason that the two do not appear in any scenes together. The comic actor Jangdeep after the success of his character in Sholay played a film called Soorma Bhopali (1988) in which Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra had a small role.

Aa Shuru hota hai phir is a qawali song originally scheduled in the first draft of the film but cut off from the final project. Gaon Mera Desh Mere (1971), the precursor of Sholay with Dharmendra and Asha Parekh is considered the first Indian film inspired by the western genre.

In 2007, Ram Gopal Varma directed a remake titled Aag, with Ajay Devgan, the malayalam star Mohanlal and Amitabh Bachchan, this time in the role of the bandit. Performers in item song Mehbooba Mehbooba were Urmila Matondkar and Abhishek Bachchan.

Censors struck at the end of the original Sholay, where Gabbar Singh was killed, but would not show the villagers that rejects the institutions to take the law in their hands, so Sippy had to readjust the last scene and change the conclusion. The record of shows in the halls remained undefeated for over 25 years, until the arrival of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

1975 was particularly successful for the Indian film industry, as many interesting films were simultaneously distributed after Sholay like Chupke Chupke and by Mili Hrishikesh Mukherjee, the controversial Julie, Chhoti Si Baat by Basu Chatterjee.

Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, the sparkling love birds revolutionized trends in Khel Khel Mein, while Yash Chopra directs his masterpiece Deewaar. Feroz Khan directs Dharmatma and Gulzar is both committed to the sharp screenplay by Faraar and direction of romantic Mausam and Aandhi, a political/family drama with the stunning Suchitra Sen.

They are innumerable references to Sholay in various films like Dhoom 2, Baazigar, Dostana, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Andaz Apna Apna, Hum Apke Hain Koun, Jodi No.1, Bluffmaster, Jhonny Gaddar, Main Hoon Na, Luck by Chance, Main Khiladi Tu Anari, 3 idiots and the recent Love Sex aur Dhokha.