Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sholay Director Ramesh Sippy's New Film: Shimla Mirchi

Nearly two decades after his last directorial venture, the Shah Rukh Khan starrer, Zamana Deewana (1995), Sholay director Ramesh Sippy is back. At the time of writing he is filming Shimla Mirchi, starring Basanti alias Hema Malini, the mercurial actor Rajkummar Rao and the refreshing Rakul Preet Singh. No spoilers here, the film is rumoured to be a romantic comedy. We await the release date. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sholay Specials:Asrani's Undying Spirit:ETC Interview with Komal Nahta

The hero is such a magnified presence in commercial Hindi cinema that seldom are other supporting acting talents recognised. One such dreaded label is the 'character actor', often a footnote when cinema history is evoked. If Ben Kingsley or Morgan Freeman had been working in Hindi films, they wouldn't have been as admired as they are. 

In Rohit Shetty's Bol Bachchan (2012) Asrani gets a long overdue tribute, as Prithvi (Ajay Devgan) mentions how Shastri (Asrani) has been doing special appearances for decades. Post the film's release, ETC's Komal Nahta did a nice freewheeling interview with the veteran actor. 

As this youtube clip shows, Asrani has a rumble-tumble way of talking and a spirit to see the humour in everything, be it his first disastrous film, the struggle to get his breakthrough role in Guddi (1971) and finally, inevitably talking about the character he enjoyed playing the most - Angrezo ke zamane ke jailor in Sholay (1975). Asrani also talks at length about the crucial intonations that nailed it and the origins of the role.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Before Sholay: Notable Amitabh Bachchan films (1969 - 1975): Zanjeer

Zanjeer (1973)

A game changer as far as Hindi film formula is concerned, it is no surprise that the angst-ridden lead role was rejected by several leading men of that time. 

Most films of the 60's were blown up fairy tales that never resembled any of the lives that the audience was leading. Until then, the commercial Hindi film hero wooed the girl, danced in gardens, on hill-tops and in discos, drove jeeps, lip-synced melodious songs in a sugar-candy world oblivious to the world of employment, livelihood, corruption and other bare truths. He did become grim in the end reels, just to bash up the villain or turn the tables on him, verbally or in a courtroom. Salim-Javed's script was more than an eye-opener in this stale scenario.

Amitabh's first big solo hero success, it was also to make several film makers churn out similar anti-establishment films (mostly bad and average) for years to come, many of them starring Amitabh, even as the Hindi film industry moved from a resurgent, creative 70's to formulaic, brazen 80's.

Iconic moment
When inspector Vijay Khanna strides into Sher Khan's area post their face-off at the police station, it is the film's revelatory moment, that Amitabh Bachchan had unexpectedly, made it big on celluloid.  

Before Sholay: Notable Amitabh Bachchan films (1969 - 1975): Anand

 Anand (1971) 

As a friend and doctor battling to save his patient and cheerful friend's life, Amitabh is raw, sincere and intense. Rajesh Khanna is at the top of his form as Anand, Amitabh holds his own.  

Among Hrishikesh Mukherjee's finest films, story is king here sans star trappings or hero worship. This was Amitabh's first brush with success. As the actor has mentioned in an interview, people started recognising him on the street after the film's release.     


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sholay Dialogue Baazi: Khota sikka toh...

In contrast to Sergio Leone's westerns, Sholay was all about power-packed dialogues with some little silent moments stitched in.    
There is enough warning of a particular coin in the opening scenes of Sholay. Post the opening credits, the jailor and Ramlal arrive at Thakur's abode, there is no grand background music here, effective as blank white paper for the dialogues to stamp their authority. A deceptive quietness persists, an apt precursor to the train robbery scene.

The jailer has arrived in Ramgadh in response to Thakur's (now obsolete mode of communication) telegram. He is shown photographs of two crooks (The audience never sees the photographs, nice touch) and on Thakur's query tells him that they are scoundrels and never up to any good. Yet, Thakur needs him to find the men. The jailer wonders why? The following dialogues sum it up.



Our lesson, bhakt jano!: A person is not like a bad coin. Hate the sin, not the sinner! Amen!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sholay Dialogue Baazi: Gabbar ke taap se...

Gabbar Singh and gang arrive to disrupt Ramgarh's holi celebrations, right at the end of the song, right on cue - Holi ke din dil khil jaate hai. Jai is cornered, Veeru is coaxed out of hiding and Gabbar is understandably exulted. Seizing the moment he reinforces the psychological hold of fear he has over the hapless denizens of Ramgadh. Gabbar pretty much stamps his authority on the situation, creating the illusion of dependency and inevitability. He proclaims in dreaded tongue, even as most villagers cower behind closed doors and windows:

(There is only one man who can save you from Gabbar's heat, only one man...Gabbar himself!)  

As for fans, here is our lesson: 
Unwittingly, Gabbar meant that nobody can help us, but ourselves...A lesson in self-reliance. Thank you Gabbar, you missed the Teacher's Day function by the way... 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sholay & The Loin King Poster

Clever wordplay makes this juxtaposition of The Lion King's iconic moment to Gabbar's memorable line. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sholay: Two Minimalist Posters

These Sholay posters are sourced from the Internet and are called minimalist art - a poster usually celebrates one aspect of the movie or draws a collage of several elements of the movie. One who has seen the movie generally gets it, minimalist and cult get along fine.

Sholay Songs: Koi haseena jab rooth jati hai...

A tried and tested template: Hero charms annoyed heroine. Both ride, walk or dance either into silhouette or a sunset as the song fades out...

Yes, it is a moment that can only occur in a Hindi film. The unmelodious, no-relation-to-music cast suddenly breaking into melodious song. We have no idea where the accompanying instruments are playing. We have long stopped thinking about it.  Our parents didn't think much about it, nor did our grandparents. The thoughtlessness gene has carried over, untouched, unquestioned. We are a patient, understanding Indian audience, cutting across generations, caste, creed, religion and race.

The making of film tradition 
Why do we still don't mind the 'song spouting from nowhere' thing? Because, popular Hindi cinema is still about people breaking into songs and we absolutely love the songs. No matter how false the movie may be, the songs are of the heart, as our favourite ones go.  

Where would music channels, radio FM chatter, redundant TV soaps and lately, even Indian news channels be without the mush of Hindi film songs. It was thus even remotely admirable that the main characters in the mammoth musical hit Aashiqui 2 (2013) were justifiably singers. That is the level of intelligence we have grown up to expect from most Hindi films. Redundancy is passe, an acceptable tradition.    

Koi haseena jab rooth jati hai...    
The song plays out post another scene that has been repeated in several Hindi films, again as a copy-paste template. The hero fools the naive heroine into believing that he is god's voice. Thus taking advantage of Basanti's religious beliefs, Veeru almost fools her to marrying him. Jai intervenes with a stoic face, leading Basanti to Veeru's ventriloquism exercise. Basanti walks out in a huff, and then the great Hindi film soundtrack takes over. Kishore Kumar is at his playful best and the train whistle touch is almost poetic. Almost. 

That little 'something' 
The Dharmendra - Hema Malini chemistry is sparkling here.The exaggerated tone of wooing, more than once hints at molestation and eve-teasing. Hindi film heroes are known to stalk and trouble heroines no end, that at times the villain seemed a man with ethics and principles.     

We see again in the song audio visual why Sholay is part of Indian film history. Accidentally or otherwise, something invariably has come together in Sholay. There are defining moments all over, things that have repeated in several films before and after 1975, but how Sholay is like a merging point, a high point, blueprint of what the term 'filmy' in the Hindi film context implies.         

The almost poetic train spouting smoke scene

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sholay Dialogue Baazi: Tera Kya Hoga, Kalia?

A bullet away from death, it is a really a bad day on the job for Kalia. It doesn't get any better when the boss wants to fire him, literally. Gabbar sadistically asks as a parting nod: 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sholay Dialogue Baazi: Kitne Aadmi The?

It is Gabbar's iconic entry scene, and unlike other Hindi films, much is implied. Kalia and fellow dacoits return without any loot from Ramgadh. Word spreads around and we assume that Samba has passed the message on to the boss.  

Our outrageous theory 
Gabbar considers, "How many people did Thakur hire after all? Can I hire them too? Do they cost much? Will they ask for a 40% hike on previous net salary? Should I put up a counter ad on and bid higher than Thakur? After all, Veeru and Jai work only for money (So he has heard). Then Gabbar does his walk and utters:





Friday, May 9, 2014

Sholay Dialogue Baazi: Kab hai holi? Kab?!

Don't worry Basanti, Gabbar will crash the party only after we finish lip-syncing the whole song!
Gabbar Singh was human too, he too wanted to play holi. All guns and no mischief made him a dull dacoit. That Ramgadh residents didn't allow him to do so, also contributed to his bitterness, or so we fantasize. 

Anyway, post killing three men with six bullets (three fatal, three wasted), Gabbar is seething with insult and he bellows out to his stunned gang: KAB HAI HOLI?KAB?!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sholay Specials: Salim-Javed on Sholay and other things (Video Links)

The  Salim-Javed camaraderie and friendship was more than evident on Rajeev Masand's CNN -IBN interview of the duo post the Sholay 3D release. 

Going down memory lane, Salim Khan revealed how Ramesh Sippy chose Sholay's nebulous idea over Majboor's complete script. The director was looking to make something big and Sholay's initial idea suited Sippy's canvas. The director then gave the go-ahead to the writers to work on Sholay.

It was as the script was been written that Salim-Javed realized that the film can be a huge multi-starrer. For more, hear it from the duo, presented here in four video links:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sholay Specials: Salim-Javed on Sholay 3D

Post a week of the historic Sholay 3D release, two iconic Hindi film writers teamed up again to be interviewed by Rajeev Masand on CNN-IBN. 

On asked for his feedback after watching Sholay 3D, Javed Akhtar said and I quote here:

I had not seen the film since...almost 20 years. Many things I had actually forgotten, so it was really an experience.One must say, in total objectivity, leave aside the fact that we were involved in the picture - it doesn't look like an old film! 

Salim Khan added:

It is an timeless film. Nothing is outdated in this film. Now, when you look back it is no more a film, it is an experience. It has also got its own wonderful story about how it came into existence. It was a mere idea of 15-20 minutes.  

(To be contd.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sholay Dialogue Baazi: Loha Garam Hai...

Carpe Diem as they say, seize the day, do away with procrastination! LOHA GARAM HAI,MAAR DO HATODA...

(For full size poster - click HERE)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sholay Dialogue Baazi: Shayad Khatron Se...

Whatever you do, do it with passion and ensure that you have your daily dose of adventure, as Thakur says:  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014

Movie Watch: Sholay in 3D: As good as it gets!

Well, for starters Sholay in 3D is totally worth the price of your ticket. Literally speaking, weekdays are your best bet if you intend to pay less (reasonable, not daylight robbery prices) at multiplexes for the same quality. 

Now on to the film. I entered the cinema hall in excitement and just the treatment of the opening steam engine ruckus pretty much killed me. Right from Ramlal waiting at Ramgarh station to Thakur taking a lone walk away from the holi celebrations after narrating the Gabbar episode, the first half is a hoot. It was like watching Sholay for the first time. I laughed again at the Soorma Bhopali, Asrani sections (Jagdeep and Asrani are stellar) and was awed by the train robbery scene - this is where 3D is put to best use. I could also see how the reaction to the unfolding proceedings has changed with age. There is much to decipher now, in the humour, the proverbs and accidental/intentional undertones (The coin, Jai's Veeru talk to Mausi, Jai playing the mouth organ looking up at Basanti, etc.).  

Then, Now
The picture quality has improved ten-fold, the sound quality is just great and one can see various elements from the stand out scenes very clearly.The brown terrain, widespread landscape gets through, giving the characters a great location background. 

It was more than deja vu - the first frame of Amitabh Bachchan tells us why he so fits into the Hindi film hero bill. Amidst Dharmendra (Endearingly goofy) and Sanjeev Kumar (Stylish dialogue and substance), Amitabh's performance has a timeless ease and authority. Hema Malini (perky) and Jaya Bachchan (understated) are good contrasting shades to 'filmy' heroines.

The Radha lamp lighting sequence exudes some spoof vibes, the undertone of attraction it projects seems outdated now.There is still that tug in the heart when Jai dies, the Yeh Dosti sad version doesn't work there now though.Also, the muffled, retro treatment of the song vocals is a downer even while the new remastered, tweaked background music is apt.

By the end, I was expecting the original ending (didn't happen) where Gabbar is killed by Thakur, surely there is no issue in releasing that version now? It still seems queasy and incomplete when the police arrive. It's as if Gabbar will again make his escape and we would have a sequel.

Three odd hours later
Finally, Sholay in 3D is not to be missed on 70mm.Within the tired churn of formula, Sholay attains a rare cinematic vibe, its jokes, drama, and performances still immensely enjoyable. Sholay is ultimately one of the most entertaining Hindi films ever made.

Watch out moments - Sholay in 3D 
  • A close up of the steam engine's wheels.
  • The bullet that sears at us after breaking through handcuffs. 
  • Wood pieces coming apart, flying. 
  • The bike in Yeh Dosti is a closely acquainted character, thanks to 3D.
  • Dhano gets a great side view angle of its head. 
  • The leaves in the Thakur family execution scene.
  • A pigeon's timely flight past the jailor's face. 
  • Thakur's nailed footwear coming down on Gabbar. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sholay in 3D: Preview

I could go on and on about this.

A barren borrowed terrain, collective hoof beat thunder, distant hapless village, a tormenting larger than life bandit/dacoit, unlikely saviours - and an entire array of gun exchange running through it. Among many other things, Sholay is an Indian western and unabashedly so.

Yet there is the very Hindi cinema twang to it, spirit of the nautanki, a playful exaggeration, inexplicable change of heart and elements which we now identify as filmy. Yet, a sense of fortunate cinematic culmination pervades through the marathon running time.

Something extra has been put into Sholay, a wide frame throne that suits the epic treatment.We can clearly see how each scene stands out as an act. There is an attempt in arrangement, careful execution, lopsided bits are few here. Even now, it tells of a director who dared to take the leap. It is another thing that Ramesh Sippy hasn't yet made another film to equal or surpass it in the years to come. We are not complaining, merely playing the objectivity-ridden fan here. 
Finally, Sholay's core are in the endearing characters - the main six and the memorable cameos. Salim-Javed dialogues are its blood and veins.The music is good accompaniment. But to unravel what makes it, after all these years, memorable, is still a mystery. Probably, at the first hint of oblivion, we will finally know - what it was all about.

Until then, long live Sholay.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sholay in 3D: Trailer Stills II

One of the many 3D effects from the film
Another poetic dacoit fall, another hapless horse
Thakur gets a measure of Gabbar's neck
Veeru has his 'Nana Patekar' moment

Chitti aayi hai...: Gabbar reads a letter

Sholay in 3D: Trailer Stills I

The Thakur family execution

Kalia's last moments

Ramgarh's holi revelry has uninvited guests
Jai looks all colours blazing in the 3D version 
A train chugs along