Happy Independence Day! Jaideep Sen on one of the most iconic films that India has ever made....
Today as India celebrates its 71st Independence Day, it also marks the 43rd birthday of the Greatest Gift India received on this date -- the "Greatest Star-cast Ever Assembled, The Greatest Story Ever Told": Sholay.
So strong is the impact of this Film on the Indian psyche that celebrated filmmaker Shekhar Kapur who directed the last of the Salim-Javed collaborated Mr. India has gone on record to say that Sholay is the most defining film in Indian cinema and that Indian cinema can be divided between Sholay A.D and Sholay B.C
The kind of passion and commitment that Salim Saab and Javed Saab invested into this epic can be gauged from the fact that not only have the characters of the film got etched in our memory but even a lifeless coin - with two heads - has become a part of our lives. Salim Saab & Javed Saab gave the inanimate object an independent character. It was used so brilliantly to underline Jai's (played with such finesse by Amitabh Bachchan) inherent goodness because whenever it was the 'right' thing that needed to be done at a certain point in the story, he would call 'heads'.
For me the most life changing dialogue in Sholay is Imaam Saab’s “Baap ke kandhe par bete ka janaza” and “Aaj puchoonga khuda se ki mujhe do chaar bete aur kyun nahin diye is gaon par shaheed hone ke liye” played with such warmth and complete dignity by A.K Hangal Ji.
How well the Brilliant Duo of Salim Saab and Javed Saab juxtaposed a Father’s sorrow and pride and used it as a tool to instill courage into the shaken villagers to take on the evil Gabbar Singh.
Which brings me to Gabbar Singh,undoubtedly and undisputedly the most fascinating and magnetic character ever penned in Indian cinema. When I recently saw that part of the film again -- and by the way I see some part of this movement called Sholay almost every day of my life -- where Gabbar is gazing at a captive Basanti in his den and says, “Yeh Ramgarh wale apni betiyon ko kaun chakki ka pisa aata khilate hain re” I was floored by the complete unapologetic demeanour of the character in objectifying a woman with such flamboyance.
Having interacted closely with Salim Saab in recent times I have realised that this flamboyance and unapologetic confidence exists in his own personality which reflects in his work. Work, that has given Indian Cinema its identity. Work, that shall always stand the tallest in the form of the The Forever Burning Flame of Sholay.
Jaideep Sen is a filmmaker and a connoisseur of the art of storytelling.
Read his previous posts in this Series here: