Today, August 14, marks 40 years since Jai and Veeru drove a motorbike with the now nearly-extinct sidecar through village lanes, their glances causing village belles to blush and their dostana the envy of friends. It has been 40 years since the late Sanjeev Kumar walked in hobailed boots to ‘nail’ a dacoit in an act of revenge and fury, and 40 years since iconic dacoit Gabbar mouthed the dialogue, “kitne aadmi the?”
It is 40 years since Sholay blazed a trail across cinema screens to make it into folklore. People who now have more salt than pepper in their hair still mouth dialogues from the cult film, remembering each scene and smiling wryly at its humour. It teaches us that in those days you did not need marketing machinery in overdrive, or cheesy gimmicks like two lead characters pretending to have an affair to get attention. One needed a great script, acting and characterisation to capture the imagination of the audience and move into blockbuster mode. Compare that to today, where there is so much song and dance about a trailer and controversies are created just to get eyeballs before a film release. Stars cavort around everywhere pre-release, and music launches are celebrity-studded affairs.
Having said that, one also has to give credit to the fact that Sholay has been kept alive for younger generations through a number of quick connect initiatives. For Sascha Sippy, grandson of Sholay producer G P Sippy, it is about both money and memories. He has done an animated version of the cult film, there are VHS and DVD sales, television screenings and graphic novels to appeal to the audience of today.
Through all this, the spirit and essence of the film has been kept intact, the flavour of its most iconic moments and characters has been retained, but the different versions will connect with the youth, who may never even know what a single screen is. Sholay’s lure goes on. Fuelled by clever ways to give it new life, it is still a hottie at 40.