I’ve Seen SHOLAY!

by Amit Upadhyaya

061105-Sholay-Amitabh

‘I’ve seen Sholay more than 40 times. In theatres!’ I’ve grown up in a family full of these stories about what is arguably the most-loved Hindi film of all times. I’ve loved Sholay but always wondered about this fuss of watching it in a theatre.

Therefore I stepped into Wave cinemas, Noida, Audi 01, to understand the mystery. 4th January, 2 pm.

I was handed the 3D glasses. I was, regrettably, 10 minutes late and missed the title sequence. The legendary theme song and the horse ride to Thakur Saab’s house. I will make amends, and will visit the theatre next week to rid myself of the sin.

The train sequence was underway. I sat there, instantly spellbound, absorbed by the finesse of the film. The action looked great. The visuals were as big as cinematically possible. Jai and Veeru, along with Thakur Saab, were enigmatic. Slowly I came to terms with the fact that I was watching Sholay on the big screen.

I don’t find it necessary to say anything about the film. If you’ve not seen the film, you are reading the wrong post. One after the other, the memorably and infinitely seen sequences played out. Nothing felt outdated, something that can’t be said about other greats from the era, including Deewar. The audience clapped, whistled, sang out loud. ‘Tumhara naam kya hai Basanti?’, ‘Haan, James Bond ke pote hain ye’, ‘Hamara naam Soorma Bhopali aise hi thode pad gaya’, ‘Kitne Aadmi the?’, ‘Kab hai Holi’… so on and so forth.  Everything was in place. The entertainment, the emotions, everything kept coming.

Memories too kept coming. My grandfather, who passed away last year, once bought me a PEN VHS of Sholay. I was 10-11 years old. I wasn’t allowed to touch the VHS. He forwarded, rewinded the sequences I loved to see. I sat there, at the dining table, through the Allahabad afternoon, watching the film. The afternoons get mixed up.

The couple sitting next to me recited the dialogues beforehand, as they might the Hanuman Chalisa. I was irritated in the beginning. Later, I could only smile.

Sholay is not a mere film anymore. It is a unison point in the Indian pop-culture. Good or bad, one’s liking of any film is subjective. Sholay is above that simple scrutiny of Good or Bad. It is just Sholay. Watching it in the theatre, for a couple of hours, had me in unison with the other beings who were there just for their love of Sholay. The theatre was full of love, reverence.

It was community living.

The film was coming to an end. Jai was dying in the arms of Veeru. Thakur’s shoes were all over Gabbar. Radha was still as lonely. Veeru was going to go the city without Jai. And then, the credits started rolling.

Eyes moist, tears rolling down, I stood there till the credits rolled on.

All the stories I had heard were now making sense. I had finally garnered the experience of watching Sholay in a theatre. And I can relay this piece of information, with pride, to the next generation, and hope that 40 years down the line, in 2054, they will also be fortunate enough to see it on the big screen, the only place where it really belongs.

Post-script:

I was told later that the man who told me most stories about Sholay, my father, had gone to see the upgraded 3D version of Sholay in Allahabad. He had instructed that no one should look at him while he watched the film. Apparently, he kept crying through.

Post- Post-script:

Mughal-e-Azam? Done.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge? Done.

Sholay? Done.

Deewar? Can someone re-release Deewar so that I die a peaceful man?

(Amit Upadhyaya, an Allahabadi turning his nose up at all things Delhi, is a student of journalism at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. By his own admission, however, he tries to spend most of his waking hours over Bollywood – analyzing, watching, and planning future movies. He now has a gig as a sub-editor of the famous indie film website dearcinema.com)  

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