By Rohini Mohan
If I were on a deserted island and all I had was a DVD player and a choice of one movie to watch for eternity….. what movie would it be? I don’t need to think on that one. I would pick Sholay every time. Just as I get my son to eat paneer butter masala and acquaint him with Gandhiji, I feel the need to have him watch Sholay – to me it’s an essential part of being an Indian.
To quote Veeru himself “Is istory mein emotion hai, drrrama hai, trrragedy hai….” There is not one false note, not one miscast actor, not one redundant line. Every song is a gem, the characters are legendary, and a whole nation can spew off at least one Sholay dialog in its sleep. There is violence but it does not offend, the one steamy song sequence (Mehbooba) is nothing if not tasteful. Other than the fact that the Yeh Dosti scooter has different back and front registration plates (!), it is perfection. Good enough to eat.
Ramgarh rings totally true as do the Daakoos and their antics. The peripheral characters like Jagdip and Asrani carry off their roles with aplomb. Somehow, all their slapstick comedy is thigh-slappingly funny. Hema Malini’s thick South Indian accent is masked by the rapid fire dialogue that is Basanti’s signature in the film. No-one but Jaya Bhaduri could have played petite and subdued Radha; she wears all her emotions on her face. In comedy, timing is everything and Dharmendra (Veeru) has it down to a fine art. Amitabh (Jai) with his wry wit – ‘Tumhara Naam Kya hai Basanti’ and steely intensity is the perfect Yin to Veeru’s Yang. Sanjeev Kumar as Thakur outdoes himself. Amjad Khan steals the show. With his blackened teeth and khaki get up, his portrayal of the inhuman, psychopathic, demonic Gabbar can never be replicated… or can it? If Ram Gopal Varma was ever in two minds as to whether to remake Sholay, we know which coin he flipped to make his decision. Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” inspired “The Magnificent Seven” whose Desi version was Sholay. And now Ram Gopal Varma Ke Sholay will aspire to re-incarnate what is considered the best film made in Bollywood in the last 50 years….laughable! Should Sholay be remade? According to Hema Malini, an emphatic No. (Although she’s no one to talk, considering she herself acted in a not so highly marketed version of a Sholay re-make called Aandhi Toofan in which she played the Thakur, no less. Not to mention that she actively lobbied for Esha to play Basanti in this version). Jaya Bachchan subtly hints that if it must be re-made maybe it should be done under a different name. Amitabh is of a different mind, obviously, since he is acting in it, but I think it just comes from his desire to play Gabbar, which both he and Sanjeev Kumar were gunning for in the original. Well, I tend to agree with Hema Malini. In fact, I would not even deign to call this a remake. Why an urban take on a “Western” classic? I just don’t see how it will be different from Satya or Sarkar or any of the other 952 underworld movies that are pumped out everyday by the Bollywood photocopy machine. Most of the actors are unknowns or lesser knowns and their thespian skills are highly suspect. Ajay Devgan would have been better off playing one of the Dakoos; maybe Samba – think of the teeth make-up they could have saved…. And Sushmita Sen as Radha – please! As for Abhishek and Urmila being roped in, it’s inevitable, considering Amitabh and Abhishek are hunting in pairs these days, and I have never ever seen a Ram Gopal Varma film minus Urmila. I certainly intend to give this one a pass. I know it will offend my sensibilities. Just as I did not waste good money on the Don remake, I refuse to contribute to this version. I also pledge to boycott the Deewar, Trishul and Amar Akbar Anthony remakes as and when some undying optimist decides to try his luck with them.