Direction: Ramesh Sippy
Screenplay by: Javed Akhtar, Salim Khan
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini, Amjad Khan, Jaya Bhaduri
Plot: Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) is a retired police officer and a respected neighbour in Ramghar, a small village in the middle of rural India. He approaches two small time thugs he has previously arrested; Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jaidev (Amitabh Bachchan) who are currently serving a sentence for a petty crime and manages to get them out on the condition that they assist him in capturing the notorious Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) alive for a reward of 20,000 Rupees. They accept though initially their intentions are to simply take the money and run. It is later revealed that Thakur Baldev and Gabbar have a violent and bloody feud which goes back a few years in the past when Thakur arrests Gabbar Singh only to find later that the bandit has escaped from prison and savagely murdered his family, including his young grandson. Enraged the Thakur rushes to the mountains where Gabbar hides but ends up captured where he has both arms chopped off by his enemy.
After arriving at the village, Veeru and Jai despite being two city rats soon begin to develop close feelings for the villagers and manage to protect them from Gabbar´s men. Furthemore the chatty and open Veeru starts to develop romantic feelings for a local chariot driver; Basanti (Hema Malini) a feisty and talkative young girl and spends countless hours trying to woo her. The quiet and cynical Jai on the other hand develops feelings for Radha (Jaya Badhuri) the Thakur´s widowed daughter in law and yearns to give her a better life and restore happiness in her world. After fending off Gabbar´s men from the village, they eventually clash directly with him. Soon a bloody and violent battle begins between the two heroes and the bandit with tragic losses until finally Gabbar is defeated.
Critique: Sholay is considered by many as the greatest if not, the most iconic and popular of films in Indian cinema. Based purely on positi
ve word of mouth it broke all records at the box office remaining for up to five years at the Minerva Cinema in Mumbai. It carries many legendary film dialogues which are still referenced today in Indian pop culture and media. One cannot forget Gabbar´s Singh´s first scene with the “Kitne Aadmi thai” (How many men were there) or “Jo Dhar gaya, so marghaya” (anyone who is scared by this, is as
good as dead). Sholay brings themes with mastery such as loyalty, friendship, love, vengeance and dignity against oppression. It is a film, like most of Bollywood hits that encompasses all the possible genres in one whole film (drama, comedy, action, romance, musical, etc), only that it manages to bring a story which touched the hearts of millions of Indians throughout various generations. It is truly a masterpiece which set the pace for future villains after Amjad Khan´s unmatched performance of the sadistic Gabbar Singh. Thanks to this film, in family or friend circles any talkative and sociable girl is referred to affectionately as “Basanti”, Amitabh Bachchan became the inspiration for future antiheroes who desperately fight the odds no matter what the outcome. The comic characters in the film with Asrani playing the clumsy and silly jailor and Jagdeep playing the cheating businessman Soorma Bhopali are an invaluable asset to the film bringing tears of laughter to this masterwork which stands (and shines) to the test of time.
Jaidev (Amitabh Bachchan) – Jaidev (Jai) is one of the two heroes of the film. He is a small time criminal who has been in and out of jail charged with a string of crimes going from theft to fraud. He is quiet, reflexive and openly cynical of authority. Yet he is brave and immensely loyal to his best friend Veeru. He does not flinch when having to fight his way through a crowd of thugs or do whatever it takes to protect his friend. Between both of them he is more calculative and subtly manages to have his way whenever the two friends are deciding what decision they should make. After arriving at the village he is struck by the loneliness of Radha, the thakur´s widowed daughter in law. He gradually begins to open up and becomes more trusting of people and yearns for a simpler life away from crime where he can provide Radha with a new chance to be happy and restore colour and joy into her world.
Veeru (Dharmendra) – Veeru is the other main hero of the story. He is Jai´s best friend and despite being as loyal and brave, the two could not be more different. In Veeru we see a talkative, boisterous, sociable and a generous person. He is also comically a drunk, a gambler, a womaniser and a manipulator. Immidiately after arriving at the village he feels an instant attraction for Basanti and spends endless hours trying to conquer her with memorable comic scenes such as trying to impersonate Lord Shiva and imposing her that she marry him or getting drunk and threatening to jump off a water tank if her aunt continues to object to his romantic advancements.
Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) – Thakur Baldev Singh is a quiet and reserved man. It is soon revealed that he has a brutal rage for Gabbar Singh and wants him captured alive. The source of his hate for Gabbar Singh is shown later when we learn of the brutal punishment the bandit inflicted on the Thakur by murdering most of his innocent family and chopping both of his arms. Prior to this tragic episode, in a flashback scene we see glimpses of a decent and well respected police officer with a gentle and protective aura with his close ones and family. He is courageous and despite being at the opposite end of the law, recognises bravery in Jai and Veeru which encourages him to hire them to capture his nemesis.
Basanti (Hema Malini) – Basanti is a talkative and independent young woman. She supports herself and her aged aunt by driving passengers with her cart across neighbouring villages. She is feisty, insanely talkative, warm hearted and incredibly proud of her community. Despite also starting to develop romantic feelings for Veeru she initially fends off his moves knowing full well he is a crook. She is also very loyal and close to all the members of her village being very popular and liked by everyone.
Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) – Gabbar Singh is the violent and sadistic leader of a
gang of bandits who terrorise local and helpless villages. He hides out in the mountains where he has his own kingdom and rules ruthlessly outside the law. Whenever anyone dares to challenge his power be it the Thakur or later Jai and Veeru,he reacts furiously and with bloody violence. His own men are terrified of him and suffer dearly the consequences whenever they disappoint him.
Radha (Jaya Badhuri) – Despite being more in the background for most of the story Radha represents the tragedy of violence and futility of vengeance. When Gabbar Singh arrives at the Thakur´s house to execute his family she had gone outside on some errands and so is spared. Yet she becomes a ghost in life and wanders in silence and eternal mourning after that. Her loneliness soon draws Jai´s attention and she becomes his conscience in a subtle way where he decides not to cheat the Thakur and later when he makes up his mind to give up his life of crime. Following traditional Hindu customs and more in this era and in a small village, she is not meant to love again, yet she too begins to develop feelings for Jai and subtly lets him know of this.