Sholay the greatest Indian story ever told comes back to the theaters in 3D this year and incidentally turns out to be the best New Year’s gift for the viewers. I never had had the opportunity to catch this epic in a theater but had seen in it on home videos countless number of times. But the fact remains that the movie experience of watching this epic with an added dimension in its entirety is an experience in itself which can never be compensated by a home theater system. The power, the rush, the colors, the landscapes and the emotions, Sholay is back with a bang!
For those who might not have seen it earlier, I would quickly narrate the story so that you can get the grasp of things. Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) summons to loners and marauding thugs, Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra) to a secluded village called Ramgarh. The village as it seems is over run by a gang of ruthless dacoits lead by a foxy Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan). Thakur entrusts Jai and Veeru with the task of capturing Gabbar alive. But in his offer is a hidden agenda, an agenda which is soaked with the blood of the innocent and a vicious enmity which will be revealed as the film progresses. Jai and Veeru reluctantly agree to his offer but over the course of the narrative, Gabbar’s capture becomes as much their own battle as it was of the Thakur.
Sholay has the distinction of running 15 years in a single theater and after sitting through this epic I know why. Throughout its duration of 3 hours 30 minutes, there wasn’t a single moment when I felt bored or even had my attention diverted for that matter. I was glued to a series of events which I had seen over 5 times. Such is the power of the narrative that the film was able to draw me into its narrative and make me even forget the fact that I know how it will all end. I still felt restless when the train carrying Thakur, Jai and Veeru was attacked by dacoits, I still cheered on when Veeru motors through a barricade blowing the horns of a train out of excitement, I still laughed at Veeru’s Histrionics over the water tank, I still heard every word of the Thakur with respect, I still prayed that Jai didn’t die at the climax.
The visuals are still contemporary. The action sequences still seem real and electric. The acting never feels like acting, the music is still hummable. The immortal classic that Ramesh Sippy created has been successful in capturing the imagination of even my generation. The hordes of audiences poring in to catch a glimpse of the film stand testimony to that fact. I could practically hear the whole theater shout out dialog’s like “KITNE AADMI THE”, “BASANTI IN KUTTO KE SAMNE MAT NACHNA”, “JO DARR GAYA, SAMJHO WO MAAR GAYA” in tandem with the characters on screen. The audience loved the jokes which many would call dated for today’s time but seemed very fresh when so convincingly portrayed on screen by the characters. I could even hear a few kids repeat the dialogs with the characters proving once again the reach of this timeless classic.
The 3D rendering is done with aplomb. It remains consistent all thorough the film and there isn’t a single blemish. Some of the sequences like the initial action sequence on board the train, the action sequence during the Holi, the climax where Jai blows up a bridge are elevated with the addition of the 3rd dimension. Some of the long shots are also rendered with some added majesty with the 3D. the soundtrack is mixed bag. Even though the team at PEN have been able to successfully recreate the soundtrack afresh in 7.1 Dolby digital surround, they have persisted with the original mono source for the dialogs and songs. This creates a sort of imbalance and feeling of unsettlement at certain junctures. The background score is modified at some places which can be easily tracked by the fanatics such as me but it does provide a lush atmosphere which is an able foil to its predecessor.
This is probably the last chance for our generation to catch this epic in a theater and missing that opportunity would be blasphemous. Even today. After viewing it ample number of times, I feel that Sholay is more entertaining and fresh than most contemporary films. So do catch it at the nearest theater and preferably in 3D.