Salim-Javed On Why Sholay Is A Definitive Classic Of Indian Cinema!

By Aditya Savnal. Posted on December 15, 2015

It's been 40 years since Ramesh Sippy's Sholay was released and since then the film continues to be an immortal part of Indian pop culture and cinema. In the last 4 decades, India has seen many great films being made. But none of them are as eternal as Sholay is. Be it the dialogues, the principal characters of Jai, Veeru, Thakur and Gabbar Singh or even the fringe characters like Sambha or Soorma Bhoopali, each and every thing about the film continues to be celebrated even today.

It also undoubtedly ranks as one of the finest westerns to be made in India - a genre that hasn't been often explored in Indian cinema. And though it references several Hollywood westerns, including this scene from Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West, Sholay unmistakably bears a stamp of its own.

Among others, director Ramesh Sippy along with cinematographer Dwarka Divecha and editor M S Shinde deserve immense praise for their immense contribution in helping to shape the film. But the contributions of these individuals would have not met with such a fine culmination, if not for some exemplary writing by the duo of writer Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar. After all how many writers can boast of writing a script in which each and every character continues to be celebrated even today?

On the occasion of the film's re-release last year, the duo of Salim-Javed spoke to film critic Rajeev Masand about their experiences of working on the film and why it is an immortal part of Indian cinema.

The duo who had previously written Sippy's Andaaz and Seeta Aur Geeta had approached Sippy with Majboor and had a brief idea for Sholay. While Ravi Tandon directed Majboor, Sippy egged Salim-Javed to develop Sholay into a full fledged script. And the rest as they say is history.

The duo also spoke about how industry folks had predicted doomsday for the film since it broke many conventions that were then prevailing in Hindi cinema. And their worst fears seemed to come true, when the film was declared a flop on its arrival. But slowly and steadily, audiences started warming up to the film and the film ran for a record five years in regular show times at Minerva talkies in Mumbai. Till date, no other film has achieved this unique feat.

The two veterans also talked about how several people had advised against casting a fairly new actor like Amjad Khan for the role of Gabbar Singh. But many well known actors including Danny had refused the role and after Salim-Javed had seen Amjad Khan perform at a play in Delhi, they were convinced that Khan was best suited for the role. In Akhtar's opinion, Gabbar Singh's utter disregard for the laws and fearlessness is what endeared him to audiences especially kids. Interestingly, Raj Khosla's dacoit drama Mera Gaon Mera Desh which was released a few years before Sholay, featured Vinod Khanna as the antagonist who was titled as Jabbar Singh.

Later on they also talked about how the success of Sholay, made Bollywood take their writers seriously. Akhtar also shared a funny anecdote about how a producer was taken aback when the duo quoted a high fee post the success of the film. However, he also lamented that today scriptwriters still continue be treated shabbily and taken for granted. Incidentally, this also is one of the rare interviews in which the celebrated writer duo of Salim-Javed have spoken about the film and their work post their split.

It is not often that one gets to see the creative minds behind celebrated Indian films talk about what went into the making of it. So watch it and enjoy.

Click here to watch the remaining parts of the interview.


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