It goes without saying that Sholay remains the greatest entertainer popular Indian cinema has ever produced. But the makers never expected it to become such a monumental hit. It was the firm belief of ‘one man’ Ramesh Sippy whose conviction, passion for filmmaking and unfilching dedication towards his craft that resulted in this memorable film. Here’s a small account on ‘The Making Of Sholay’
1. It all started with a four line concept about a retired army officer who’s family is massacred and he plans to take revenge with two junior officers whom he knew from his army days. Interestingly the concept was first offered to director Manmohan Desai ,who opted for a comedy Chacha Batija instead, and later Prakash Mehra who was busy with zanjeer.
2. Danny Denzongpa was the first choice for Gabar Singh. His photograph also featured in the trade magazine when the film was announced. He turned it down because he couldn’t adjust dates which he had committed to Feroz Khan for Dharmatma. Next options were Prem Chopra…..Ranjeet….Premnath….but finally (Thank God) it was offered to Amjad Khan, who was a struggler then.
3. When the final script was read out in the presence of all the lead actors. Each one of them tied for the other’s role. At one point Ramesh Sippy toyed with the idea of casting Pran instead of Sanjeev Kumar as Thakur Baldev Singh.
4. Most of the character names were inspired from real life. Jai & Veeru were Salim Khan’s college friends, Harinaam Nai was Salim Khan’s household barber, Thakur Baldev Singh was Salim Khan’s father-in-law’s name, Gabar Singh was a real life daciot while Soorma Bhopali was someone known to Javed Akhtar.
5. Ramesh Sippy didn’t want to shoot the film at Rajastan which was a favorite location for all dacoit films. The film was shot in Bangalore in a remote village called Ramanagaram.
6. The ’’tossing of the coin’’ was a straight lift from a hollywood film starring Gary Cooper. For the scene towards the climax, where Dharmendra discovers that the coin was actually “two-sided”, they got coins specially made. This scene demanded several retakes and each time the coin was flung it got lost in the mountainous terrain. For the camera rehearsals and long shots they used two 25 paise coins stuck to each other.
7. The dialogues for the tank scene…… “police coming budiya going jail and chucki peesing….”, was written at the last minute. Javed kept on postponing it thinking there’s still time and when the time came he was heading for the airport. He wrote on the way and stood outside the bangalore airport and completed it before handing it over to the production boy.
8. Amjad Khan had a terrible time playing Gabbar Singh in the first two schedules. He was not at all natural and appeared very nervous. Soon word spread like wild fire that Ramesh Sippy had blundered in casting the most important role of the film. Ironically Salim Javed (who had recommended Amjad Khan) even told Ramesh Sippy that it was not late before they could find another actor. This led to a major misunderstanding and Amjad Khan and Salim Javed never worked to gether. Ramesh Sippy remained firm and said that only Amjad would perform. Amjad cried in the make-up room that night. In the next schedule he surprised everyone including the director cause he was literally living the role from then on.
9. The initial title suggested was “SHOLE”. Producer G.P.Sippy had distributed a film of the same name in the 50’s directed by B.R.Chopra. But Ramesh Sippy felt that the title appeared puny for such a huge film. Finally he thought of adding “AY” at the end instead of “E” and the result was amazing.
10. Interesting the film was shot both in 35mm and 70mm for two reasons. First - most of the theatres in india were 35mm and second - Blowing up 35mm to 70mm made no sense because it would effect the quality. So all the talkie scenes excpet the action ones were shot twice. Maybe thats why there r two versions of the dialogues when Amitabh says “Tatiya tope ke pothe hai” and the other version “James Bond ke pothe hai”.
11. Sholay, regarded as the greatest hindi film of all time, won only one FilmFare award. M.S.Shinde ……. For best editing.
12. Ramesh Sippy had a terrible time with the censor board who demanded innumerable cuts.They felt the film was gory and violent. In the original film Thakur kills Gabbar in the end and then he weeps uncontrollably realising that the mission of his life has been accomplished. This scene was one of the highlights of Sholay and Sanjeev Kumar had excelled. But the censors felt the end was inappropriate and asked Ramesh Sippy to change it. They felt a police officer even after he leaves office shouldnt take laws in his own hands and instead they wanted the police to intervene. Ramesh Sippy was shattered he hated this cliched situation and even told G.P.Sippy that his name be deleted from the credits. It was emergency then and they had no option but to change the end or face the wrath of the politicians. Thats how Om Shiv Puri came into the film.
13. For the action scenes and the breath-taking train sequence Ramesh Sippy hired foriegn action directors and stunt men. A three camera set up was used to capture the shot where the train goes past the logs of wood. Believe it or not real bullets were used for the close up shots because fake ones emitted flames ( near the trigger) after the bullet was fired and the audience would easily make out.
14.. Dharmendra was so much addicted to booze that he used drink during the shooting. He used to have fresh coconut water which was spiked. During the scene, where jai rescues Veeru and Basanti from Gabbar’s den, dharmendra was tipsy and couldnt perform the shot. He had to hold Hema Malini and at the same time kick the metal trunk which contained bullets with his leg. He took twenty takes and finally when he managed he did it with so much enthusiam that he fired a bullet which nearly killed Amitabh.
15. Sachin who essayed the role of Ahmed was so fascinated by the making that he requested director Ramesh Sippy to prolong his stay at the location in Bangalore after his portion was already canned. He stayed till the final shot was canned. After the films success Ramesh Sippy gifted him an Air conditoner.
16. The film was completed after 2 years and it took 450 shifts. The Sippy’s spent Rs 3 crore’s in 1975. Initially the trade and the critics both rejected the film outright. It was declared a ’’washout’’. Some distributors even suggested that the end should be changed and Amitabh ( who was big star after Zanzeer and Deewar) should live on in the film.But from the 6th week onwards there was a sudden change. Cine-goers, who had an enthralling experience, refused to come outside the hall during the intermission. The soft drinks and ice cream sales dropped at cinema halls. Serpentine queues formed outside the theatre’s and a balcony ticket which cost Rs 15 were sold at Rs 200. The film which was dubbed as damp squib turned out to be the biggest grosser of all time. According to G.P.Sippy the entire viewership of Sholay throughout the world equals the population of India. Sippy’s earned Rs 30 crores in the first release. Polydor sold 500,000 records and cassettes of the film (dialogues cum song).