History of popular Hindi cinema are no longer what they used to be when Ramesh Sippy’s all-conquering Sholay was released nearly four decades ago.
Yet, all these years later, the film remains a benchmark that commercial filmmakers in Mumbai can only aspire to match, let alone outstrip.
Why on earth then, one might wonder, would anybody be interested in watching a 3D version of a megahit that is part of Indian cinema folklore?
Hasn’t Sholay been watched, written about, celebrated, imitated, parodied, cannibalised and butchered ad nauseum?
Yet, there are several good reasons why Indians who are not old enough to have ever seen the film on the widescreen should go out and watch Sholay 3D.
Thirty-eight years on, the saga of Ramgarh and its bitter battle with the dreaded Gabbar Singh holds up pretty well.
The film has enough innate strength to this day to be able to salvage itself from the raging fire that one Ram Gopal Varma ill-advisedly sought to consign it to a few years ago. The embers of the original still glow as bright as ever.
A rather simplistic yet irresistibly immersive good-versus-evil tale that drew inspiration from alien filmmaking traditions and yet did a masterful job of dovetailing a borrowed genre into the indigenized narrative structure of the dacoit film, Sholay wasn’t obviously made with 3D in mind.
So, apart from adding depth to the frames, the added dimension does not actually ‘add’ any significant value to the movie experience. Here, 3D is no more than superficial embellishment at best. At worst, it seems to rob Sholay at times of the natural panoramic sweep of 70mm Cinemascope and lend it a caged-in feel. Thakur Baldev Singh hires the services of Jai and Veeru for a princely sum of Rs.50,000. That in today`s economic context would amount to close to Rs.10 crore. And if you have actors as exceptionally charismatic as Amitabh and Dharmendra playing Jai and Veeru, then the characters seem priceless.
Has there ever been a better celluloid illustration of male bonding than the Jai-Veeru jodi in “Sholay”? Amitabh and Dharmendra came together once again as Ram and Balram in Vijay Anand`s film. But the same chemistry was missing.
No one can encore the magic of Ramesh Sippy in “Sholay”. Not even Sippy himself. And what a team of technicians Sippy had! Dwarka Divecha`s cinematography, M.S. Shinde`s editing and R.D. Burman`s background music will never cease to take our breath away.
I always found R.D. Burman`s songs in “Sholay” to be relatively weak. I still do. But that`s a very small quibble in a film that defies all analyses.
So does the 3D format affect “Sholay”? I`d say “Sholay” in any format is…”Sholay”! Incomparably gripping, flawlessly cast and impeccably mounted, this is the mother of all Bollywood classics.