It is really difficult to pick a favourite movie of all time. There are so many, both Indian and foreign. But if I am forced to pick, I guess I would pick Sholay. You would probably think that it would be safer for me to pick a movie that’s more artsy; but honestly it is Sholay, and for numerous reasons. The movie was thoroughly entertaining to begin with, and it makes you fall in love with all its well-etched characters; even an evil character like Gabbar Singh draws you in, and he was a character that was to become an icon in his own right. You actually feel for the characters and what they do in the film; you identify with their struggles and thereby, enjoy their story. Good characters are the legs of a well-written story; it’s the strength of the characters that propels the story of the movie forward, and indeed brings it alive on screen.
Another aspect that I liked about the story of Sholay was that it was not unidirectional. Most of the iconic stories in India, from ancient times, from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, to the surreal plays of Kalidas, among other works, were never unidirectional. The stories always had multiple angles, with complex flashbacks and spinoffs, mix of deeper messages and philosophies, deep love stories and gruesome warfare coexisting within the same narrative.
Similarly, Sholay featured many angles right from a soulful love story, to debates on justice, to drama, to comedy, all playing out under the overarching theme of righteous vengeance. It was also a film that gave strong messages, but rather subtly, and in that it displayed its powerful writing. In a commercial film like Sholay, the topic of widow remarriage was captured with a quiet strength and that definitely made an impact in the minds of the audience. To add to that, there was also, in some ways, an exploration into the concept of justice; should Gabbar Singh be killed by Thakur or be handed over to the law. There has always been this debate in all civilized societies: does law serves the cause of justice, or does justice serve the cause of law? What is supreme? Will you break the law for the cause of justice or should the law should be followed at all costs? I explore this theme too in the first book of my Ram Chandra Series, Ram-Scion of Ikshvaku. There are so many such nuances that are captured in this fantastic movie, making it a great story, which entertains and enthralls, but has a lot of depth as well. And it was so beautifully executed.
To put in a nutshell, the movie brought in an engaging story, with characters whom you fall in love with, and philosophical messages delivered in a manner that was not pedantic. And that’s what made Sholay work all the way back in the 1970s, and keeps it alive as a cult classic even today.
Amish is the award-winning author of the Shiva Trilogy, Ram Chandra Series and Immortal India