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Reel Deal: Anupama Chopra on the Indefinable Magic of ‘Sholay’

Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay completes 44 years on 15 August.

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It’s 44 years since we witnessed Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra’s inseparable friendship in Sholay. As the iconic Ramesh Sippy film manages to stand the test of time, The Quint spoke to journalist Anupama Chopra about her National Award-winning book, Sholay: Making of a Classic. She gives a sneak peek into the behind-the-scenes stories of the film.

Tune in to the podcast here:

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Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

When you are taking on a task to write on a movie like that where do you begin? How did you go about the research for the book?

You know, a lot of it came from Ramesh Sippy’s office. I remember there was a cook who had also cooked on the sets of ‘Sholay’. And I remember they had a tape an audio cassette of a qawwali which was recorded but never used in the film. So, they had all sorts of things, and of course the first design of who all to interview came from him. The obvious ones are people in front of the camera. But then, there was also the... I interviewed somebody who was (‘Sholay’ cinematographer) Dwarka Divecha’s lightman. Those leads all came from within Rameshji’s office. It was literally get anyone and anything to do with ‘Sholay’. I remember interviewing Sunil Alagh about the Glucose ads for Gabbar ki asli pasand. And I had people also helping me kind of find a black market person who sold tickets.

Not a lot of people realise that Sholay was actually a very experimental film also for mainstream cinema of that time.

When the film was coming out, there was so much scepticism with the critics and the trade. The critics slammed it. I was just like, “Oh my God!” Tells you we don’t know anything. And within the trade to they called it ‘Choley’ so it was very hard. And then to release this film and have it be declared a flop.

What were the elements made the trade say that this film is not going to work at all?

I think the sheer sort of atmospherics of it. Amjad Khan was not known. He was up against these massive stars. There was a line which I don’t remember exactly, but it was teen maharathi – because it was Sanjeev Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra aur ek chuha. Yeah, it was that kind of conversation.

The whole idea of these slightly grey heroes who are thieves, and then, oh my God, Mr B dies. Even today, you would be afraid to kill a superstar of that stature in your film.I mean, and you’re talking about 44 years ago. And they spent so much money. It was a movie that sucked the life out of everybody.

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Topics:  Anupama Chopra   Sholay   Reel Deal 

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