Sholay ("Embers") is a 1975 Indian Hindi-language action-adventure film, directed by Ramesh Sippy and produced by his father G. P. Sippy. The film follows two criminals, Veeru and Jai (played by Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan), hired by a retired police officer (Sanjeev Kumar) to capture the ruthless dacoit Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan). Hema Malini and Jaya Bhaduri also star, as Veeru and Jai's love interests. Sholay is considered a classic and one of the best Indian films. It was ranked first in the British Film Institute's 2002 poll of "Top 10 Indian Films" of all time. In 2005, the judges of the 50th annual Filmfare Awards named it the Best Film of 50 Years.
Cinematography Dwarka Divecha
Edited by M. S. Shinde
Production company United Producers
Distributed by Sippy Films
Release date 15 August 1975
Running time 204 minutes
Budget ₹30 million
Box office est.₹150 million
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The film was shot in the rocky terrain of Ramanagara, in the southern state of Karnataka, over a span of two and a half years. After the Central Board of Film Certification mandated the removal of several violent scenes, Sholay was released with a length of 198 minutes. In 1990, the original director's cut of 204 minutes became available on home media. When first released, Sholay received negative critical reviews and a tepid commercial response, but favourable word-of-mouth publicity helped it to become a box office success. It broke records for continuous showings in many theatres across India, and ran for more than five years at Mumbai's Minerva theatre. By some accounts, Sholay is the highest grossing Indian film of all time, adjusted for inflation.
The film drew heavily from the conventions of Westerns, and is a defining example of the masala film, which mixes several genres in one work. Scholars have noted several themes in the film, such as glorification of violence, conformation to feudal ethos, debate between social order and mobilised usurpers, homosocial bonding, and the film's role as a national allegory. The combined sales of the original soundtrack, scored by R. D. Burman, and the dialogues (released separately), set new sales records. The film's dialogues and certain characters became extremely popular, contributing to numerous cultural memes and becoming part of India's daily vernacular. In January 2014, Sholay was re-released to theatres in the 3D format.
In the small village of Ramgarh, the retired policeman Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) summons a pair of small-time thieves that he had once arrested. Thakur feels that the duo—Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jai (Amitabh Bachchan)—would be ideal to help him capture Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan), a dacoit wanted by the authorities for a ₹ 50,000 reward. Thakur tells them to surrender Gabbar to him, alive, for an additional ₹ 20,000 reward.
The two thieves thwart the dacoits sent by Gabbar to extort the villagers. Soon afterwards, Gabbar and his goons attack Ramgarh during the festival of Holi. In a tough battle, Veeru and Jai are cornered. Thakur, although he has a gun within his reach, does not help them. Veeru and Jai fight back and the bandits flee. The two are, however, upset at Thakur's inaction, and consider leaving the village. Thakur explains that Gabbar had killed nearly all of his family members, and cut off both his arms a few years earlier, which is why he could not use the gun. He had concealed the dismemberment by always wearing a shawl.
Living in Ramgarh, the jovial Veeru and cynical Jai find themselves growing fond of the villagers. Veeru is attracted to Basanti (Hema Malini), a feisty, talkative young woman who makes her living by driving a horse-cart. Jai is drawn to Radha (Jaya Bhaduri), Thakur's reclusive, widowed daughter-in-law, who subtly returns his affections.
Skirmishes between Gabbar's gang and Jai-Veeru finally result in the capture of Veeru and Basanti by the dacoits. Jai attacks the gang, and the three are able to flee Gabbar's hideout with dacoits in pursuit. Fighting from behind a rock, Jai and Veeru nearly run out of ammunition. Veeru, unaware that Jai was wounded in the gunfight, is forced to leave for more ammunition. Meanwhile, Jai, who is continuing the gunfight singlehandedly, decides to sacrifice himself by using his last bullet to ignite dynamite sticks on a bridge from close range.
Veeru returns, and Jai dies in his arms. Enraged, Veeru attacks Gabbar's den and catches the dacoit. Veeru nearly beats Gabbar to death when Thakur appears and reminds Veeru of the promise to hand over Gabbar alive. Thakur uses his spike-soled shoes to severely injure Gabbar and destroy his hands. The police then arrive and arrest Gabbar. After Jai's funeral, Veeru leaves Ramgarh and finds Basanti waiting for him on the train. Radha is left alone again.
Dharmendra as Veeru
Sanjeev Kumar as Thakur Baldev Singh, usually addressed as "Thakur"
Hema Malini as Basanti
Amitabh Bachchan as Jai (Jaidev)
Jaya Bhaduri as Radha, Thakur's daughter-in-law
Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singh
Satyen Kappu as Ramlaal, Thakur's servant
A. K. Hangal as Rahim Chacha, the imam in the village
Sachin as Ahmed, son of the imam
Jagdeep as Soorma Bhopali, a comical wood trader
Leela Mishra as Mausi, Basanti's maternal aunt
Asrani as the Jailor, a comical character modelled after Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator (1940)
Keshto Mukherjee as Hariram, prison barber and Jailor's side-kick
Mac Mohan as Sambha, Gabbar Singh's sidekick
Viju Khote as Kaalia, another of Gabbar's men whom he kills in a game of Russian roulette
Iftekhar as Inspector Khurana, Radha's Father
Helen in a special appearance in song "Mehbooba Mehbooba"
Jalal Agha in a special appearance in song "Mehbooba Mehbooba"
R. D. Burman composed the film's music, and the lyrics were written by Anand Bakshi. The songs used in the film, and released on the original soundtrack are listed below. Following that is a list of unused tracks and dialogues which were released later on an updated soundtrack.
The song "Mehbooba Mehbooba" was sung by its composer, R. D. Burman, who received his sole Filmfare Award nomination for playback singing for his effort. The song, which is often featured on Bollywood hit song compilations, is based on "Say You Love Me" by Greek singer Demis Roussos. "Mehbooba Mehbooba" has been extensively anthologised, remixed, and recreated. A version was created in 2005 by the Kronos Quartet for their Grammy-nominated album You've Stolen My Heart, featuring Asha Bhosle. It was also remixed and sung by Himesh Reshammiya, along with Bhosle, in his debut acting film Aap Kaa Surroor (2007). "Yeh Dosti" has been called the ultimate friendship anthem. It was remixed and sung by Shankar Mahadevan and Udit Narayan for the 2010 Malayalam film Four Friends, and also in 2010 it was used to symbolise India's friendship with the United States during a visit from President Barack Obama.
Several songs from the soundtrack were included in the annual Binaca Geetmala list of top filmi songs. "Mehbooba Mehooba" was listed at No. 24 on the 1975 list, and at No. 6 on the 1976 list. "Koi Haseena" was listed at No. 30 in 1975, and No. 20 in 1976. "Yeh Dosti" was listed at No. 9 in 1976. Despite the soundtrack's success, at the time, the songs from Sholay attracted less attention than the film's dialogue—a rarity for Bollywood. The producers were thus prompted to release records with only dialogue. Taken together, the album sales totalled an unprecedented 500,000 units, and became one of the top selling Bollywood soundtracks of the 1970s.
Music critic Oli Marlow reviewed the soundtrack in 2013, calling it a unique fusion of religious, folk, and classical music, with influences from around the world. He also commented on the sound design of the film, calling it psychedelic, and saying that there was "a lot of incredible incidental music" in the film that was not included in the soundtrack releases. In a 1999 paper submitted to London's Symposium on Sound in Cinema, film critic Shoma A. Chatterji said, "Sholay offers a model lesson on how sound can be used to signify the terror a character evokes. Sholay is also exemplary in its use of soundmatching to jump cut to a different scene and time, without breaking the continuity of the narrative, yet, intensifying the drama."
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
No. Title Singer(s) Length
1. "Title Music (Sholay)" – 02:46
2. "Yeh Dosti" Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey 05:21
3. "Haa Jab Tak Hai Jaan" Lata Mangeshkar 05:26
4. "Koi Haseena" Kishore Kumar and Hema Malini 04:00
5. "Holi Ke Din" Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar 05:42
6. "Mehbooba Mehbooba" R. D. Burman 03:54
7. "Yeh Dosti" (sad version) Kishore Kumar 01:49
Bonus tracks — Released later
No. Title Singers / Speakers Length
8. "Ke Chand Sa Koi Chehra" (Qawwali) Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey, Bhupinder Singh, Anand Bakshi –
9 ."Veeru Ki Sagai" (dialogues) Hema Malini, Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan –
10. "Gabbar Singh" (dialogues) Amjad Khan, Sanjeev Kumar, Dharmendra –
Filmmaker Ketan Mehta's company Maya Digital was responsible for converting Sholay into the 3D format. Mehta was approached by G. P. Sippy's grandson, Sasha Sippy, about the project in 2010. In March 2012, Shaan Uttam Singh, the grandson of producer G. P. Sippy, said that he would sponsor a conversion of the film to 3D, and release it in late 2012; this was later postponed to late 2013, and eventually finalised for 3 January 2014. It took ₹250 million (US$3.9 million) to convert Sholay to 3D.
Under the leadership of computer animator Frank Foster, 350 people worked to convert the film into the digital 3D format, for which every scene had to be individually restored, colour-corrected and re-composited in 3D to match the depth. New set-pieces, particularly those suited to the new format were also included, such as digital logs which scatter in the direction of the camera during the first half of the film when the train collides with them, the gunshot scene which frees Jai and Veeru from their handcuffs, and panoramic views of Gabbar's hideout in the caves.
The theatrical trailer and release date were unveiled by the original script-writers Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar. The two original leads, Bachchan and Dharmendra, were also involved in promoting the re-release. The film was released in 1,000 screens in India, and additional screens overseas. It earned approximately ₹100 million (US$1.6 million) during its re-release, not enough to recover its conversion cost.