Non-Fiction Reads: Sholay: The Making of a Classic by Anupama Chopra

The first time I saw Sholay (1975) was on national television in the late nineties. It was also the first time the movie was telecast on Indian television, I found out later. 

Sholay never felt four-odd hours long on that first viewing. I mourned a major character’s death way past the end credits, and an unbreakable fan-movie bond was forged.

Sholay (Embers) has the epic wide landscape features of Sergio Leone westerns and is yet endearingly Indian in its earthiness, dialogues, acting style, song and dance sequences. There haven’t been many befitting mixed genre, adventure, buddy movie experiences like Sholay in popular Indian cinema.     

The movie still holds my cinematic imagination and I am a huge fan now of its filminess, well-moulded Western elements, imperfections, memorable dialogues, detailed train robbery scene (standout action sequence), overdone water tank top jokes, largely sturdy acting, good music, and popcorn-crunching screenplay. 

So much that I run a blog, Sholayism and was among the select few who saw Sholay in 3D at the theatres, on its limited one week run.

Unexpected,fun stories 

Sholay: The Making of a Classic (2000) was a story screaming out loud to be told and Anupama Chopra tells it with spunk and great enthusiasm. An exclusive collection of colour and black & white photographs also decorate the pages. 

Each chapter is wackily titled after a popular Sholay dialogue. The anecdotes are well spaced out, aptly arranged chronologically, and ending with an actor breaking down on realizing the magnitude of his popularity.

How did a lead actor lose out on a great opportunity, what was it about the Salim-Javed writing pair, the unlikely outdoor location in Karnataka, a villian who everybody had their doubts on, how the dialogue audio cassettes sold more than the soundtrack, why the director-cinematographer chemistry is so important, among many other interesting tales, when shooting a magnum opus was a daunting challenge, than it is today.    

If you immensely love movies, you will love discovering how much passion, madness, technicalities, patience and self-belief goes into creating a landmark cinematic experience.

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

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