Sholay (1975)

“You have a lot of strength left in your arms, don’t you? Remember what you said to me that day? ‘These aren’t arms, they’re your noose’. Look at you now, the noose has opened! You still have a lot of strength in your arms, don’t you? Give me your arms, Thakur.”

‘Sholay’, directed by Ramesh Sippy in 1975, is an Indian action-comedy-musical-romantic-dance-drama starring Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan as Veeru and Jai, a pair of thieves who are employed by a retired policeman, Thakur, played by Sanjeev Kumar, to avenge the deaths of his family at the hands of a dacoit. The pair then have a series of adventures including being arrested, escaping and finally defending a village and falling in love with two local girls. In basic story terms, ‘Sholay’ is very similar to Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’, but this is a ‘masala film’, so instead of a straightforward action, ‘Sholay’ is a melange of different genres and styles all of which should, in any other movie, clash but instead the episodic feel of the film means they blend nicely together. There is a strong sense of homoeroticism between the two main characters, taking inspiration from ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ but then increasing the ‘volume’. It’s not subtle and to someone like me who is unfamiliar with the Bollywood style it is quite overwhelming, but there is an infectious energy that carries you along. Oddly, the similar clash of genres is the thing that I felt created a feeling of uneasiness in the British movie ‘The Wicker Man’, but here it feels more picaresque. The film is long, but again this is excused by the episodic nature of the narrative. At no point does it feel like it has overstayed its welcome, and by the end you feel like the fate of the characters has been built to.

Would I recommend it? AS the first movie I’ve seen of its style it felt like a good introduction. Weirdly I’d watch it in a double bill with ‘The Wicker Man’ for the contrast and to see what results can be gained through the manipulation and collision of different genres.

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