On August 15, Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay completes 40 years. Subhash K Jha speaks to Amitabh Bachchan on the film that’s widely regarded as the most successful work from Indian cinema of all times.
40 years of Sholay…your initial thoughts on the historic impact of the film?
Never expected it to be what it did turn out to be ..
Amitji, tell us about how you signed the film?
Salim- Javed had worked with me in Zanjeer and they recommended me for Sholay. I also pleaded with Dharamji (who played the other lead in Sholay) to put in a compassionate word for me.
Sholay remains special on many counts. For one, Jayaji played your silent love interest. How special was it to work with your ‘soul mate’ in a film where you couldn’t express your love to her?
I can’t believe you are asking this question! I mean when you work on a film you play the character surely. You forget what relation the colleague has with you …
Your camaraderie with Dharamji is now legendary. Did the two of you share good times, playful times when not shooting?
Yes we did.
Sadly the two of you did only two other films Chupke Chupke and Ram Balram together.
Yes… but it’s not as though we did not want to .We did a few guest appearances together, after that.
Why was Ram Balram a disappointment in spite of Vijay Anand at its helm?
It was not a disappointment for me at all. I loved working in it. And disappointment in what… box office? I am not so sure it was a failure.
You also got to work with Sanjeev Kumar. Went to do many memorable films with him… What was it like working with him especially in this film?
A joy as always. A superior talent and a most likeable colleague!!
Gabbar Singh… did you and your Sholay mates expect the villain to become so iconic?
When I heard the script I begged Salim Saab and Javed Saab and later Ramesh Sippyji to let me play Gabbar. That should answer your question. I knew that it would be very popular and liked. Amjad and I met on the sets of Sholay, and remained dear friends till his passing.
Salim – Javed wrote many memorable characters for you. Which are your favourites?
All of them.
Sirjee, did you ever expect the film would become such a landmark success?
Ramesh Sippy Saab and you did even better work together in Shakti. But Sholay remained the benchmark in Sippy Saab’s career. Would it be correct to say a film like Sholay becomes a hard act to repeat for all involved, specially the director?
It is not fair to say he did better work in Shakti, but Sholay became a benchmark. Each film has its own USP. Sholay had its own as did Shakti. Each project is looked at differently. I would like to believe that each project for a maker is equivalent of giving birth to their child. How could one child be different from another in affection, care and concern?
Finally how would you define the enduring power and glory of Sholay?
‘The answer my friend is ‘blowin’ in the wind’. That after 40 years of its release you are still wanting to do an interview on it.