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Sholay: A Classic Indian Film

Sholay: A Classic Indian Film

Sholay is a 1975 Indian Hindi-language action-adventure film written by SalimJaved, directed by Ramesh Sippy, and produced by his father G. P. Sippy. The film is about two criminals, Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jai (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, Basanti and Radha, respectively.


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 Filmfare Awards named it the Best Film of 50 Years. The film was also an overseas success in the Soviet Union. It was the highest-grossing Indian film ever at the time, and was the highest-grossing film in India up until Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (1994). By numerous accounts, Sholay remains one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time, adjusted for inflation.

The film is a Dacoit Western (sometimes called a "Curry Western"), combining the conventions of Indian dacoit films with that of Spaghetti Westerns along with elements of Samurai cinema. Sholay is also 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.


The film opens with a train robbery by Gabbar Singh and his gang. Thakur Baldev Singh, a retired police officer who was in charge of capturing Gabbar, witnesses the massacre of his family by Gabbar at his home. He loses his arms in the attack as well. Seeking revenge, he hires two small-time crooks, Veeru and Jai, who are in jail for a bank robbery they did not commit. He offers them a large sum of money if they can capture Gabbar alive and bring him to him.

Veeru and Jai agree to work for Thakur after he bails them out of jail. They travel to Ramgarh, where Thakur lives with his widowed daughter-in-law Radha, who is secretly in love with Jai. Veeru is attracted to Basanti, a feisty young woman who drives a horse-cart and talks incessantly. The two pairs develop romantic feelings for each other, but do not express them openly.

Veeru and Jai encounter Gabbar's gang several times and manage to thwart their plans. They also befriend a reformed dacoit named Sambha, who becomes their informant. They learn that Gabbar has a secret hideout near Ramgarh and plan to attack it with Thakur's help. However, on the way, they are ambushed by Gabbar's men and separated. Jai is wounded in the gunfight and falls unconscious. Veeru fights his way through the enemies and reaches Gabbar's den. He finds Jai lying on a cot and assumes he is dead. He confronts Gabbar and engages him in a fistfight. He overpowers him and ties him up with a rope.

Veeru then drags Gabbar to Ramgarh to hand him over to Thakur. He is shocked to see that Jai is still alive and has been brought back by Sambha. He hugs him joyfully and tells him that he has captured Gabbar for him. Thakur then reveals his true motive: he wants to kill Gabbar himself for what he did to his family. He takes out a pair of spiked shoes and prepares to crush Gabbar's face with them. However, before he can do so, the police arrive and arrest Gabbar. They also inform Thakur that Veeru and Jai are innocent of the bank robbery and have been pardoned by the government. Thakur is disappointed that he could not avenge his family, but he thanks Veeru and Jai for their service.

Veeru and Jai decide to leave Ramgarh and start a new life. They bid farewell to Thakur, Radha, and Basanti. Veeru proposes to Basanti and she accepts. Jai also confesses his love to Radha and asks her to come with him. She hesitates, but Thakur encourages her to go. Jai and Radha embrace each other and join Veeru and Basanti on the horse-cart. The four of them ride away happily, while Thakur watches them with a smile.


  • Dharmendra as Veeru

  • Amitabh Bachchan as Jai

  • Sanjeev Kumar as Thakur Baldev Singh

  • Hema Malini as Basanti

  • Jaya Bhaduri as Radha

  • Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singh

  • Satyen Kappu as Ramlaal, Thakur's loyal servant

  • A. K. Hangal as Rahim Chacha, the imam of Ramgarh

  • Sachin as Ahmed, Rahim's son who is killed by Gabbar

  • Jagdeep as Soorma Bhopali, a comical wood trader

  • Asrani as the jailor

  • Keshto Mukherjee as Hariram, the drunkard prisoner

  • Leela Mishra as Mausi, Basanti's aunt

  • Mac Mohan as Sambha, Gabbar's sidekick who reforms

  • Viju Khote as Kaalia, another member of Gabbar's gang who is killed by him


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. The film had a budget of 30 million (US$420,000), making it the most expensive Indian film at that time. The film faced several production delays due to various reasons, such as weather conditions, health issues of the cast and crew, technical problems, and script changes. The film also underwent several changes in its cast and crew during its making. For instance, Danny Denzongpa was originally cast as Gabbar Singh, but he had to opt out due to prior commitments. Amjad Khan was then chosen to play the role, but he faced opposition from the producers who thought he had a weak voice. He was eventually retained after he impressed the director with his improvisations. Similarly, Shatrughan Sinha was initially offered the role of Jai, but he declined it due to his busy schedule. Amitabh Bachchan then auditioned for the role and got it with the help of his wife Jaya Bhaduri, who was already cast as Radha.

The film's music was composed by R. D. Burman, who collaborated with lyricist Anand Bakshi for the songs. The film had seven songs in total, featuring various singers such as Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey, Rafi Sahab, and Bhupinder Singh. The songs were well received by the audience and became popular. Some of the songs were also inspired by or based on other songs from different sources. For example, the song "Mehbooba Mehbooba" was based on a Greek song called "Say You Love Me" by Demis Roussos. The song "Yeh Dosti" was inspired by the song "Come September" by Billy Vaughn.

The film's dialogues were written by SalimJaved, who also wrote the story and screenplay. The dialogues were highly appreciated for their wit, humour, and impact. Some of the dialogues became iconic and are still quoted by people today. For example, Gabbar's dialogue "Kitne aadmi the?" (How many men were there?) is often used to mock someone's failure or incompetence. Another famous dialogue is "Jo darr gaya samjho mar gaya" (He who is scared is dead), which is used to motivate someone to face their fears. The film also has several memorable scenes that are etched in the minds of the viewers. For example, the scene where Veeru and Jai balance on a motorbike and sing "Yeh Dosti" is considered one of the most iconic friendship scenes in Indian cinema. Another scene that is widely remembered is the climax scene where Thakur tries to kill Gabbar with his spiked shoes.

Release and reception

The film was released on 15 August 1975, coinciding with India's Independence Day. The film had a slow start at the box office, as it received mixed reviews from the critics. Some critics praised the film's action, music, and performances, while others criticised the film's violence, length, and plot. However, the film soon gained popularity through word-of-mouth and became a blockbuster. The film ran for more than five years at Mumbai's Minerva theatre, a record that remains unbroken. The film also did well in overseas markets, especially in the Soviet Union, where it drew an audience of 69.6 million viewers, making it one of the most successful foreign films in that country.

The film has been widely acclaimed by various critics and scholars over the years. It has been recognised as a classic and a milestone in Indian cinema. It has been praised for its direction, cinematography, editing, music, dialogues, and performances. It has also been analysed for its themes, genres, influences, and cultural impact. The film has won several awards and honours, including the Filmfare Awards for Best Editing, Best Sound, and Best Screenplay. It was also nominated for the Best Film award, but lost to Deewaar, another film written by SalimJaved and starring Amitabh Bachchan. The film was also selected by India as its entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 50th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.

The film has also inspired many remakes, parodies, spoofs, and homages in various media. Some of the notable examples are Ramgarh Ke Sholay (1991), a Hindi comedy film featuring look-alikes of famous actors; China Gate (1998), a Bollywood action film loosely based on Seven Samurai (1954) and Sholay; Aag (2007), an offic


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