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29 years later, Sholay still rules

Express Features Service

Posted: Aug 14, 2004 at 1312 hrs IST

Kitne aadmi the? As the tobacco-chewing, fiery-eyed Gabbar (Amjad Khan), uttered the familiar line, silence gripped the dark aisles.

Spellbound, the packed crowd at Minerva Theatre in gritty Grant Road, relived Sholay, the blockbuster that broke records with a five-year run at the top until Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge beat it in the 90s.

The contrast couldn’t have been starker. While Vivek Oberoi-Aishwarya Rai’s much-hyped Kyun Ho Gaya Na met a cold response with just 60 to 70 per cent business on its first day, Sholay’s house was full.

Twenty-nine years after it was released (on August 15, 1975), director Ramesh Sippy’s epochal movie has not lost its appeal.

When its new avatar (digitally spruced-up and with a four-track soundtrack) hit theatres on Friday, fans queued up in droves. ‘‘I first saw it in 1975 at the same theatre. No other film has been like this,’’ raves Dilip Naik, 49, a taxi-driver who bunked work to watch it.

The craze is infectious, the adulation unabashed. ‘‘In 1975, I bought a ticket (priced at Rs 4 and 40 paise) for Rs 80 in black. Today I bought one (priced at Rs 30) for double its price. I must have seen it 15 times so far,’’ claims Gyanand Masurkar, 50, a small trader at Vile Parle.

Be it Gabbar’s menacing demeanour, Thakur Baldev Singh’s (Sanjeev Kumar) steely resolve, the famed Viru-Jay (Dharmendra-Amitabh Bachchan) friendship or the bindaas Basanti (Hema Malini), everything in Sholay went right.

The scriptwriter duo, Salim Javed, gave several other hits, but no script matched Sholay’s intensity, its perfect depiction of human emotions.

Sushil Mehra, general manager of Minerva, which hosted Sholay’s premiere 29 years ago, reminisces:‘‘Busloads of policemen came from Pune and other cities. It ran for five years at my theatre.’’

‘‘These days a new film rarely has a housefull, but Sholay’s next two days are booked in advance.’’

For distributor Liaqat Gola, buying Sholay was a challenge. ‘‘We didn’t expect such an overwhelming response for a two-decade-old movie. But we knew people still remembered Gabbar’s lines, Basanti’s bak-bak (non-stop talks),’’ smiles Gola, who plans to take Sholay to other cities soon and plans to re-release Shaan soon.

‘‘My friend translated the dialogues for me. Amitabh is the only actor I recognised. I liked the actions, the fights,’’ says Tore Gronne, 25, the sole firang in the crowd.

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