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45 years of ‘Sholay’

“Sholay”, a cult classic about revenge and redemption, was initially set to have its key characters of Jai-Veeru and Thakur from Army background and a different ending, says director Ramesh Sippy, who never imagined the film would become upon its release 45 years ago. After making “Andaz” and “Seeta Aur Geeta”, Sippy wanted to switch to action genre and make a film similar to Hollywood Westerns.

And as luck would have it, celebrated writer duo Salim Khan- Javed Akhtar narrated him “Sholay”, which had been with Manmohan Desai and “probably Prakash Mehra” but could not take off. Sippy said when the story came to him he stayed true to its original idea of two guys on the run and their involvement in helping Thakur to avenge the murder of his family by a dreaded dacoit terrorising his village. “The colour and characters came into existence later but the basic storyline was in place. Except that the two guys (Jai and Veeru) were from the Army and Sanjeev Kumar’s role of Thakur was of an Army officer, who was changed to a cop,” Sippy told source.

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The journey of creating “Sholay”, including scripting and casting, took a little over two years. The shoot started from October 3, 1973 and the film hit the theatres on August 15, 1975. The director said they knew that they had a good film in their hands.

“We felt that we were making a damn good film but certainly not that 45 years later we would be talking about it. Everyone put their best foot forward. But we didn’t expect this much (love and following). It has become a phenomenon,” he said.

“Sholay” was also one of those rare stories, where the character of the villain Gabbar Singh was one of the biggest highlights, even during the casting process. Sippy said lead stars of the film Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan and Kumar all were vying to play the role and were willing to give up on their hero image, but he had found his Gabbar in Amjad Khan, who was roped in after Danny Denzongpa had quit due to his commitment to Feroz Khan’s film “Dharmatma”.

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