It has been 46 long years since Ramesh Sippy directorial Sholay first released on the big screen. Over the years, the Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Jaya Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar and Amjad Khan movie has achieved the much coveted title of ‘iconic.’ Sholay is regarded by many as Bollywood’s quintessential masala movie, which not only entertained, but engaged the audience with its well-woven script, evergreen music and everlasting performances.
The dialogues, penned by the former scriptwriting partners Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, are now etched in the popular culture with golden ink. RD Burman’s music added that extra layer of zest to an already ‘alive’ script. But if you thought Sholay is a great movie-watching experience, can you imagine what went into its making?
There are lots of stories that have been told on how the casting happened, how the scenes were explained to the artistes, and finally, how they were shot. As far as the casting goes, it is now an acknowledged fact that Dharmendra helped Amitabh Bachchan secure the part of the silent, broody Jai. It was earlier supposed to be essayed by Shatrughan Sinha. During an episode of Aap Ki Adalat in 2018, Dharmendra had said, “I’ve never spoken about this, but since Amitabh has started saying that I helped him get the role, I’ll say it: Yes, I did help him get the role. He used to come to me. But originally, the role was going to Shatrughan Sinha.” Dharmendra went on to add that he was later questioned by Sinha on why he helped Big B. To which the actor had replied, “Yaar, kuch samajh nahi aata, woh pehle aaya, socha chalo bechare ko de do (I don’t know, he came to me first and I thought the poor guy should get it).”
Another interesting trivia which both Javed Akhtar and Ramesh Sippy had once admitted was that everyone wanted to cast Amjad Khan as Gabbar. In fact, Sippy was convinced that they had found their perfect villain in Khan on their first meeting. However, not everyone involved in the making of Sholay was as excited about the actor’s casting, apparently due to his voice. Nevertheless, Amjad Khan went on to star as Gabbar in the movie, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Hema Malini and Dharmendra’s romance also blossomed on the sets of Sholay. Apparently, the latter would intentionally mess up his romantic scenes so that he could get a chance to enact them again with Hema Malini, film critic Anupama Chopra recounts in her book on the film, Sholay: The Making of a Classic. When Chopra finally asked filmmaker Ramesh Sippy about this, the director said that he had no idea, but was happy to know that his epic film also founded a real-life Bollywood love story.
Sholay, now remembered as a landmark film in Indian cinema landscape, was declared a flop upon its release. However, things changed for it several weeks into the release. And it is said that by the end of the tenth week, Sholay was declared a box office blockbuster!