Barely 60 kilometers away from Bengaluru on the National Highway 275, en route to Ooty and Coorg, is a bucolic town called Ramanagara. Its proximity to Bengaluru and its breathtakingly beautiful rocks and vista, has transformed the town as one of the preferred weekend getaways for Bengalurians. With traffic choking the state capital, Ramanagara offers an easy escape from the din and chaos of city life. Apart from the rustic charm of the town, every visitor is guaranteed a brush with Bollywood history. Ramangara has a sobriquet and it is ‘Ramgad’.
Ask any Indian Bollywood fan, preferably those in their 30s or above, about Ramgad town, and it is most likely to resonate with them through Sholay — a movie that redefined the way movies were made in Bollywood and a movie, which even after 40 years of its release, has no parallel in Indian commercial cinema. A movie which made every character in it unforgettable, including the imaginary town Ramgad conceived by the writing duo ‘Salim-Javed’.
That there can’t be another Sholay, another Jai and Veeru, another Gabbar and Thakur, another Basanti, Soorma Bhopali, Kalia and Sambha, Mausi, Rahim Chacha and there can’t be another Dhanno, is what most of Bollywood agrees to; those who have watched the movie over a hundred times since its release even swear by its every frame.
One such ardent fan of the film is 58-year-old Anand Tiwari. Anand runs a small grocery shop in Gurgaon after having migrated to the city from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh in his early 30s. “For a month in a row, me and a friend of mine watched Sholay after its release in 1975,” recalls Anand. “We walked into the theatre without much hope for entertainment, but we walked out with an experience we still cherish. We used to walk in Jai-Veeru style, talk like them and repeat the dialogues from the movie at the drop of a hat.” He says his favourite dialogue from the movie is, “Jo darr gaya, samjho marr gaya! (Whoever fears is as good as dead).” A dialogue delivered by Gabbar Singh, the bearded dacoit with a sinister grin, clad in olive green with a revolver in his hand and whose fear transcended beyond Ramgad.
The name Gabbar itself was striking and late Bollywood ‘baddie’ Amjad Khan immortalised the character. “My father was a police man and he told me the story of notorious dacoit named Gabbar, who would cut the noses of cops who fell into his traps. That’s where we got the name Gabbar Singh,” revealed Salim Khan during an interview with a national news channel. Little did Khan know then that Gabbar Singh would become one of the most iconic villains of all time.
At a time when the country was heading for one of the worst political crises of independent India, Sholay provided a perfect entertainment to the masses. The movie has all the ingredients of a Bollywood pot-boiler. Two dashing heroes, one dreaded dacoit, an upright cop and hosts of other characters with each frame just shot to perfection. The plot revolves around a former police inspector who ropes in small-time criminals, with hearts of gold, to settle score with a dacoit who wiped out his (former police inspector’s) entire family. Right from the first frame when Thakur (police inspector) descends from the stairs to the last frame of the movie, the mark of genius cinematographer Dwarka Divecha at work is evident. The kind of cinematography in the film was hitherto not witnessed by Bollywood movie goers. The train sequence shot in the beginning of the movie still stands unchallenged in Bollywood. The concept of the background score was fully exploited in the film. The introduction of Gabbar Singh with the background score of a howling hyena was enough to send chills down the spine. The man behind the background score and songs was another legend, RD Burman. With songs like Yeh Dosti and Mehbooba, Mehbooba, Burman aptly showed his brilliance as a music director.