The year 1975 will be remembered for three reasons: Declaration of emergency and the release of two major films: Deewar and Sholay. Deewar, one of the iconic Hindi films, is the story of a mother and her two sons. We have seen similar storylines before (for example, Mother India, Gunga Jamuna). This Yash Chopra film has Amitabh Bacchan as Vijay, in whose arm was written mera baap chor hai. Vijay carried the stigma wherever he went. He carried it with a half-folded sleeve of his shirt. Vijay’s father suffered at the hands of tyrants. He wanted better working conditions for his mill worker colleagues. He had to pay the price; the tyrants made sure that he flees the town. Vijay can’t forget what was written on his arm. It was written into his mind as well. Vijay too leaves the town along with his mother and younger brother. Bombay’s footpaths give them shelter. Time flies. The two brothers take two different paths; one a underworld don and the other a dutiful son and the caretaker of the law; one is in possession of ill-gained wealth and the other has ma ( mere paas ma hai). As is expected, one brother is pitted against another. The foregone conclusion is not to be spelt out; it is obvious. Vijay was looking for eternal sleep only a mother’s lap can give. And he was happy to find security in a ruthless city. In ‘Deewar’ Amitabh Bacchan brilliantly balanced the turbulent fury with his charisma and cool. As someone wrote, Amitabh in the film had a uterine worldview, and his fury abates the moment the umbilical cord is restored. That profound sleep of contentment Vijay could find in the lap of his mother. Vijay was never an outsider to his mother.
‘Sholay’ is one of the most talked about Indian films. I have not seen a multi-starrer that has so many well etched roles. Besides the big ones, Thakur Saheb (Sanjiv Kumar), Veeru (Dharmendra), Jai (Amitabh Bacchan), Basanti (Hema Malini), Radha (Jaya Bhaduri), and Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan), there are so many unforgettable characters like mausi (Leela Mishra), jailor (Asrani), Haririam nai (Keshto), the imam saahib (AK Hangal), Samba (MacMohan), Kaalia (Viju Khote), Surma Bhopali (Jagdeep) in one film. Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singhi s simply outstanding. Danny was offered this role but he couldn’t do it due to his other engagement. The role was then offered to Amjad, a newcomer. Imagine a newcomer pitted against three stalwarts. It was the director’s confidence on the new find. “Although defeated, although dead, this man is frightening” that is how Hitler was described. In cinema, it is Gabbar Singh. Jo dar gaya samjho wo mar gaya. Gabbar Singh simplified hate. I can’t imagine a tighter script than of Sholay. The authentic Ramnagar is a character in the film. It was a spontaneously made film. “I went from moment to moment and tackled each thing as it came,” writes Ramesh Sippy. I was stunned when I saw the film. After the completion of the film, its ending was changed. In the original, Thakur Saheb kills Gabbar. The question was being raised – how an ex-police officer can take law into his hand. During the emergency, no one was willing to go to the court and fight with the censor board. It was therefore decided to change the ending. The ending was reshot. Police come and take Gabbar away when Thakur Saheb was about to kill him. The film was made with a lot of care and patience. There was a huge cost over-run. Ramesh Sippy took the chance, his artists and technicians supported him. The result is a classic. The film’s appeal is unabated even after 45 years. We still are reminded of kitney admi the, itna sannata kyon hai bhai.