Is Sholay a Curry Western? To answer this question different film critics convey their individual thoughts. Among them, I am mentioning just one. Anupama Chopra said, “Sholay is not merely a film, It is the ultimate classic”.
Anupama Chopra didn’t tell wrong about Ramesh Sippy’s classic. Sholay is a 1975 Indian action-adventure film directed by Ramesh Sippy and produced by his father G. P. Sippy.
However, Sholay ran for five consecutive years at Mumbai’s Minerva theatre. By some accounts, this film was the highest-grossing Indian film of all time. BBC India in 1999 declared Sholay ‘Film of the Millennium’ and Hindustan Times in 2013 consider this movie as ‘Movie of the century’
In the village of Ramgarh, retired police chief Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) plots to bring down the notorious bandit Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) and enlists the help of two lesser criminals, Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra). When Gabbar attacks the village, however, Jai and Veeru wonder why Thakur does nothing to help them. They soon learn that he has no arms and that Gabbar was the one who cut them off. At the end, when Veeru caught Gabbar after a series of gunfights, horse racing, dance-sequences, and Jai’s death, he handed over to Thakur to fulfill his revenge.
Sholay as a Curry Western
There is a controversy about Sholay’s film. Many critics consider Sholay as a copy or inspired film from some western classics. Many of them also claim that it is an ideal example of curry western.
Curry western refers to those films which blend a lot of genres. Some Bollywood films borrow basic plot ideas from American and Italian westerns, but they add musical numbers and they give the drama, action, romance, and comedy according to story requirement.
Conforming to this aspect, Sholay can be said a pure instance of curry western. Sholay borrows its basic storyline and some of its best ideas from The Magnificent Seven (1960) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). Though Sholay inspired by some other western classics too like 100 rifles, Akira Kurasawa’s “Seven Samurai” and the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone.
Sholay’s cinematography, set design, frames, camera angle, editing, and way of storytelling is a reflection of western classics. The visual motif used tremendously in this film. Villain character Gabbar Shing’s laughing style and sound are also similar to a western film’s antagonist. In fact, the melody of the famous song ‘Mehbooba’ was also copied from a western song ‘Say you love me’ Some scenes have resembled same to same as some western film.
Sholay is wrongly termed as a masala film by some critics. Some film critics consider it as a masala film but I don’t think so. Typical Masala movies have no storyline and have lots of typical clichés. But Sholay I would love to watch anytime, most importantly the music and the dialogues of this film are magnificent.
I have watched this film several times. According to my personal opinion, it is one of the landmark movies in Indian film history. Comparing to that era set, location, frames, camera angles, light, color every element of visual storytelling was outstanding and praiseworthy.
Imitation is not bad all time. Innovation leads to imitations sometimes. In fact, many early western directors also borrow their plots from other sources. John Sturges’s The Magnificent Seven (1960) inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) inspired by The Last Sunset (1961).
Director Ramesh Sippy deserves credit for being able to take well-worn ideas from other westerns and giving them an entertaining Bollywood twist. He does a terrific job. Sholay is the best curry western film I have ever watched from Bollywood.