The reason why I love films like The Rock, Drunken Master, The Good The Bad and The Ugly and even Blazing Saddles is that more than anything else the films have that “did you see that?” quality to them. They’re ridiculous, flashy and keep us moving in a way that doesn’t ask too much of the audience. Sholay is a film that does just this and possibly more. Infusing western cinema with the idea of the vast western, riffing on well known motifs, and sometimes even lifting complete shots from films such as Once Upon a Time in the West and The Magnificent Seven we see the answer to the question of what would be if India adopted Westerns with a tone of Blaxspoitation cinema and threw some musical sequences in the middle of it all.
It seems apt that I make Sholay my blindspot entry from the month of May, because it feels like the perfect summer movie. It feels as if someone was in a lab constructing this film from all the best elements of entertainment for maximum enjoyment while at the same time lost in how to reign in any sense of control over what they were doing. When half-way through the film we discover the reason for Thakur’s (Sanjeev Kumar) reason for his need to have Gabbar (Amjad Khan) captured you feel as though we’ve seen a too much.
However, what makes this film truly great is how it embraces whimsy along with our leads. Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) are pretty much two of the best best friends you’ll see on screen. They’re up there with even the likes of Tango & Cash. From seeing them argue over who Veeru’s alcoholism to just hanging out and singing what I could only assume was about the two of them being best friends is a joy to watch. Here is where Indian cinema grabbed one of the most important commodities of the American Hollywood conveyor belt of film production; likability. This film makes Veeru and Jai such likable heroes that you enjoy their misadventures even more as they run about the world doing random stuff. Even watching them con the Indian Hitler that oversees the jail they’re locked up in for a short while is better than most comedies made today in Hollywood.
The most curious thought that came to mind somewhere around the second hour in this film is wondering if this was just for me? I’m a person who revels in the insanity of these kinds of films. I glorify the films like The FP and Condorman. I constantly keep delving into that period in the 80s where some would argue that Hollywood only made these cheap cheesy films that only worked to twelve year olds. The truth of the matter is that I love those films, as well as this, because they so obviously fail to manage viewers’ suspension of disbelief that seems to be so important to filmmaking due to a cavalier approach which is all about the filmmaker’s own ability to make the impossible possible in this one instance. I’m laughing because it’s so ludicrous that I can’t help but laugh. It’s almost a cathartic laugh thinking that if I was making a movie why wouldn’t I do this? Why wouldn’t I make the Blues Mobile flip backways back onto the road?