‘Sholay’ – A masterpiece or a poor carbon copy of Kurosawa’s ‘seven samurai’?

Sholay cannot be termed a remake, a rehash also since it does not substitute a classic like Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai with another one.

‘Sholay’, touted as one of the greatest stories ever told is now 45 years old. The makers want to make another event and earn some bucks. A number of events were planned including a get together of the star ensemble on ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’. However each time I revisit the film, it loses some respect which it presumably earned in the past. In the end, it all boils down to the fact that it is a poor copy of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. It cannot be termed a remake, a rehash also since it does not substitute Kurosawa’s classic with another one.

Many filmmakers tried to repeat the ‘Sholay’ saga unsuccessfully and included the great Shekhar Kapur of ‘Bandit Queen’ fame. Shekhar started off with ‘Joshilay’ and loud-mouthed that he will out-Sholay with Joshilay. However, he soon realized his folly and bid a quick exit. The same can be said about ‘Sholay’ which was a remake of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai but could not reach a tenth of the original when it came to cinematic brilliance.

The fact that ‘Sholay’ is not a great film can be gauged by the fact that it did not start a new trend in the Indian Film scene. In fact ‘Zanjeer’ can be seen as a trendsetter since it drastically changed the theme from soft romantic and ‘Mills and Boon’ type stories so well enacted by Rajesh Khanna and Rajendra Kumar to the angry young man saga of Amitabh Bachchan.

The Trailer of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, an epic Samurai drama originally made in 1954 in Japan

In an interview, a great doyen of parallel cinema, Naseeruddin Shah said that he did not consider ‘Sholay’ a great film. He was criticized and trolled mercilessly when he added that down the time lane, Amitabh will never be remembered like Dilip Kumar since he did not have a single film on his list worth remembering.

Revisiting ‘Sholay’ it becomes clear that there is a lot of difference between ‘Seven Samurai’ and ‘Sholay’. The Seven renegades in Seven Samurai has been replaced by two and that itself is an embodiment of stupidity. It is only in a Hindi film that the exploits of seven can be fitted into two characters.  To some extent, the scenic locales of rural Japan have been honestly replaced by the rugged beauty of rural India and the makers must be credited for that.

Every time I watch Sholay, I get the feeling that it is another potboiler and it falls terribly short of being called a masterpiece. It was a gigantic money spinner of its time and still evokes excitement screams my friend when I try to reason with him. It ran for 5 years in Minerva Talkies in Mumbai and who the hell are you to downgrade it? Amen.

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Manoj Nair

Manoj is a passionate writer who loves writing on a variety of subjects including trivia, retro movies, unique and unkno More »
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