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"Sholay" (1975) - A Fact File on the Cult Classic (Part One - Before the Release) (Did You Know - 2)

09 Apr, 2008 | Articles on Cinema / Did You Know! / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / S

It is the movie which has represented Indian Film Industry all over the world in the last few decades. Millions have their memories associated with the classic and have seen it uncountable times in theaters, on cable, television and dvds. It is a must for every Indian Movie Collector’s home video library and it is the first choice for broadcasters when they can find nothing else to telecast.

For all who love the unforgettable epic, here are some amazing facts associated with “Sholay” its making and its cast and crew. Many of you may be aware of few facts listed here, but you surely will find some very fresh and new findings too in the info below. So just explore the world of “Sholay” once again…..
Inspirational Sources :
It was noticed that the film had heavy western influence of cowboy movies. It was highly inspired by the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone. It was also called as a curry western by many critics at that time.
Among its major western influences were:
1. Once Upon A Time In The West
2. Seven Samurai
3. Magnificent Seven
4. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

5. Tossing a coin before making a decision came from Gary Cooper’s “Garden Of Evil”
6. Similar to the double sided coin used by Jai, Marlon Brando also has a double sided coin in One Eyed Jacks (1960) which he uses to his own advantage.
7. The famous train sequence in the beginning inspired from "North West Frontier" (1959).
8. The Cult “Mehbooba Mehbooba” is based on “Say You Love Me” by Demi Roussas and is equally enjoyable.
9. The Dharmendra Hema song “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” has a very similar start to the prelude of “Jomeh” a song by an Iranian Singer Googoosh.
10. The background music, with mouth organ piece and other sounds had a very acute similarity with the music in “Once Upon A Time In The West”
Among it’s said Indian influences were:
1. Mera Gaon Mera Desh - Based on the theme of dacoits, the movie was released in 1971 and was also written by Salim Javed. It had Vinod Khanna playing the role of a dacoit who was called Jabbar Singh, very close to the name Gabbar Singh used for Amjad Khan in Sholay. Also “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” song’s situation was quite similar to the “Maar Diya Jaaye” song in the same film.

2. Khottey Sikkey - Featuring Feroz Khan in his then famous Cowboy image.
3. It was claimed that the basic plot of the movie was taken from a 1972 movie Bindiya Aur Bandook” produced by Joginder.
However Gabbar Singh’s character was reportedly based on a real-life dacoit of the same name who was famous in the villages around Gwalior in the 1950s. He has his terror in the area and any policeman captured by the real Gabbar Singh had his ears and nose cut off, and was then released as an example for others.

Gabbar’s mannerisms and dreadful laughter was reworked around the character of Mexican bandito played by Gian Maria Volonte in For A Few Dollars More“.

The get up of Asrani as the Jailor was inspired by the Hitler like get up of Charlie Chaplin in “The Great Dictator”.

Salim-Javed, named Veeru and Jai after a couple of their college friends.
The famous overhead Tank Scene where Veeru threatens Mausi with suicide was inspired from a real life incident.

The scene where Jai attempts a proposal of marriage for Veeru in front of Mausi was also said to be drawn from a real life incident related to the writers.

But one more similar kind of scene was also there in “Half Ticket” where Kishore Kumar too ruins a marriage proposal in the same manner. May be it was also there somewhere as an inspiration in the mind of the writers.
Before the Making
Director Manmohan Desai was was first approached by the writing duo of Javed Akhtar and Salim Khan with the story of this movie. He was busy shooting "Chacha Bhatija" (1977) and could not accept the project.
Prakash Mehra was also approached with the idea but he too was busy in making Zanzeer”.
About Casting
Dharmendra was interested in playing Thakur Baldev Singh, but changed his mind when Ramesh Sippy told him Basanti was to be played by Hema Malini.
He was also informed that Sanjeev Kumar would play Veeru and then he would get the heroine, Hema Malini. Sanjeev Kumar had just then proposed marriage to Hema Malini. Dharmendra was in love with her and quickly went back to the role of Veeru.
Amjad Khan prepared to play the dacoit by reading a book titled Abhishapth Chambal, which was about the Chambal dacoits. The book was written by Taroon Bhaduri, father of Jaya Bhaduri.

It is also believed that Amitabh was more interested in Gabbar's role.
The director's original choice for Jai was Shatrughan Sinha at first, but as it couldn’t work then Salim Javed suggested Amitabh to the producers as the right choice. And later through the efforts of Amitabh himself and Dharmendra, the role was assigned to him finally.

was the first choice of Gabbar but had to miss out because he was shooting for Dharmatma in Afghanistan.
Amjad Khan was almost dropped from the project because 'Javed Akhtar' found his voice too weak for Gabbar Singh's role but then he was definitely in.
Music by the Maestro RDB
“Koi Haseena Jab Rooth Jaati Hai” was the first song to be composed.
Music of the film was sold at a very high price (according to that time) to Polydor. The deal was on an Advance Royalty contract for the first time ever.
The song “Mehbooba Mehbooba” was to be recorded in the voice of Asha Bhosle, but then R. D. Burman himself did the vocals.
Shooting The Classic
The first scene to be shot was the one in which “Amitabh returns the safe keys to Jaya”.
Amitabh Bachchan was almost killed at the end of the movie when a stray bullet from 'Dharmendra' missed him by inches.
It was during the making of Sholay that Amitabh discovered he was going to be a father of his first born, Shweta.

The train robbery sequence took about 20 days to film on the Mumbai-Pune line, near Panvel.
The major outdoor scenes were shot at Ramnagaram near Bangalore, India. There are huge rocks of granite in the town which became the backdrop of Gabbar Singh's den. As a memento to remember, the people of Ramnagaram renamed a part of the town as Sippynagar after the name of the director, Ramesh Sippy.
The filmmakers had to build a road from the Bangalore highway to Ramanagaram for an easy access to the sets. Even to this day, a visit to the "Sholay rocks" (where the movie was shot) is a key feature for tourists travelling through Ramanagaram (on the road between Bangalore and Mysore).
Mac Mohan who played “Samba” had to come many times from Bombay again and again to shoot for his part. Sadly only one scene of his was there in the movie, but he was destined to be famous with that scene only.

The film showcased two real life romances. Amitabh married Jaya Bhaduri, who played the widowed daughter-in-law, in 1973, during the filming. And Dharmendra married Hema Malini in 1980, five years after the release of the film.

The captain of the ship, the director, Ramesh Sippy was in the late twenties only when he started working on the film. So his male heroes were elder to him and the two leading ladies were his contemporaries while he was giving directions to them in the shooting.
However, it is quite sad that very few articles on this Cult Classic actually mention the name of Dwarka Divecha who was the real magician behind this visual enigma called “Sholay”. He was the Cinematographer of the film capturing all those famous scenes and dialogues in that first of its kind of unique style. And “Sholay” would not have reached these impossible heights without this one magician alone working behind the camera.

(Continued in Part Two)
(For all like-minded friends interested in reading more unknown facts about SHOLAY, please click the following links to amaze yourself.)

Tags : Copied movies, First 70mm movie., Inspired Hindi Movies, Inspired Movies, Ramesh Sippy, Sholay - the Cult Classic, Sholay Amazing Facts, Sholay and its making, Sholay Before Release, Sholay-Trivia, The Greatest Epic, Unknown Facts about Sholay
09 Apr 2008 / Comments ( 27 )
pravin pendkalkar

Mera Gaon Mera Desh was released in the year 1971, and the said film was also written by Salim Javed with main villian as Vinod khanna. Just Like in Sholay the main villian was Amjad Khan.
In Mera Gaon Mera Desh,  Vinod Khanna was called Jabar Sing and in Sholay Amjad Khan was called Gabbar Singh. Bindiya aur Bandook might been influenced by (Mera Gaon Mera desh which ran for 100 weeks).

Bobby Sing

Thanks for sharing this useful information with us. I will definetely add this as your contribution to the write-up.

Thanks once again and Keep writing...


Sholay is awesome movie,bollywood is not able to make this type of beautiful film.the business of sholay is superb, no body will reach.the ROI of sholay is coming 3000%.which is unique.

Ravi Mysore

"Mehbooba Mehbooba" is based on "Say You Love Me" by Demis Rousso. correction.

Bobby Sing

Hi Ravi,

Actually its "Demis Roussos" as per the wikipedia page and only an "s" was missing which has now been duly added. 

Thanks for pointing it out dear........Keep Visiting.



Bobby bandhu, gr8 site of yours and I landed here after googling a query
about whether Sholay is the biggest cult-classic in Indian cinema...

>>...It was during the making of Sholay that Amitabh discovered he
was going to be a father of his first born, Shweta....

Bobby bandhu, Jaya\'s pregnanancy during the filming of Sholay can be
discerned if one carefully looks at her during the lamp lighting
scene ((her belly being bigger than the normal size), where Amitabh
is playing the harmonica during the night!

Also, another trivia about this gr8 classic is regarding Ramesh
Sippy saab! He was only 27 years old when he started making this
classic, and all the male heroes were elder to him while his two
leading ladies were his contemporaries (Sippy saab as well as Jaya &
Hema are both \'47 born).

BTW, if people want to learn more about Sholay, they should read
Anupama Chopra\'s classic "Sholay: The Making of a Classic". Just as
an aside, Anupama happens to be film-maker Vidhu Vinod Chopra\'s
wife, film-maker Tanuja Chandra\'s elder sister, as well as author
Vikram Chandra\'s sister. Also, her mother Smt. Kamna Chandra wrote
the screenplay for Yash Chopra saab\'s \'89 flick \'Chandani\'.

A couple of requests Bobby bandhu...would you please do reviews of V Shantaram saab\'s \'39 classic "Duniya Na Maane", starring Shanta Apte, Keshav Daate & Shakuntala Paranjape (film-maker Sai Paranjape\'s mother), a film way ahead of it\'s time, and also Greek film-maker Constantinos "Costa" Gavras\' \'69 classic "Z" -- IMO the greatest political film of all times.


Bobby Sing

Hi Amit,

Thanks a lot for appreciating my works. And many more thanks for adding this valuable trivia to my Sholay Posts.

I have already mentioned Anupama's book in the 2nd part of my Sholay posts and its indeed a great book for all Bollywood fans to cherish.

Regarding your reviews request, I will surely watch these movies and revert back as soon as possible.

Meanwhile keep visiting. Would love to read more comments from you on other topics in the site as well.

Thanks once again!.........Cheers!


Bobby bandhu...you are quite welcome!

There are no two opinions \'bout it that this site of yours or rather I\'d say "your labour of love" it seems is a treasure trove for movie buffs like me, so its a pleasure to explore it in more detail which I will do soon.

I would also like to add some more thoughts about \'Sholay\'!

Ramesh Sippy saab became a victim of his own success or too put it more succinctly, in a reverse manner - ever silver-lining has a cloud :p. Long back I read an interview of him in which he mentioned how he as well as late Amjad Khan saab were infact \'casualties\' of \'Sholay\'\'s stupendous success, and how? Although Sippy saab had considerable success with his two previous ventures - \'71 flick \'Andaaz\', which btw was Shammi Kapoor saab\'s last movie as a hero, after which he switched to playing character roles, and Hema Malini starrer \'72 superhit \'Seeta Aur Geeta\', which in itself was a remake of Dilip saab starrer \'67 hit \'Ram Aur Shyam\', people from film-industry in general were quite sceptical of him, and not least due to the fact that he was the son of producer-financier Sh. Gopaldas Parmanand (G P) Sippy...and in \'75 came \'Sholay\', which changed the course of Indian cinema and the rest as they say is history.

Well, Ramesh Sippy saab\'s masterpiece raised expectations of the public about him to such towering heights that it (public) expected his next movie to be another \'Sholay\', and sadly as we can see now - hindsight being a 20/20 vision ;) -- that it didn\'t happen. His next movie \'Shaan\', which came out in \'80 nodoubt was a good one, but it was nowhere, not even remotely like \'Sholay\', and although Sippy saab made other couple of good movies, like \'82 flick \'Shakti\' (clash of the titans - Dilip saab and Big B, in line or similar to another clash of the titans - late Haribhai aka Sanjiv Kumar saab and again Big B - \'78 blockbuster \'Trishul\'), none of his movies post-Sholay could create any charisma like the \'75 cult-classic.

In that way, \'Sholay\' IMO proved to be his magnum-opus! Sippy saab mentioned in that interiew as to how like him (Sippy saab), Amjad Khan saab also became an unintended victim of \'Sholay\'\'s mind-boggling success -- Amjad Khan saab, for the rest of his movie-career and till his untimely death in July \'92 and also now is still remembered as only "Gabbar Singh", he also couldn\'t repeat the success of \'Sholay\' in any of his other movies, and no doubt he was a great actor, the roles which he got or choose post-Sholay were dwarfed by his characterisation of \'Gabbar Singh"! and I guess thats why they say: "Be careful what you wish for!" ;), and I am sure, none of the personalities associated with \'Sholay\' might have foreseen its mammoth success and anticipated that it will turn into a cult and a timeless classic!

BTW, can you please write something about Dwarka Divecha saab too -- \'Sholay\'\'s cinematographer par-excellence! IMO he was the artist - in true sense of the word - who brought to life Sippy saab\'s vision and imagination to the fore!

Bobby bandhu...I\'d like to add a couple of more movies whose review or your esteemed thoughts about them I would love to read (if you\'ve already written \'bout them please feel free to ignore the request, I will read about them when I go on to explore your site indepth... ;)):

1. IMO the greatest Hollywood movie of all-times (IMDB has 94% rating of this gr8 classic) \'94 cult-classic, director Frank Darabont\'s \'Shawshank Redemption\', gr8 acting by Morgan Freeaman!

2. 1966 French classic "La battaglia di Algeri" aka \'Battle of Algiers\'

3. Director John Carpenter\'s 1978 horror cult-classic Jamie-Lee Curtis starrer \'Halloween\' -- its background music is so outta te world!

4. Director Stanley Kramer\'s 1960 classic \'Inherit The Wind\', with towering perfomances by Spencer Tracy, Fredrich March and Gene Kelly.

I absolutely luv \'Shawshank Redemption\' and \'Inherit The Wind\' -- having watched them again and again and at least six or seven times, -- they being dwarfed by \'Sholay\' (having watched it more than 35 times...LOL!) and more than fifteen times Hrishi da\'s \'70 classic \'Anand\' with always lump in my throat at the end of the movie... :(

Bobby Sing

 Hi Amit,

Once again thanks for contributing all the valuable info and sharing your thoughts on various movies. 


No doubt most of the actors who played the famous characters in SHOLAY had to carry the epic stamp in their entire career which included, Ramesh Sippy, the director, Amjad Khan as Gabbar, Asrani as the Jailor, Mac Mohan as Samba, Viju Khotey as Kaalia and more. 

But quite surprisingly the main star-cast somehow escaped this heavy hangover and are not solely remembered for Sholay alone.

Also as you made me realize, any article on Sholay really remains incomplete without the mention of its DOp or Cinematographer, Dwarka Divecha Saab, So I have to add few lines about him in the article sure. And it will be there very soon.

Regarding the movies you mentioned, "Shawshank Redemption" is right there in the list. But you may find the article very short as I wrote it few years back when i just started this.

1966 French classic "La battaglia di Algeri" aka 'Battle of Algiers', & Halloween I have noted down.

And after you recommendation I just saw "Inherit The Wind" last night and it sure deserves to be there in the list as a top contender. I will soon write a post on the same. Really enjoyed it immensely and would see it once again.

So keep writing in and thanks for your contributions again.


sharan kandhai

Hi Bobby,
During Amitabh\'s death scene Dharmedra was drunk. The scene had to be reshot over and over again because Dharampaji didn\'t want Amitabh to steal the scene (as told by Ramesh Sippy in a television interview).
Also the ending of the movie was to be reshot as Salim Javed, Ramesh Sippy and God (that\'s Amitabh) thought the movie would flop bacause Amitabh dies in the end.

Bobby Sing

Hi Sharan,

Thanks for your amazing trivia which is indeed unique as it is not mentioned in either Anupama Chopra's book or anywhere else....May be the reason of skipping this was the fact that it revolved around the personal characters of the Big Stars.

Still it was great to know this and thanks for posting it at the site in your comment.

Looking forward to more such valuable info from your side, so do keep visiting........Cheers!


The most awesome part of the film for me was that even though the it was a star studded cast, the 2nd rung of characters gained probably more popularity than even the characters played by mainstream heroes in most films.
Mac Mohan ( sambha), Viju Khote(kaalia), Asrani , Jagdeep Jaffrey (bhopali)

For instance, check out the sholay original poster @ http://www.funkypitara.com/collections/posters/products/sholay

No Bachhan or gabbar or dharmendra in his one , yet symbolises the movie instantly! awesome.

This was beautifully non-bollywood in the sense that it dosent essentially revolves around only the mainstream cast characters.

Bobby Sing

Thanks Funseeker for your comment and Yes you are very right in saying so.
Keep Visiting!

Hi Bobby,
good work. Love to see, read and hear about Sholay every now and then. Just a slight correction. It wasn\'t Amitabh who convinced the producers about his role, but it was in fact Salim-Javed who had convinced G. P. Sippy about Amitabh. They personally showed him \"Zanjeer\" in Colaba and convinced G. P. Sippy to sign up Amitabh.
Actually the case is that most of the movies from Zanjeer to Deewar came to Amitabh only because of Salim-Javed. Even Amar Akbar Anthony was given to Amitabh only for the reason that Salim-Javed persuaded Manmohan Desai to take him for that part. No doubt Amit is great actor but facts are facts.
By the way, keep up the good work. I think I will be visiting this site more often now.
Bobby Sing

Hi Altaf,
Thanks for visiting and writing in your valuable comment with the correction.
Actually along with the point mentioned, the other related fact was that Amitabh tried to convince the makers thru Dharmendra too which he himself confessed when they both were on stage together on an Award Function nite. Plus the same also gets mentioned in Anupama Chopra's book on SHOLAY too.
But anyway I will soon add the other important fact in the post soon and thanks a lot for your contribution in the article.

I am sure you will love reading many other articles too here in the various sections of the site.
So Keep Visiting and Writing in,


Hi Bobby,
Thanks for posting my comment. Actually the point wherein you mentioned about Amit and Dharmendra, I was also under the impression for many many years that Amit had tried to convince the makers thru Dharmendra to give him the part, but then I saw an interview of Salim Khan wherein he clarified that it wasn\'t Dharmendra but he and Javed Akhtar were the ones who lobbied for Amit. And furthermore, Salim Saab even said that Dharmendra has said he doesn\'t remember recommending Amit to the makers.
Anyways, someone above has said that Mera Gaon Mera Desh was also written by Salim-Javed.
Just a slight correction: It was written by G. R. Kamath (Screenplay) and Akhtar Romani (Dialogues).
Thanks and regards,

Bobby Sing

Thanks Altaf for clearing the doubt and Keep Writing in.

Pratik Thakor
Two things:

1. Amjad Khan beat Salim/Javed in the recording room, when they wanted to replace Kader Khan\'s voice for Gabbar and Amjad Khan never acted in the films written by Salim-Javed except Sholay.

2. The \"Mehbooba, Mehbooba\" song as per RD Interview was suppose to be sung by Mohd. Rafi Sahaab. There was one Quawali recorded in the voices of Manna Dey and Asha Bhosle later removed.
Bobby Sing

Hi Pratik,
Thanks for writing in with your valuable information.

I do remember reading about the dubbing of Amjan Khan's voice somewherebut cant recall really at this moment..
So please let me know if you have any related book, site or any other source where I can get to know more about these points mentioned.

However the point of QAWAALI is already there included in one part of the article which you might have missed.

Keep Visiting and Writing in.


Hi dear bobby,
Thank you for your great information!! :)  I\'m iranian and in iran people love bollywood old movies like SHOLAY and Sangam very much!!

And also I have to say something about the song "O Jab Tak Hai Jaan" , you told it has a very similar start to the prelude of "Jomeh" by Googoosh, but the real singer of "Jomeh" is Farhad not Googoosh and this song was for the persian movie "Khodahafez rafigh = Goodbye Friend "
and after Farhad Googoosh sang it too...!!

Cheers...!! :-)

Bobby Sing

Hi Parinaz,
Thanks a lot for visiting and writing in your valuable comment. 
I will soon chek this out and make the essential changes.
Till then keep visiting and writing in too.


Ines Gracias
Hi Bobby S,
This was & still is my ever best film very close to my heart and enjoyed to know the facts behind the scene revealed.
Awaiting for spilling more beans.

Ines Gracias.
Bobby Sing

Hi Ines Gracias,
Glad to read that you enjoyed the detailed post and hope you have read all the five posts in total about SHOLAY (links of the othe four given in the end of this article only.)

Keep Visiting and Writing in,

Harekrishna Trivedi
Late Shri Dwarka Diwevha ace cameraman was my uncle guru .His many untold stories still interesting to all Sholey friends .I remember film\'s one shot who daringly captured by himself holding camera in his hand on railway track train is rushing towards him took the shot and thrown camera to his assistant and jump out of track .The scene was on a railway track to stop the train many woods were lied but train speedily rushed through and woods are thrown out of track.so daringly shot was taken .
Bobby Sing

Dear Harekrishna Trivedi Ji,
Its really great to see you here sharing such precious experiences of our respected veterans.
Please do share more if possible as myself and many readers here would love to read them in details.


Maganraj Bafna
So much has been written about danny having to choose between sholay & dharmatma...
My point is how come hema malini had the luxury of doing both sholay and dharmatma while danny had to sacrifice either sholay or dharmatma?
Bobby Sing

Dear Maganraj Bafna,
The point is valid but it all depends upon how the actor is willing to make adjustment in his two schedules and dates required for the conflicting projects.

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