Friday, July 27, 2012

SHOLAY: Endings

Sholay, Amitabh Bachchan
I hadn’t seen Sholay for about three years when a group of us watched it again last Saturday night. In 2009, I watched with a slightly skeptical audience who seemed to expect India’s most famous film to solidify their impression of Bollywood (“It’s very long, isn’t it?” was the most repeated comment). And I was ready for a few draggy bits on this re-viewing.

But there really aren’t many (well, apart from the jailer scenes—and there I may have been influenced by an even earlier showing during which my Ohioan father-in-law just couldn’t handle a side of over-the-top comedy with his brutal western). From the horseback bandits’ attack on the train to the massacre of the Thakur’s family, from Jai and Veeru’s bravado to Gabbar’s “kitne admi” scene, from Basanti’s blither to Radha’s silence, everything about this film—the story, the characters, the landscape, the actors, the angles, the stunts, the songs—seems to have been touched by genius. By the end my emotions had undergone some serious dhishoom-dhishoom.

So how did it end?

Sanjeev Kumar, Sholay
PTSD Thakur Baldev Singh
For several years I’ve always chosen the Sippys’ original ending, the one the censors didn’t want audiences to see, in which the armless Thakur kills Gabbar after whupping him mercilessly with those iron-spiked shoes. But after re-watching the censor-imposed ending, I was moved by the police officer’s appeal to the Thakur’s reputation as an honorable cop. I appreciated the film’s call to look beyond our collective lust for vengeance, to acknowledge the Thakur’s loss without approving his taking the law into his own hands sidestepping of the law. How refreshing to think that doing the right thing might mean not doing what Gabbar himself would do if, uh, the shoe were on the other foot. I think I'll stick with this ending from now on.

And for my oldest friend, Brenda, who died this week after a terrible illness, here's "Yeh Dosti." I'm pretty sure she never stole a motorcycle--but knowing her made my life much richer anyway. 

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