What Makes ‘Sholay’ The Most Successful Movie In Bollywood?

If you are familiar with Bollywood, then you must have heard of the biggest blockbuster movie Sholay. It is one of the most iconic films in Bollywood. It has taught some very important lessons of friendship, love and being faithful. It is the biggest hit in the history of Indian Cinema.

Sholay was released in 1975, starring Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri, and Amjad Khan. Directed by Ramesh Sippy and written by Salim-Javed, nobody watched Sholay when it was released and it was only later that the film gained such an immense fan following. It is the still highest-grossing film of all time in India. Despite having been made on a mere budget of just INR 3 crores, it amassed a total of US $60 million.

The film’s popularity spread by word of mouth and went on to run for five years continuously in a cinema in Mumbai. It’s also the lone movie in Bollywood which celebrated a silver jubilee across 234 movie theatres. The style, the dialogs, the eccentric villain and the never-seen-before locales created a strange amusement amongst the Indian movie connoisseurs. Ever wondered what is special about this movie?

Actually this movie was inspired by different Hollywood movies. It drew inspiration heavily from contemporary Western films. The concept of hiring mercenaries to protect itself from bandits was taken from Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’ and Hollywood’s ‘The Magnificent Seven.’ ‘Seven Samurai’ the story of a village of farmers that hire seven samurai to combat bandits who steal their crops. Even ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is a remake of ‘Seven Samurai.’

Ramesh Sippy was definitely inspired by this classic ‘The Magnificent Seven’ directed by John Sturges which was originally inspired by the Japanese film ‘Seven Samurai’. The Hollywood film revolves around the seven men who are brought in from different parts of the world to save a village from the clutches of a bandit group. Although ‘Sholay’ did not have seven men it had two, who were brought to ‘Ramgad’ for the same purpose.

Made in 1954 by Akira Kurosawa, ‘Seven Samurai’ was nominated for the Oscars in two categories. The film is about seven samurais who are lured by food to protect a village from dangerous bandits who loots the farmers and terrorizes them. In Sholay, Gabbar’s gang resorts to similar practices until instead of Seven two ex-convicts come to their rescue.

In ‘Sholay’ when Sanjeev Kumar narrates his story there is a scene where all his family members are slaughtered by the famous dacoit and how the youngest member of the family was killed. ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ films a similar situation, a family of the victim is shot dead by dacoits along with the brutal killing of an innocent child.

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Many iconic scenes and ideas are directly copied from several Hollywood films, especially Sergio Leone’s ‘Spaghetti Westerns.’ The massacre Thakur Baldev Singh’s family near the middle of the film is taken from Leone’s ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ as well as a scene from John Ford’s ‘The Searchers.’

Butch and Sundance are expert robbers similar to ‘Jai’ and ‘Veeru’. The famous train sequence in ‘Sholay’ was also inspired by ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’ The picturized slow-motion scenes during shoot-outs are influenced by films like ‘The Wild Bunch’ and ‘Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.’

The item song of Sholay ‘Mehbooba’ is inspired by a Western tune, ‘Say You Love Me’ by Demis Roussos, a Greek singer-songwriter. The melody of the song is an exact copy with the tempo being the same in both the songs. Not so unique after you hear the original track by Demis Roussos.

Marlon Brando used the same double-sided coin in ‘One-Eyed Jacks’ much like the one Jai uses in Sholay. The classic work of Sam Peckinpah in 1969 gave the audience ‘The Wild Bunch.’ Sholay has a very mind-blowing train scene where Gabbar tries to loot the train. The extensive use of slow-motion in shoot-outs was influenced by this film.

Many iconic scenes from the movie Sholay has been copied exactly from Hollywood movies. The recipe of Sholay consists of entire scenes from classic movies blended in some Indian locales and then beautifully churned into a desi Bollywood style storyline which also includes a wonderful “dance to save the hero” song. Despite its obvious inspirations, Sholay is an outstanding movie in Bollywood even after 44 years of its release.