Aag Vs Sholay

I was struck by this review of Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag by award-winning film-critic Baradwaj Rangan.

And yet, each time Sholay shows up on TV, we can’t tear our eyes away – and that’s because of scenes such as the one where AK Hangal’s Imam sahib discovers that his son (played by Sachin, who contributes a cameo in Aag as well) has been killed. The way this sequence spools out is a master class in masala-movie screenwriting. Just a little earlier, we’ve seen Sachin reluctantly take leave of his aged, blind father, and now, as his horse returns to the village of Ramgarh with its lifeless rider (who’s been murdered by Gabbar Singh), we already feel for Imam sahib. After all, the son didn’t want to go; it’s the father who forced him to take up a lucrative job in a beedi factory in another town, and it’s during the travel to that other town that the boy met his untimely end.

And the scene keeps building. A crowd gathers. Jai and Veeru haul the body off the horse, just as Imam sahib joins them and breaks down. Kashiram reads out a note from Gabbar, which says that unless Jai and Veeru surrender, there will be many more such deaths. The terrified villagers urge Thakur to see reason. And then, Thakur lifts what has so far been standard-issue melodrama into the realm of myth. He issues a rallying cry, pointing out that down the ages – “Yug yug se…” – people have fought back against tyrants, and such efforts have always involved an element of sacrifice.

But the villagers are still unconvinced. They protest, “Hum is musibat ka bojh nahin utha sakte,” that they can’t bear this burden anymore. And then comes the stunning closure to the scene, the big bang that releases the slow-fuse tension that’s been building all along. Without raising his voice, Imam sahib rebukes the cowering villagers by reminding them of what he’s just lost, saying that if he is willing to support Thakur, the others had no business opposing him. And look how beautifully he puts this thought across, by picking up on the word bojh that was tossed around barely a moment ago: “Jaante ho duniya ka sabse bada bojh kya hota hai? Baap ke kandhon par bete ka janaaza.”

I have seen Sholay… God knows how many times.. and I have liked it every time. However, there hasn’t been a single instance where I have been to able to say why I liked it. When you watch a good movie, you are able to come out and say “that was funny..” or “what suspense !” or something to that effect. With great movies, you just walk out dazed. It takes you several viewings just to figure out what you liked about the movie. That is because good movies talk to you on a conscious level while the really great ones are able to seep into the sub-conscious.

Sholay is one such movie. There is a feel to it (for lack of a better word) . You feel the shadow of Gabbar Singh hovering over the village of Ramgarh…you feel the terror seeping into the villagers.

Sholay is a fast-paced movie (relatively speaking i.e). It does not have time for deep/rich characters..flashbacks are sparingly used (relatively speaking, again). You are not told why Veeru and Jai are so nice as to save the thakur when he is injured on the train fighting the dacoits. You are not told what makes the two stick together when they have so little in common. But Salim-Javed paint these characters with a few master-strokes (“Tumhara naam kya hai Basanti” from Jai was unbelievable). That is only one of the things that makes this movie so great.

It takes someone of Baradwaj’s class to bring all this out for us. Like Baradwaj is trying to say in his review, you would be wondering whether RGV got all this when he watched Sholay. Or maybe, he just got a 70’s masala revenge, romance, action fare which he tried to remake.

You find yourself asking : Which movie did RGV remake ? coz it certainly doesn’t have Sholay in it !

Thanks Baradwaj ! I haven’t watched Aag myself…but I thank you for bringing Sholay to me all over again…

Thank you Sir !