Sholay: India’s greatest film turns 35

Call yourself a fan of Bollywood’s top-rated curry Western? Take our fun quiz to know your Basanti from your Dhano. (SUPPLIED)

As India celebrates 63 years of Independence today, the pages of history also record August 15 as the birth of another epic occurrence – one that set in motion the foundation of the cult popcorn culture that defines Bollywood in its true essence.

On this very day, 35 years ago, Sholay hit cinemas across India, and albeit a poor start almost had it removed from the silver screen, word-of-mouth catapulted this popular curry Western into the greatest film Bollywood has ever seen till date.

Sholay’s cult status has never been fully explained: was it the taut direction by Ramesh Sippy; the flawless acting by its ensembles cast of cinematic greats; or the superb penmanship of its scriptwriters Salim-Javed?

While the mediocrity of the film drew harsh criticism at the time from most quarters, Sholay mushroomed into an entity that would one day see generations of followers mouthing its prose, while others would desperately try to ape its greatness but would only crash and burn like Ram Gopal Verma’s disastrous Aag.

Now, 35 years on, with both the lead couples – Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Badhuri, along with Dharamendra and Hema Malini – blissfully married, Sholay’s accomplishment somehow also hits the right note for those die-hard romantics who felt they were robbed of a happy ending when Bachchan’s Jai dies dramatically in the film’s climax.

To celebrate the film’s 35th anniversary, Emirates24| puts together a potpourri of questions to see if your Sholay trivia is up to mark.

1. Who was initially cast to play the role of Jai before Amitabh Bachchan catapulted that satirical character to cult status?

a. Vinod Khanna

b. Shashi Kapoor

c. Shatrughan ‘Shotgun’ Sinha

2. Few knew a real life love triangle was simmering on the sets, involving one femme fatale and two lovelorn suitors. Were they:

a. Amitabh Bachchan, Dharamendra and Hema Malini

b. Amitabh Bachchan, Dharamendra and Jaya Badhuri

c. Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar and Hema Malini

3. Ramesh Sippy’s director’s cut presents an alternate ending to Sholay. But due to bureaucratic red tape, courtesy the Indian Censor Board, the climax was changed for its theatrical release in 1975. In the original ending:

a. The character of Jai doesn’t die, but rides into the sunset with Radha

b. Dhano takes a bullet a saves our dashing young heroes

c. Thakur Baldev Singh kills Gabbar himself, rather than handing him over to the authorities

4. The role of Gabbar Singh, which was immortalised by Amjad Khan, was originally meant to be played by which actor:

a. Pran

b. Prem Chopra

c. Danny Denzongpa

5. Which of the female leads was heavily pregnant during the film shoot:

a. Dhano

b. Hema Malini

c. Jaya Badhuri

6. The famous rocks and the town of Ramnagaram where Sholay was shot was renamed in honour of the filmmakers. What was the new name?

a. Gabbarnagar

b. Dhanonagar

c. Sippynagar

7. When it was released, Sholay won how many Filmfare awards?

a. Three

b. Two

c. One


1. C. Shatrughan Sinha’s flair for subtle drama had Ramesh Sippy excited about casting him as the satirical Jai. However, Bachchan – with the help of Dharamendra – was able to convince filmmakers he was more than ready for the part.

2. C. If you’ve seen Sholay enough times, you will realise that Hema Malini doesn’t share screen space even once with Sanjeev Kumar’s Thakur Baldev Singh. The truth is, Kumar had just proposed to Malini, which she had turned down as she was being wooed by Dharamendra.

3. C. The original ending sees the Thakur taking revenge by killing Gabbar himself. But its bloodthirsty ending didn’t sit well with the Indian Censor Board. However, later on its 204-minute director’s cut restored the original ending.

4. C. Gabbar Singh’s part was first offered to Danny Denzongapa. But because he was busy shooting in Afghansitan for Feroz Khan’s Dharamatma, he had to turn down the role. Interestingly, Javed Akhtar was quite unhappy with Amjad Khan’s selection, because he found the newcomer’s voice too weak.

5. C. Jaya Badhuri had married Bachchan soon after the release of Abhimaan a few years earlier and was pregnant with the couple’s first child, Shweta. Sippy was forced to take close-ups of hers during many scenes because she was seven months along by then.

6. C. Ramnagaram, a small town on the outskirts of Bangalore, Karnataka became so famous after the movie’s epic status, that it renamed itself Sippynagar to honour Sholay’s director.

7. C. The movie nabbed only the one award for Best Film Editor when it released. It was only on the 50th anniversary of Filmfare Awards that Sholay nabbed the prize of Best Film of All Time.

NB: If you have answered most Cs then your award is the simple satisfaction that your Sholay-ism trivia is up to the mark. Your prize is to pat yourself on the back and slip in the DVD once again to relive the magic. Enjoy!