Monday, November 21, 2005

Sholay II, Now Showing on CNN

Sholay — in the rare case you haven’t seen the film — is about a retired police officer hiring two small-time crooks to catch a notorious dacoit called Gabbar Singh. Now it’s the job of the police to catch a dacoit, why should a retired officer want to get him, that too with the help of criminals cooling their heels in jail? That’s because the retired officer, respectfully called Thakur (Sanjeev Kumar) in his village, has a personal score to settle with Gabbar. In his heyday as a daring officer, he had nabbed Gabbar.

But Gabbar manages to escape, after which he wipes out Thakur’s entire family and also chops off Thakur’s both hands. Since then, his only mission in life: Get Gabbar. So he hires Viru (Dharmendra) and Jay (Amitabh Bachchan), two nice-hearted crooks who also happen to be close friends. So close that only death can part them, as testified by the famous song on the bike, Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge, todenge dum magar, tera saath na chhodenge.

The movie is still shown occasionally on TV channels. But these days CNN is showing it, 24/7. Although it is a third-rate version of the original, the storyline is the same. And there’s a striking resemblance between the characters.

George Bush, like Amitabh Bachchan, is tall. Tony Blair, like Dharmendra, is not so tall. Boy, are they good friends! The way they were praising each other during the news conference at Camp David recently, it looked as if they went home not in their respective cars but on a bike, singing Yeh dosti, hum nahi todenge... And who’s the Thakur? That’s the United States of America, whose two symbolic arms of economic might were chopped off on 9/11. And we all know who’s Gabbar Singh — the kind of stories that are in circulation about Saddam Hussein, he fits the role to the T.

In the original movie, the Thakur firmly believes that Gabbar is his catch and that the police have nothing to do with it. He can afford to ignore the police because he is a man of stature. In Sholay II too, the Thakur is determined to get his enemy, no matter what the police (read Security Council) says.

There is one area, however, in which the new version surpasses the original — dialogues. Sample this. “F*** Saddam! We are taking him out.” This is what George Bush said in March 2002, poking his head into a room where his national security adviser Condoleezza Rice happened to be discussing Iraq with a couple of senators.

But on the whole, it is — as we said — a third-rate copy of the original. To begin with, the plot is weak. We don’t even know if Gabbar was responsible for chopping off Thakur’s hands and killing many of his family members. Even the police and village elders are not convinced if Gabbar is really evil. “If he is evil, we will deal with him, you don’t poke your nose into it,” they’ve been telling the Thakur. But he brushes them aside.

This Thakur, in fact, is of strange character. He has a history of poking his nose into the affairs of other villages. If there is trouble even in the remotest of villages, he sends his henchmen from Ramgarh to restore order. And when order is restored, a few of his henchmen stay on in that village to prevent further trouble, much to the irritation of the locals.

What is more, he is not a man of principles, unlike the original Thakur. When he terrorises villagers with all those bombs and missiles, killing innocent men, women and children, he calls it an act of liberation. But when his soldiers are attacked by Gabbar’s suicide squads, he cries foul, saying: “This is terrorism!” Doesn’t he know that all is fair in love and war? People, no wonder, are sympathising with Gabbar. They’re beginning to recognise the bigger evil.

March 2003

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