'Sholay' trivia: What happened behind the scenes was as entertaining as the on-screen story
Writer Javed Akhtar had to enact the part of Basanti for Hema Malini at her hotel because she just wasn't getting it.
Sholay's first scene was the one in which Amitabh Bachchan hands keys over to Jaya Bachchan. Jaya was three months pregnant and alarmed by the rough roads that led to the shooting location, Amitabh drove her to the location himself.
Writer Javed Akhtar had to enact the part of Basanti for Hema Malini at her hotel because she just wasn't getting it. We'll give you a moment to imagine Akhtar pretending to be the chatty, flirty and thoroughly feminine Basanti, while Malini stares at him dazed and confused. Malini's big obstacle was that she had long dialogues that she was struggling to memorise. This is why director Ramesh Sippy shot Malini's small scenes in the first part of the schedule.
Originally, there had been talk about Shatrughan Sinha playing the character of Jai. Amitabh Bachchan at the time was a struggling actor and the popular opinion was that Bachchan would be too saturnine for the role. Thank heavens director Ramesh Sippy went with his instinct and not popularity charts.
Sanjeev Kumar wanted to play the part of Gabbar. He was so desperate to get the role that he showed up, having messed up his hair and staining his teeth. However, Sippy, Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar were sure that he was too popular a hero to play a villain.
Amjad Khan drank about 100 cups of cutting chai, with lots of milk and sugar. Each cutting glass would have three spoonfuls of sugar. Before he was cast, Danny Denzongpa was almost a sure shot for Gabbar. However, Sippy saw Khan walk into his office — Khan was a newcomer, looking for a job — and Sippy knew he'd found Gabbar.
While Sholay was being shot, Dharmendra and Hema Malini's romance was blossoming in Technicolor. Dharmendra actually messed up romantic scenes with Malini intentionally so that he'd get to hug her more than his stipulated quota. He paid the cameraman to say that the shot hadn't worked so that they'd take it again. Apparently on some days, the camera team left having pocketed Rs 2,000, all because Dharmendra was wooing Hema Malini.
Sholay was shot over two years. The shooting schedule kept getting extended because Sippy was determined to make sure every shot was perfect. There are scenes that Sippy took over 20 days to shoot.
The shoot is remembered as a party by everyone in the cast and crew. One of the crew's favourite haunts was a roadside dhaba named Roomali. It served up excellent biryani.
Vinod Khanna dropped by the Sholay set and lost an expensive watch because he lost a bet with Sholay's cinematographer Dwarka Divecha.
For more stories of Sholay, see this video in which Film Companion's Anupama Chopra chats with Sippy about the film. If you want to stock up on Sholay trivia, get hold of Chopra's book, Sholay: The Making of a Classic.
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