I never thought ‘Sholay’ would be a phenomenon: Ramesh Sippy

Debarati Palit Singh
Friday, 12 January 2018

Iconic filmmaker Ramesh Sippy was felicitated at the 16th Pune International Film Festival and he, along with Kapoor brothers — Randhir, Rajeev and Rishi — inaugurated the Raj Kapoor Pavilion at the festival. Sippy, who has given Bollywood blockbusters like Sholay, Shaan, Saagar, Shakti, among others, said that he was always passionate about cinema ever since he can remember

Ramesh Sippy, while speaking to media, said that films with unnecessary violence and filth do not work at the box office

Iconic filmmaker Ramesh Sippy was felicitated at the 16th Pune International Film Festival and he, along with Kapoor brothers — Randhir, Rajeev and Rishi — inaugurated the Raj Kapoor Pavilion at the festival. Sippy, who has given Bollywood blockbusters like Sholay, Shaan, Saagar, Shakti, among others, said that he was always passionate about cinema ever since he can remember.

“I first encountered the real moment when I went to the sets of my father’s first film Sazaa. It starred Dev Anand, Shyama and Nimmi. I was fascinated to move around the sets, and watched how the lights and camera worked — watching behind the curtain as the scene unfolded in front of me,” Sippy said.  
Along with visiting film sets, he also spent time at S D Burman’s house watching him compose music and listened to Lata Didi (Mangeshkar) sing, which was equally fascinating. “It was all about growing up in a film atmosphere,” said Sippy who believes that today’s youngsters are a lot more exposed to filmmaking and what happens behind the scenes. It also comes from the fact that more and more budding filmmakers undertake training before entering the film industry. “But the most important aspect about anyone who wants to get into the movie market is passion. It will not help if you are not passionate about filmmaking,” he said, adding, “But learning the craft will always be helpful as you will know what needs to be done, or how you can do it. At least your mind will take you towards a solution. Training will never take away anything from you. The purpose is to make young people understand what cinema is all about.”

Emergence of technology
The filmmaker believes that although technology has made things easier, some still believe in the conventional method of filmmaking. “I just heard today that Quentin Tarantino still shoots on film and the trend is coming back in India too. There are many who are interested in shooting on film. That said, technology will not go away because it helps the process,” Sippy added.

The iconic ‘Sholay’
Sippy said that after making the socially-relevant Andaz and the light-hearted Seeta Aur Geeta, he wanted to make something different. “I had a one-line idea — an action adventure. We started thinking about things. That’s when Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar came up with a four-line idea. It was on the same lines of what we saw in the West —  action adventures like Magnificent Seven and For a Few Dollars More. All these films were very inspiring. The adventure aspect fascinated me because we had grown up on Western cinema and also the fact that they were all made by master filmmakers,” he said adding, “America or Europe have always been ahead in filmmaking and they have more finances. That said, our films have improved a lot technically and content wise. Though people complain about the content of today’s cinema, it is good now.” He added that while working on Sholay, they had added and subtracted certain things. “Slowly, the characters got more defined and so did certain sequences. Salim-Javed were good at their work as they completed the script in two months’ time. I didn’t want to set the film in Chambal Valley but I wanted high rocks. That’s when my art director said that he knew the right place and made a trip to Bengaluru,” he reminisced.
He said that Javed saab had written simplistic lines which worked beautifully. “And he also added the UP accent. But I had never thought that Sholay would be a phenomenon,” Sippy said.

Censorship in films
Filmmakers have been facing censorship issues for sometime now. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati was in the news because the Censor Board wanted the makers to remove the ‘I’ from the title. Sippy, however, said that censorship has always been a problem. “They made me change the end of Sholay. Not many know that I had shot a different ending where Gabbar is killed by Thakur. But the board members thought that there was too much violence and a police officer cannot kill a criminal. I tried explaining that he is a police officer and he can kill. Finally, I had to change it even though I wasn’t happy. All arguments went in vain,” Sippy said.
However, over the years, he realised that too much filth and violence do not work at the box-office. “So a filmmaker should not go overboard with such things,” he commented.

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