It is impossible to find an Indian movie fan, who wouldn’t have watched the most iconic movie of the Indian cinema history--the legendary “Sholay”. Made in 1974, this Ramesh Sippy movie was India's first movie that celebrated a silver-jubilee in its initial release in over 100 cinema theaters across India. It raked in moolah and celebrated a record 60 golden jubilees across India: a one-of-its-kind record that it still holds dearly. Other records to its credit are:
• Declared the 'Film of the Millennium' by BBC India through Internet polls in 1999.
• Topped the British Film Institute's "Top 10 Indian Films" of all time poll of 2002,
• Voted the greatest Indian movie in a Sky Digital poll of one million British Indians in 2004.
• Included on Time Magazine's "Best of Bollywood" list in 2010, and
• I was also on the CNN-IBN's list of the "100 greatest Indian films of all time" in 2013.
So, what makes this movie so special? The awards, the records or the star studded cast? For me, everything about the movie is grand: right from dialogues to screenplay, songs to stills, actors to singers, and sets to background score. The movie packs in every kind of emotion: romance, comedy, action, tragedy; it has got it all.
What I adore about the movie is its real-life sets, the picturesque landscapes and the tall mountains surrounding Ramgarh, the village in the movie where all the action takes place. Not many would know that Ramgarh aka Ramanagaram as it’s known as in real life, is a small town about 40 km away from the Bengaluru city on the road between Bengaluru and Mysore. The shooting location of the movie, the Ramgarh village, is neatly tucked inside the Ramdevarabetta hills, about 2 kilometers down the highway.
I visited this iconic place couple of weeks back with my friend. After an hour long drive we reached the hills. We parked the car and looked around trying to find the resemblance between the place surrounding us and that shown in the movie. The moment we turned our heads to our right, we stepped into the year 1973. The two stones that were seen in the movie in the backyard of Thakur’s haveli, still lie there— 40 years after, withstanding the vagaries of nature. When I had started my journey towards “Sholay” rocks in the morning, I was expecting to see the place but didn't expect that I would be able to recognise its clear landmarks. The moment I saw these stones, time came to a still—sounds melodramatic, right? Don’t blame me, it’s in the genes of all the Bollywood lovers.
Apart from that, we could make some references to other landmarks, like the lake near haveli, the rocks, but nothing beyond that. We inquired with some people at the small tea stall, and that is when one old gentleman who was sipping tea on the roadside volunteered to show us the place. During our conversation, he mentioned that he was there in Ramgarh when the shooting happened. Initially we thought that he was just bragging, but we were wrong. Shivlingayya - was his name- he was a witness to the making of this iconic movie. In a way, I think we were lucky that we bumped into him, otherwise it would have been difficult for us to see more places that were hidden away inside the trenches, like Gabbar’s den.
Gabbar’s den has also withstood the vagaries of nature. One can clearly recognize the place from where Gabbar and his gang ruled the roost.
Our guide also showed us the place where the famous bridge (the one on which Amitabh Bachchan fought his last battle with Gabbar’s gang) was built. However, there were no visible signs of bridge anymore. We spent couple of hours looking around these landmarks and living (and for once, not just simply watching) the “Sholay” moments.
We wanted to spend more time to climb up the rock where we could see a temple and also the ruins of Ramgarh village, but on came the rain which soon turned into a downpour. We waited for an hour, but had to finally go as rain refused to stop.
I intend to go there again soon to look for the remaining landmarks, as well as the Ramgarh village. If you are a movie buff, I would suggest you visit the “Sholay Rocks” whenever you are in Bengaluru or nearby. You can do it in six or seven hours and I am sure you will not regret the time spent.