Good Lord! I’ve just checked back and I realise I’ve covered nine already and I’m still in the 1960s. Well, okay, the last one on the list has to be Sholay — or “Once Upon A Time In India” as I prefer to think of it. But that will still only bring us up to 1975 — so it looks like there’s going to be a follow-up article soon called something like ’10 More Greatest Bollywood Movies of All Time.’ Watch this space. So, what can be said about Sholay that hasn’t already been said. In real terms adjusted for inflation, it still the greatest grossing Bollywood movie of all time. Directed by Ramesh Sipy, it of course cemented the careers of ‘King’ Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra and gave us the drop-dead gorgeous Hema Malini and Jaya Bhaduri in the same movie. Really, what more could anyone want? The story is basically that of two bounty hunters, shall we say, and their efforts to capture the dacoit Gabbar Singh — ah! What images that name conjures up! The film ran continuously for five years at the Minerva Theatre in Bombay. So basically, it’s a western movie in the Sergio Leone style but also interestingly has echoes of Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, with the two good guys acting to rescue a village from the bad guys. But also of course, this being Bollywood, it has romance and music. Helen pops up as a gypsy dancer, and in this case, the romance of course seeped off the screen from reel life into real life, giving the hundreds of millions of fans even greater pleasure — Dharmendra married Hema Malini and Amitabh married Jaya Bhaduri.
I guess Sholay is the ultimate escapist movie and it’s fitting that it should be the last in this first set of 10 Great Bollywood Movies. But there are so many more, Umrao Jaan, Devdas, Main Bhari Maang… my list could go on forever — and you know, that’s the great thing about Bollywood, great movies, great songs, great actors, great personalities, everywhere you look, and above all, great entertainment!