Sholay / RGV Ki Aag: A Comparative Look at the Characters

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The wait is almost over. Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, the remake to Sholay, is releasing this Friday. This just may be the most anticipated remake ever only because it is the remake of the biggest blockbuster in Hindi cinema. Everyone is getting their torches ready to light a fire on Ramu’s Aag. If the film works, Ramu will be considered a genius for recreating the magic of Sholay. If it doesn’t, then he will have to face the biggest scrutiny of his career, which has already started only because he made the film. We, here at Bollyspice, would like to do a little character comparison where we review each of the main characters from the original, and give our expectations of the actors playing these characters in the remake. It can be looked as a measuring stick to see if Aag is as hot as Sholay. The characters of Sholay are legendary. Let’s see if the characters of RGV Ki Aag will have anywhere near the same impact the original’s characters did.

Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan – Sholay)
Babban Singh (Amitabh Bachchan – RGV Ki Aag)

Gabbar will, always and forever, be the greatest villain in this history of Bollywood cinema. No one can strike the fear on the viewer like he did. It is hard to believe that Sholay was Amjad Khan’s first film because it truly was the greatest performance of his career. This character overshadowed all the other characters in the film, and that is only because of Amjad’s brilliant performance. 32 years later, people still quote Gabbar’s famous dialogues. There are few that will ever be evil as Gabbar was in Sholay. It may be safe to say that he is the most memorable character Bollywood has ever seen. The character and the actor that portrayed it, were both truly legends.

The mammoth task of stepping into Amjad Khan’s footsteps and recreating Gabbar falls into the hands of the one man whose feet are most likely big enough to step into Amjad’s footsteps, Amitabh Bachchan. The fact that Amitabh Bachchan is a living legend is known by one and all. But one has never seen him play a completely dark character. We have seen him play characters with gray shades, but never a fully black character. This is the first time we will see it happen. Amitabh Bachchan being the biggest star in the history of Bollywood cinema, it may be odd for some to see him play the ultimate villain. But to think of it, if there is one man from today that can recreate the role, it is none other than the Big B. No one else has the talent, ability, style, or charisma in the same level as Mr. Bachchan to pull off such a role. If Gabbar can be brought back to life as Babban, it will only be because Big B plays the role. Will Babban be at the same level of badness as Gabbar? Will Mr. Bachchan prove the entire nay Sayers wrong and deliver the goods? Only time will tell exactly what we can expect from the recreation of the iconic character.

Thakur (Sanjeev Kumar – Sholay)
Inspector Narasimha (Mohanlal – RGV Ki Aag):

Sanjeev Kumar wonderfully portrayed the role of Thakur. Forming the crux of the story, Thakur is the mainstay of the film. His character’s plot for revenge is what the whole film revolves around. Without Thakur, there is no Sholay. More importantly, without Sanjeev Kumar, there is no Thakur. He lifted the character to great heights and because of him; Thakur has reached a great status today, just like Gabbar.

Present day, we will be seeing Mohanlal enacting the role of Thakur, which is now being named Inspector Narasimha. It will indeed be a tough task for him to live up to someone of Sanjeev Kumar’s caliber. But Mohanlal was born to play this role. As a matter of fact, I believe out of the entire casting, his is the most suiting. Even before the film, you just know Mohanlal is going to deliver. There are barely any qualms from anyone about him playing this role because pretty much everyone knows he can carry it. Mohanlal is a gifted actor, and we expect him to prove it yet again with his portrayal of Inspector Narasimha.

Veeru (Dharmendra – Sholay)
Heero (Ajay Devgan – RGV Ki Aag)

This may very well be one of the most memorable performances of Dharmendra’s career. He is still known to be Veeru to Amitabh’s Jai. Dharmendra provided much of the comic relief of the film with his antics. It was a role that suits him perfectly, and he never looked odd doing it. The great thing about Veeru was even though he provided the comic relief, when it was time to get serious; he was able to do that as well. Dharmendra playing both sides of the character only brought life to the role. Veeru is what it is today because of Dharmendra.

Looking at the character, one may scratch their head as to why Ajay Devgan was chosen to enact this role. If anything, he would have been perfect for the silent and brooding Jai, rather than the humorous Veeru. But RGV has made it clear that he is changing the characters around, and it seems as Veeru is going through the biggest reconstruction, and that is proof by having Ajay playing the role. Ajay is a terrific actor and dark, hard-hitting films are what he is known for. Hopefully, Heero will be all business and no play, as that is what Ajay is all about. As long as he is not made to look like a fool like Veeru was at times (hopefully Ruk Jaa is not a barometer for the entire film), he should be fine for the role.

Jai (Amitabh Bachchan – Sholay)
Raj (Prashant Raj – RGV Ki Aag)

Usually known for his baritone voice that makes an impact in every movie he is in, Sholay had Amitabh Bachchan play more of a silent character. Jai was pretty much the opposite of Veeru, and that is why their jodi was so perfect. They completed each other in every way and gave the audience two completely different and distinct characters. Even without an abundance of dialogues to say, Amitabh was still able to leave an impact because he has that kind of screen presence. He does not have to say anything and still be able to give a great performance. Sholay showcased the silent side of Amitabh, but he was still as deadly as ever.

Newcomer Prashant Raj has been brought in to essay the role of Jai, which is now being named Raj. Since he is new to the industry, we do not know what to expect from him. Also because he is new, it would be foolish to think he can play the role at the level of intensity that Amitabh played it with. But the film is being treated in a different way from the original, so it would be a mistake to compare the two performances. From the promos, it seems as if he might have done a promising job. Most importantly, as a newcomer, it will be difficult for him to take the spotlight away from stalwarts such as Big B, Mohanlal, and Ajay. Amitabh was not able to do it in the original and he was an established star back then. Even if Prashant turns out to be good, he will be overshadowed. RGV has had success with newcomers before, so we’re hoping Prashant Raj is just another discovery RGV can be proud of.

Basanti (Hema Malini – Sholay)
Ghungroo (Nisha Kothari – RGV Ki Aag)

No one will ever forget Hema Malini’s portrayal of Basanti. Anytime there is a loudmouth female character in a movie these days, she is always compared to Basanti of Sholay. This is the kind of impact this character has had. Basanti has reached an iconic status because of Hema’s wonderful performance. After Gabbar, Basanti might be the most talked about character of Sholay. That’s mainly because she just wouldn’t stop talking. Hema performed the role with much grace and it will forever be the most memorable role of her career.

One worries having Nisha Kothari stepping into play the role of Basanti, which has now become Ghungroo. She has not done much in her career and proven nothing with the work she has done, so one wonders why she is part of such an ambitious project. People may think the same in the case of Prashant Raj, but he is new and we have never seen him before, so he has potential to be decent. But with Nisha, we have seen her and know what she brings to the table, which isn’t much. Out of the entire cast, this is probably the most disappointing casting. On a bright note, from the promos, it seems as if she has not done a bad job. Hopefully, she pulls it off because we don’t want Basanti to get ruined.

Radha (Jaya Bachchan – Sholay)
Durga (Sushmita Sen – RGV Ki Aag)

Jaya Bachchan probably had the least dialogues out of the entire main cast. One can only remember Radha speaking when they go to the past to show how full of life she once was before her husband’s death. Just like her husband, Jaya plays the silent character with much aplomb. She did not have to say anything because her expressions did all the talking. The role of Radha goes to show that if you are a talented actor, you can give a great performance even without mouthing dialogues. That is exactly why Jaya was able to pull off the role.

Radha is now Durga, and Sushmita Sen is playing the role. She is an interesting casting and one that may work. If Sushmita can remain calm and composed like Jaya was with her performance, then she surely won’t disappoint. But Sushmita has to keep her facial expressions in check, which do go hackneyed at times. This performance relies plenty on her expressions, and she needs to work on that to make sure her performance will be appreciated. Sushmita is capable as we all know, but this role may be more challenging for her than one may think.

Those are the main characters of Sholay/RGV Ki Aag. Now it would be a mistake to compare the performances of the actors of the two films, as the films are different other than the subject matter. RGV has gone to say many times that this film is inspired by Sholay, rather than a complete remake, so it should be treated as such. To be fair to the actors of RGV Ki Aag, their performances should be rated based on their acting, and not how they compare to the performances of the original. Well, the wait is almost over and we will know soon enough exactly what we have in store for us. Let’s hope Aag will be burning up the screens and lives up to the glory of Sholay.

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