How many dvd versions of Sholay does one need to have? Depending upon your level of OCD, it could be three or even four. Sadly, there is no definitive version—they all have their issues, plus there are two different endings: the theatrical release with a censor-imposed ending, and the “director’s cut” with Ramesh Sippy’s original—and much much more powerful—one intact. Plus, none of the dvd versions have subtitled songs, one of my biggest pet peeves. I have no idea why the Sippys or anybody else have not bothered to try and do something wonderful with this film, but nothing surprises me when it comes to the Indian film and dvd industry anymore.
Most online discussions on the subject agree that the French widescreen dvd (by Carlotta) is the superior in terms of picture to any other versions; it is not cropped on all four sides to make the “widescreen” version like others, but only on the top and bottom as envisioned originally by Sippy and Dwarka Divecha (his superb cameraman, one of the best in Indian cinema history) to make the 70mm version from 35mm film. Alas, the French did not care to provide English subtitles (you sons of silly persons! no, just kidding—je vous aime, mes amis francais!).
So Tom—whose OCD exceeds even mine and happily benefits all of us—took the Carlotta dvd, converted it properly to NTSC from PAL, and put English subtitles on it, including the songs. He did much more as well in his usual expert manner; he goes into detail on what other enhancements he made in his descriptive pdf file here. I am thrilled with the results and you will be too, especially if you have a nice big widescreen television.
Even though there is more “information” in the 35mm aspect:
there is a dramatic intimacy to the cropped 70mm version. It brings you right into the frame instead of distancing you as an observer. Believe me, it is breathtaking. Sometimes less really is more!
Unfortunately the Carlotta dvd has the “censored” ending and there wasn’t much Tom could do about that (I much prefer the original) but…baby steps! Generally we fans of old Hindi cinema are better off with a regular old television on the smaller side and not a fabulous shiny widescreen one, but this version of Sholay sorely tempts me to take the plunge.
When Tom told me that he had put in the huge effort to combine the best of several different versions into one single version and asked me to share it with you I wondered what on earth I could say about this film that hasn’t been said already. Love it or hate it, it has been discussed and analyzed to death. So I will just say this: I think it is one of the most entertaining, most moving, most repeat-watchable films ever made.
I’m relatively new to Indian cinema, but I’ve probably seen Sholay more than twenty times. Though it is long, it is so compelling on so many levels that I never get tired of it. The finely drawn characters and relationships, the tragedy and romance, the sweeping panorama of the landscape, the lively village oppressed by the mesmerizing sick evil of Gabbar Singh…everything comes together to make a gripping movie which really deserves to have some effort put into restoring and releasing it with care (Martin Scorsese, are you listening?).
This dvd from Tom comes closer than any other to a definitive version, and I am so grateful to have it. You can download it here. Apparently mediafire has done something to correct their habit of corrupting files, which means that it’s easier to download and put the files together into a dvd. Tom has updated the included instructions accordingly—please read them; they are very helpful!
He has also uploaded some extras included on the Carlotta dvd to his (newly restored, hooray!) Youtube channel: a documentary on Amitabh Bachchan (in four parts) called “Follow That Star”:
and an interview with director Ramesh Sippy:
Enjoy—and once again: bahut bahut shukriya, Tom!