I begged for role of Gabbar Singh in Sholay, says Amitabh Bachchan

Gabbar Singh sholay
Gabbar Singh (left) in all-time Bollywood blockbuster Sholay.

By Subhash K Jha

BOLLYWOOD: On August 15, Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay completes 40 years. Subhash K Jha shoots questions at the Big B Amitabh Bachchan on the film that’s widely regarded as the most successful work from Indian cinema of all times.

Q: 40 years of Sholay…your initial thoughts on the historic impact of the film?

A: Never expected it to be what it did turn out to be…

Q: Amitji, tell us about how you signed the film?

A: Salim- Javed had worked with me in Zanjeer and they recommended me for Sholay. I also pleaded with Dharamji (who played the other lead in Sholay) to put in a compassionate word for me .

Q: Sholay remains special on many counts. For one, Jayaji played your silent love interest. How special was it to work with your Soul Mate in a film where you couldn’t express your love to her?

A: I can’t believe you are asking this question. I mean when you work on a film you play the character surely. You forget what relation the colleague has with you …

Q: Your camaraderie with Dharamji is now legendary. Did the the two of share good times, playful times when not shooting?

A: Yes we did.

Q: Sadly the two of you did only two other films Chupke Chupke and Ram Balram together.

A: Yes .. but it’s not as though we did not want to .We did a few guest appearances together, after .

Q: Why was Ram Balram a disappointment in spite of Vijay Anand at its helm?

A: It was not a disappointment for me at all .I loved working in it .And disappointment in what .. box office ? I am not so sure it was a failure.

Q: You also got to work with Sanjeev Kumar. Went to do many memorable films with him. What was it like working with him specially in this film?

A: A joy as always. A superior talent and a most likeable colleague !

Q: Gabbar Singh…did you and your Sholay mates expect the villain to become so iconic?

A: When I heard the script, I begged Salim Saab and Javed Saab and later Ramesh Sippyji to let me play Gabbar. That should answer your question. I knew that it would be very popular and liked. Amjad and I met on the sets of Sholay, and remained dear friends till his passing.

Q: Salim-Javed wrote many memorable characters for you. Which are your favourites?

A: All of them…

Q: Sirjee, did you ever expect the film would become such a landmark success?

A: No…!!

Q: Ramesh Sippy Saab and you did even better work together in Shakti. But Sholay remained the benchmark in Sippy Saab’s career. Would it be correct to say a film like Sholay becomes a hard act to repeat for all involved , specially the director?

A: It is not fair to say he did better work in Shakti, but Sholay became a benchmark. Each film has its own USP. Sholay had its own as did Shakti. Each project is looked at differently. I would like to believe that each project for a maker is the equivalent of giving birth to their child. How could one child be different from another in affection, care and concern.

Q: Finally, how would you define the enduring power and glory of Sholay?
A: “The answer my friend is ‘blowin’ in the wind ..” That after 40 years of its release you are still wanting to do an interview on it !

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