HAPPY NEW YEAR 2011 TO ALL!
This is my 50th post on this Blog, and I never thought I can post upto 50 when I started. I wanted to post this in December 2010, as my last post of the year. But somehow, the time taken in research as well as year end holidays delayed it, and now we are with this, my 50th post, about Sholay Special Edition DVD and Alternate Version, as the first post this year.
Sholay! The name is enough! Yes, I am talking about Sholay the movie! The most famous movie of Indian film industry ever! There are so much written about Sholay, that I don't think I can add any new information in the already known knowledge about this movie! It’s a cult movie! Even today, after 35 years of its release, people still remember the characters, not just the main characters, but small guest appearance characters such as Surma Bhopali or Jailor, Sambha, Kalia as well! We still refer Sholay dialogues in day to day conversations! So, if people know so much and remember this much about any movie, what additional info I can add from my side to already available ocean of information? This is the 50th post of my Blog, and I though why not write something new about Sholay, to make it a special post. Then started my research on Sholay, and I could not possibly find anything which is not already available for everyone else. Then, I decided to watch the movie again, and while watching, I just realised that the DVD I have with me of this movie, is not available in market! It is an exclusive copy of Sholay! You can say that it’s The Director’s Cut of Sholay. You may have bought the DVD of Sholay for your collection, and it could be one of the two versions available in the market. But trust me, both versions are pathetic and Sholay deserve much better treatment than just cheap releases. So, people know that Sholay is widely available on DVD, but I don’t think everyone knows about the quality of print available, and what are the two different print available in market! I have the third one, which again is not very good, but much better than what is available. So, my 50th post on this Blog is about Sholay, the DVD releases, Director’s Cut, and the wish for a new kind of DVD/BluRay…. Read on!
Different Version of the movie
So, basically, there are two version of DVD available in market. Sadly, in India if you are going to buy original, no matter which one you buy, it’s the same version you are going to get. That is the theatrical release of this movie. So, what is the second version? That’s the Sholay, uncensored! They way this movie was made initially, and presented to India’s censor board. To understand this, here is little bit of history behind the shooting and release of this movie:
Sholay was India's first 70mm widescreen film and also boasted stereophonic sound. However, since actual 70mm cameras were deemed too expensive to be used to shoot the epic actioner, the movie instead was shot on traditional 35mm film and the 4:3 picture was subsequently blown up, cropped and matted to a 2.20:1 frame. This also proved cost-effective in that separate 35mm prints would be needed anyway since few theatres in India were equipped to show widescreen films.
Now, here's where the complications set in. In the weeks leading up to Sholay's premiere, India's censor board revealed that they were refusing to clear the film for release as they objected to its violent final scene and ordered director Ramesh Sippy to shoot a more 'sanitised' climax if he wanted his hard work to make it to the cinema halls. Left with no choice but to comply, Sippy scrambled to re-shoot Sholay's finale. This is not all, censor board suggested few more cuts from the movie, small ones, to give “U” certificate. Getting “A” certificate means reduced audience and a big loss of revenue, so director had to adjust and agree to censor board. So, the climax was reshot, and then movie was released with “U” certificate with cut suggested by censor board. If you happen to see the censor certificate of Sholay in any of your DVD, look at the name, it says “Sholay (Shanshodhit)” or “Sholay (Revised)” in name.
What’s the difference in both versions?
So, now we know there were two version of Sholay, the uncensored “Original” version, with 204 minute length and the censored “Released” version, with 198 minute of runtime. The major difference between these two versions is of course the climax of the movie. Gabbar was killed by Thakur in the original story, but censor thought this to be a bad example for a Cop, even when retired, killing in revenge. So, the released version has Gabbar captured by Police. Below are the details of differences in both versions of Sholay:
- Original version shows a village person on fire during a raid by Gabbar after Holi song. This was cut by censor in Released version. Approx 7 second extra footage in Original version.
- Original version has approx. 2 min of extra footage showing torture of Sachin, this shows ruthlessness of Gabbar, but was cut in Released version, thanks to our censor board.
- Original version shows Ramlal fitting metal studs on Thakur shoes. I am not sure if this was cut by censor or Director thought that its not required to show, as Gabbar was not killed by these shoes. But I think this scene was required, as Thakur used this shoe to fight Gabbar in Climax, even in the released version, and crushed his hands with metal stud in his shoes. This was approx. 45 second of scene.
- This one is interesting, and not sure if this was censor or editor/director – Original version has kidnapping scene of Hema Malini, which is longer by 1.5 minute, including a bridge scene, than the Released version. Also, in the Released version, Hema is chased by dacoits, and at the same time, Dharmendra is following them as well. But the Original version, Hema is chased by dacoits and captured after approx. 8 minute of chase. Dharmendra was only shown after Hema was captured. My personal opinion is that the Original version where Hema is chased by dacoits is more intense than the Released version, where Dharmendra is also chasing them. Then there is different background score used in both Original and Released version. Original has more of Tabla based background music during Hema chase, and Western music during Dharmendra searching for Hema. Released has only one scene, and it was kind of mixed background, of Tabla and Western, depending on who is shown on screen.
- Original has Amitabh mentioning “Tatya Tope Ke Pote Hai Ye” about Dharmendra when he is bragging about his shooting skills to Hema. I am not sure the reason, it could be censor board, but this was changed to “James Bond Ke Pote Hai Ye” in the Released version.
- Ruthless close-up of Gabbar’s face was shown for 2 second just before he kills Thakur’s grandson, the little kid. This makes the scene more intense and he looks more cruel.
- Original version has some extra scene during the climax fight of Dharmendra. He was shown picking up a rope and goes to Gabbar on horse, whereas he goes on horse without the rope. He is shown dragging a dacoit with neck-noose galloping on horse-back. A little bit extra fight between Gabbar and Veeru is also shown in Original, but cut short in Released. This was approx. 1 min of extra scene you get in Original.
- Original has extra scene of fight between Thakur and Gabbar, its more intense and graphic. It ends with Thakur killing Gabbar and then crying for the first time after his family was killed. This was the best performance of Thakur in the movie, and the sequence was well thought by director. Thakur was taking out his pain, frustration and agony by crying out after he killed Gabbar. But thanks to our censor board, we get to see Thakur happily handing Gabbar to Police, and never seen crying for his family. Original version was way better than the Release one.
I am no expert on Sholay, the above was result of watching both version at the same time. But there could be more such scene which I missed to notice.
Different DVD versions of SHOLAY
SHOLAY was released in 1975, and for next 15 years, no one was even aware of this alternate or Original version of movie. Myth has that somehow, a British VHS release of Sholay happened in 1990 with this unedited, uncensored and Original version. Eros has released both versions in DVD later on, as they are selling it outside India, and don’t bother about the censor/uncensored version. But, sadly, there is no indication on the cover about the version, and its going to be a guess work only. If you happen to see old stock of EROS/DEI and EROS/B4U, pick the B4U one for Original and DEI one for Released version. In India, you get Excel or Ultra or MoserBaer, all are censored and Released version.
Now comes the second biggest difference between Original and Released version. Obviously the biggest one is climax of the movie. And when I am referring Original here, we need to go back to the history, and remember that Sholay was shot in 35mm and blown-up, cropped and matted to make 70mm movie. The Original version DVD of Sholay is 35mm print, and in 4:3 ratio. Is that a good thing in today’s world of widescreen TVs? Yes, I would say. Because, you get extra picture on top, bottom, left and right in each frame, which were cropped to make it 70mm! Check out the screen shot below and you will be surprised to see how much extra is there which was cropped in the Released version.
The inner rectangle area is the one you see in Released version, compared to the overall area you see in the Original 35mm 4:3 version.
Check out the kind of detail you are missing if you watch the Released version.
So, there are two DVD prints available, now lets talk about the quality of prints in these two DVDs as well.
Original Version : This DVD is presented in full frame of 4:3 aspect ratio, as the movie was shot. But again a bad job in authoring, or maybe its not authoring and the source itself, because we are not sure about the source quality. There is over brightness, less sharpness and lack of colour in this version. The picture looks very dull due to this.
Audio on this version is Mono! Can you imagine? Mono sound for Sholay? It is even worse, the source is mono, and then you get surround output of this mono sound. This means, all your speakers emit same sound, at same decibel and they call it surround! It does give you a feel of 70s theatre where you get mono sound, but with large speakers, the sound is very loud! Then there are noise, hissing and other distortions to irritate you.
Released Version : Video on this version has slightly better clarity and sharpness, but it has its own problems. It is presented at a zoomed 1.85:1 aspect ratio with black bar on top/bottom. Image is soft and blurry. Picture does not have any major wear and tear marks, so I am assuming a somewhat clean source was used for this DVD. But the transfer job was not done right, with washed out colors and grainy look, this DVD lack details even in the day time scenes, and become very dark in night sequences.
Audio is 4 channel surround mix, but its very average and you will not able to feel the surround channel separation, apart from very few moments. But these few moments, the sound output is good and noticeable. There is no hissing or noise, but there are echo issues with the sound.
What we wish for…
So, pick your choice, and you are not going to get any good DVD of SHOLAY in market! Its one of the above two only, and none is good. We all are hard core SHOLAY fan, and know that SHOLAY deserve much more than this. The wish is to have a proper DVD/Blu-ray release of Sholay, with re-mastered print, and both Original/Release version, director’s commentary, loads of extra features, including interviews of people associated with this project. I even wish they do a new theatrical release of SHOLAY with the original version, as the censor board is not as rigid now as it was back then. Imagine Sholay getting released again, with extra 6 minute of scenes, different climax, DTS sound! People will love to watch it again! Had this be a Hollywood movie, we could have Director’s cut released a lot earlier, with proper DVD releases as well. But this is India, and our wish is still a wish, even after 35 years of the movie released, we are still wishing for a proper DVD only!
Exclusive Special Edition DVD of SHOLAY
Piracy is not good for movie industry, but still there are many pirate groups, who release movies on net, with better screener prints just after the release of movies. There are groups who release DVD Rips of movies. One such group started a project of bringing SHOLAY DVD on net, with some clean-up and retouch done. As they didn’t have access to original source material of movie, they had to work on the DVDs available in the market. The end result was better than what is available in the market, but definitely not a great improvement, as you can’t do much with this kind of source. Below are the changes/clean-up done with Sholay DVD to bring to us an optimised, better version, kind of Special Edition DVD of SHOLAY. This was done in 2006, and I happen to grab a copy of it from net. You may still get this edition somewhere if you look for it, but as its pirated, not sure if I can recommend getting that. I have four original DVDs of SHOLAY with me, and I think it gives me right to keep atleast one pirated copy of SHOLAY as well. Below are the details posted on net by “CANUCKERFAN” of CCE Release group.
The above box is not mine, but taken from internet, and its available on various torrents sites. Its something which is not legal, but I would definitely put this as the best copy available anywhere till date. I even brought the new MoserBaer DVD of Sholay recently, only to find out that its much worse than others. I think that group CCE has released "Sholay.1975.DVD5.NTSC.CCE-VRG SPECIAL.EDITION.DIRECTOR'S.CUT" as a tribute to the epic movie Sholay, and I am proud to have a copy of it with me. I still watch Sholay every now and then, sometime just few parts, sometime full movie.
This brings to the end of my post, and I will leave you with the video of Sholay's alternate climax sequence, thanks to YouTube!