Hindi cinema’s biggest blockbuster officially completes 35 years this 15 August, but it was actually born in 1973 in a small room. Screenplay writer Salim Khan remembers how Sholay was conceived.
When Javed [Akhtar] and I wrote Ramesh Sippy’s Andaaz and Seeta Aur Geeta, we weren’t partners. We worked on it as part of the Sippy story department’s team and received a salary of Rs 750. We had to fight for credit, and when we didn’t get it for Seeta Aur Geeta, we left the Sippys. Writers had no izzat (respect) those days. I still remember how posters of Zanjeer didn’t have our names. So we hired a man with a jeep and got him to paint Salim-Javed in stencil font on all theZanjeer posters from Juhu to Opera House. The man probably was a few drinks down, so he painted Salim-Javed on Pran’s face or Amitabh’s [Bachchan] hands!
After six months, we again got in touch with GP Sippy and [son] Ramesh, but now as the writing team of Salim-Javed. We had two narrations for them. One was the four-line idea of Sholay and the other the complete script of Majboor. GP Sippysaab wanted to make a film with a large canvas. When he heard Majboor, he said, “Filmchalegi (it will work), but there’s no sense in making this in 70 mm and with stereophonic sound.”
We said, “If that’s what you have in mind, listen to Sholay.” Most of Sholay was inspired by Magnificent Seven and also Dirty Dozen, The Five Man Army, Once Upon A Time In The West—a lot of Westerns. Ramesh was more attracted by the fact that Majboor was a complete script with dialogues. But Sippysaab said no. AfterAndaaz and Seeta Aur Geeta, the company was doing well; he wanted to take that risk.