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Was Shaan a mistake after Sholay? Here's what Ramesh Sippy has to say

The veteran filmmaker gets candid about what went wrong with the film starring Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor and Shatrughan Sinha.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Keyur Seta

Filmmaker Ramesh Sippy has his name engraved in the history of Hindi cinema as the man who gave us the classic Sholay (1975). Written by celebrated duo Salim-Javed, the film remains one of the biggest blockbusters made in India. It ran for five years in Mumbai’s Minerva theatre. Along with the film's content, its characters like Jai, Veeru, Thakur, Gabbar and Basanti too were appreciated and have become immortal.

Over the last 42 years, a lot has been said about the film and its triumph. But making a successful film like Sholay has its downside in the baggage of expectation that gets loaded on to the filmmaker's shoulders. And this is just what happened with Sippy when he made his next film, Shaan (1980).

“We kept running Sholay in the morning show. Then this film [Shaan] was released. It initially felt disappointing, [though] not with its technique. Its [technical] finesse was excellent. It was appreciated too in many ways. But everybody said, Sholay wali baat nahin [it just doesn't compare with Sholay]. It happens with a film which became so big that today, even after 42 years, we are discussing it. So, to wipe that out and accept another [film] is not easy,” the director said at the launch of the latest issue of Society magazine, which has him on the cover.

Sippy clarified that Shaan wasn’t unsuccessful. "It wasn’t a flop," he said. "It did well. It made money. Not the kind of money Sholay made but it did make money. It wasn’t like one was better than the other or equal. One thing is, whenever I have started to make a film, I have always tried something different. It [Shaan] was different from Sholay in the sense that it was in the city. One was a countryside film [Sholay] and one was set in the city. It was modern with a very James Bond kind of atmosphere."

Yet, the two films were not dissimilar, and the lack of novelty in the theme affected Shaan, Sippy felt. "After tasting that local colour, this modern, Western feel did not go down very well. I tried to create something again along the same lines — a multi-star cast, lots of money, technique. Somehow, the essence of it was in its own way similar. There was a bad man, good guys and they go after the bad guy and finish him off. There was no freshness of thematic value. So, I think, people felt 'yeah, that’s good, okay, but not better than [Sholay]'.”

Sippy, however, learnt his lesson. "You need to step back before you venture into your next," he said. "How can I be different? Everybody wanted action, multi-star cast, this and that, and I gave it to them. That was a mistake. I learnt that you should make a film with your own belief and conviction." He added that if Shaan had come before Sholay, there would still have been a problem.

Ramesh Sippy and wife Kiran Juneja (in blue) at the launch