Sholay was released on August 15, 1975, and its anniversary is being marked with fond memories and renewed deconstructions of the most accomplished curry Westerns. But there are other 40 year-olds that deserve equal attention. Here is our list of significant others from a terrible year for civil liberties and a fabulous one for moviegoers.
A seminal Amitabh Bachchan movie, this relentlessly downbeat exploration of crime and punishment gets richer upon further viewings. Written by Salim-Javed and directed by Yash Chopra, Deewar features Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor as brothers on either side of the law, Nirupa Roy as the mother whom they battle over and Iftekhar and Madan Puri as gangsters warring for control over Mumbai’s coastline. It is filled with brilliant lines, fabulous locations in Mumbai, and powerful individual scenes of tragedy, pain and loss.
Shyam Benegal made his stunning debut the previous year with Ankur, and he returned to the feudal ways of rural India for Nishant. A tense drama involving an abduction and the rebellion it gives rise to, Nishant spills over with the future stars of parallel cinema, including Naseeruddin Shah in his first screen role. Benegal had another release that year, the allegorical children’s film Charandas Chor, starring Smita Patil as a whimsical queen.
Jai Santoshi Maa
Sholay and Deewar established the secular Amitabh Bachchan cult, while Vijay Sharma’s Jai Santoshi Maa cemented the following of the Friday goddess. Anita Guha plays the divine wish-fulfilling being Santoshi who helps a devout wife endure relentless harassment by her husband’s family. This is a movie bursting with piety and miracles, the greatest of which is the climactic sequence featuring Santoshi Maa reversing the effects of a poisoning that has been plotted by the evil sisters-in-law and deforms the culprits.
Choti Si Baat
If Bachchan was the Angry Young Man who crystallised the frustrations and anxieties of working people, Amol Palekar was the “Common Man” who represented the hopes and dreams of the urban and small-town middle classes. Palekar’s cheery demeanour and deceptively lightweight acting spawned roles as iconic as Bachchan in the 1970s and ‘80s. Basu Chatterjee’s Choti Si Baat is among his most delightful romantic confections. Palekar’s accountant seeks the advice of a former Army colonel in wooing the beauteous Vidya Sinha away from the more confident Asrani.
Dharmendra’s botanist pretends to be a driver with classical diction to knock the high-mindedness of his wife’s beloved uncle. This comic delight from Hrishikesh Mukherjee features three of Sholay’s stars (Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra and Jaya Bachchan) and a raft of situations qualifying for the most coveted adjective of all in popular Hindi cinema: “evergreen.”
At the other end of the Mukherjee spectrum the same year was Mili, in which Bachchan’s depressive finds a higher purpose to life when he meets the irresistibly bubbly but terminally ill Mili, played by Jaya Bachchan.
Rafoo Chakkar/Khel Khel Mein
These titles are included only because: a) Rishi Kapoor was, along with Bachhan and Paleker, one of the ’70s biggest stars b) We badly want to be retweeted by Kapoor’s endlessly entertaining Twitter account. Rishi Kapoor’s youth and verve carried these charming but undeniably middling romantic comedies over the finishing line. Rafoo Chakkar rips off the Billy Wilder classic Some Like It Hot, while Khel Khel Mein, which inspired the Akshay Kumar movie Khiladi years later, is the cautionary tale of college students who get embroiled in murder and diamond theft. They feature the fashion of the day (floral shirts, floppy hairstyles, wide-bottomed pants), Neetu Singh, and peppy musical scores.
Middle cinema specialist Gulzar had three releases in 1975, one of which was banned because it was said to resemble the real-life marriage between Indira and Feroze Gandhi. Aandhi, featuring Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar, was re-released in 1977 after the Emergency was lifted. The two films that did get released proved Gulzar's ability to pull stars out of their orbits and plonk them down into something resembling real life. In Khushboo, Hema Malini slums it out as a widow in a village. In Mausam, Sharmila Tagore slips into the double roles of mother and daughter. Taking a leaf out of Ritwik Ghatak’s masterpiece Subarnarekha, this movie features Sanjeev Kumar as a doctor who hunts for the daughter of his extramarital union with the character played by Tagore, only to find that she has become a foul-mouthed prostitute.
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