The great Spaghetti Western
Planning a movie marathon this weekend? We’ve got a few suggestions
In Bollywood, nothing says Wild West quite like Sholay, but all other curry westerns have paled in comparison (Khote Sikkay, really?). Unfortunate, because coming off Hollywood’s Spaghetti Western boom, India’s Wild Wild West had a few inspirations to draw from too. We round up a few of these.
Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
Gabbar, meet Frank. Frank, meet Gabbar. Pairing Bollywood’s most iconic villain with the ruthless antagonist in Sergio Leone’s revenge epic, a creative film-maker could come up with one of our classic twins-separated-at-Kumbh stories. But clearly, Henry Fonda as Frank was the inspiration for Amjad Khan as Gabbar. Both roles shared a vicious disregard for human life, and both, an established Fonda and the fresh-faced Amjad, were the unlikeliest candidates for roles they ended up immortalising. In fact, the similarities between Once Upon A Time… and Sholay don’t end there, for without Leone’s prototype of the revenge epic, perhaps the seeds for Sippy’s classic might never have been sown.
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969)
Find an English dub for ‘Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge’, and you could very well see Paul Newman and Robert Redford singing it together in this classic. We might have our Jai and Veeru, but clearly, they’re no Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Archetypes of the light-hearted outlaw bunch, there’s no doubt that Bollywood found its inspiration for male bonding in this George Roy Hill Western.
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Thakur must have been quite a cinephile in his days. For outside of a screening of this John Sturges classic about seven hired guns, one can’t imagine where he got the idea to bring outlaws like Jai and Veeru to defend his home and hearth and avenge himself. Given the setting and feel of Sholay’s Ramgarh, that’s a likelier hypothesis than the Thakur having been a Kurosawa fan, inspired by Seven Samurai (1954) – kinda like Sturges.
The Wild Bunch (1969)
While there may have been quite a few literal inspirations for Bollywood’s version of the Wild West, Sam Peckinpah’s Holden-Borgnine starrer has to count as its stylistic inspiration. With similar slow-motion action sequences, freeze frames and gritty scenes (right down to the same train heist), one wonders if Bollywood was shooting blanks till Peckinpah came by.
For A Few Dollars More (1965)
If Kalia had gotten to live a few minutes longer, this much-loved character of Indian filmdom would have the villainous El Indio to thank for it. The crude antagonist of this Sergio Leone classic turned into a Wild West trope himself, most memorably lending our Gabbar his maniacal laugh in one of Bollywood’s most memorable scenes ever – “Kitne aadmi the?” You remember?