Event

In­dia’s favourite film, Sho­lay, gets a new lease of life with the 3D ver­sion, which has just pre­miered in the UAE. The film’s cus­to­dian and the pro­ducer’s grand­son, Sascha Sippy, talks to Shiva Ku­mar Thekkepat about his labour of love

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In­dia’s favourite film, Sho­lay, gets a new lease of life with the 3D ver­sion, which has pre­miered in the UAE.

‘We went to all this trou­ble as Sho­lay is an all-time clas­sic… and a new ver­sion had to be per­fect’

To hear him tell it, Sascha Sippy was des­tined to recre­ate in 3D the all-time pop­u­lar award-win­ning Hindi film Sho­lay (mean­ing ‘em­bers’ in Hindi) – a re­venge drama about a re­tired po­lice of­fi­cer who hires two small-time thieves to hunt down a da­coit, or out­law, who shot and killed his fam­ily.

“I nearly died in a freak ac­ci­dent on the day of the film’s re­lease, Au­gust 15, 1975,” says Sascha, 43. “I was four and a typ­i­cal brat. Rest­less and fid­gety while sit­ting in the front row of the bal­cony seats at the Min­erva cin­ema in Mum­bai, I got up and leaned to look at the crowds be­low... and top­pled over! Luck­ily, a crew mem­ber from the film who was next to me re­acted swiftly and grabbed me by my foot. For a few heart-stop­ping sec­onds there I was dan­gling over the rail­ing, a whisker away from cer­tain death.”

From that mo­ment Sascha’s life has been in­ex­tri­ca­bly en­twined with the film that was to make a for­tune for his ex­tended fam­ily. It was di­rected by his un­cle Ramesh Sippy, while his fa­ther Vi­jay Sippy and another un­cle, Suresh, as­sisted in pro­duc­tion.

Star­ring all the big names in Bol­ly­wood at the time – Amitabh Bachchan, Dhar­men­dra, San­jeev Ku­mar, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri and Am­jad Khan, among oth­ers – and with a script from the hit writ­ers of the time – Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar – ac­co­lades for the movie mounted. In 1999, BBC In­dia called it the ‘Film of the mil­len­nium’ while it also topped the poll for the all-time best In­dian films con­ducted by the Bri­tish Film In­sti­tute.

“I re­mem­ber vis­it­ing the sets of the film sev­eral times dur­ing the two-and-a-half years it took to make. I was a kid but I still re­mem­ber some of the fas­ci­nat­ing scenes like the train rob­bery and Hema Malini’s dance se­quence... The film left an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion on me,’’ says Sascha, CEO of Sippy Films.

Hav­ing grown up on Sho­lay and recog­nis­ing the tremen­dous en­ter­tain­ment value it still has, Sascha de­cided it needed to be re­worked and pre­sented to to­day’s gen­er­a­tion. It’s easy to un­der­stand why; the film holds the record for be­ing the first film to run for over 25 weeks in more than 100 cine­mas in In­dia; the first In­dian film to gross Rs35 mil­lion (Dh2 mil­lion) and play con­tin­u­ally for five years at one cin­ema – Min­erva – and was the first full-length film shot in 70mm

in In­dia. “I be­lieve that

Sho­lay is the most pop­u­lar film to come out of In­dia,” Sascha says. “We wanted the next gen­er­a­tion to see it, know the phe­nom­e­non the movie is.”

But re­mas­ter­ing it in 3D was eas­ier said than done. “Ini­tially we thought it would take nine months to get it done,” says Sascha. “But it turned out to be a mam­moth task be­cause, for one, large parts of the neg­a­tive that we had were dam­aged due to age and reg­u­lar wear and tear so artists had to fill in the gaps and do the touch-ups on the neg­a­tive by hand.’’

The next step was con­vert­ing it to high­def­i­ni­tion and then to 3D through a com­pli­cated pro­ce­dure that was done at Maya Dig­i­tal Stu­dios in Mum­bai. “But when we syn­chro­nised the sound with the re­stored film, we found that it didn’t match. While the pic­ture looked re­ally crisp and new, the record­ing sounded old and tinny.’’

Not happy with the re­sult, Sascha’s team de­cided to do the sound record­ing all over again. “We lo­cated the film’s orig­i­nal sound­track but found it was a mixed print, mean­ing it did not have in­di­vid­ual tracks for di­a­logue, mu­sic, sound ef­fects, etc. It is im­pos­si­ble to rere­cord with­out the in­di­vid­ual tracks so we had to the send the orig­i­nal record­ing to a sound stu­dio in Lon­don where the voices and mu­sic were sep­a­rated into dif­fer­ent tracks. We, how­ever, de­cided to keep the orig­i­nal di­a­logue recorded by the ac­tors in­tact and rere­cord the mu­sic sep­a­rately. This ex­er­cise took about six months.’’

The crew went to great lengths to en­sure the com­pleted project would be per­fect. “For in­stance, when Hema Malini is danc­ing on bro­ken glass in the Jab tak hain jaan... song se­quence we had to rere­cord that sound be­cause the orig­i­nal qual­ity was not good enough for 3D. And the only way to do that was by get­ting some­one to walk on bro­ken glass. And we got a stunt ac­tor to do just that. That’s the ex­tent of the authen­tic­ity we were striv­ing for,’’ says Sascha.

The 3D con­ver­sion process alone took al­most two years be­cause ev­ery frame of the film had to be worked on to add depth and im­age lay­ers. By the time Sho­lay 3D was ready for cine­mas, it had taken three years.

“We went to all this trou­ble be­cause Sho­lay is an all-time clas­sic of In­dian cin­ema, and a new ver­sion had to be per­fect,’’ he says.

The con­sum­mate busi­ness­man, Sascha has a keen eye for com­mer­cial

off-shoots for the brand. “Apart from the 3D and the new sound, there’s a whole new area of in­ter­est for the new gen­er­a­tion, and that’s where the Sho­lay fran­chise comes in,” he says. “We have a line in cloth­ing with Sho­lay lo­gos cre­ated by pro­fes­sion­als.’’

There are also video games based on this fran­chise. “There is also a Sho­lay video game, avail­able at app stores, where play­ers must get the he­roes of the film to de­feat the bad­dies. They can move up to 12 lev­els, each more dif­fi­cult than the pre­vi­ous,” says Sascha, whip­ping out his iPad to demon­strate. “You can make the char­ac­ters shoot, punch, jump and kick!”

Sascha has more plans for the fran­chise. “We are de­vel­op­ing Face­book games, and con­sole games soon. We are also do­ing graphic nov­els, both online and off­line, and comic books, which will be re­leased next week. We have a deal with Car­toon Net­work to do an an­i­mated se­ries called The Sho­lay Adventures, of course for chil­dren, which will take the fran­chise into a whole new area.

“We are also toy­ing with the idea of mak­ing pre­quels and se­quels of

Sho­lay. There are plenty of in­ter­est­ing sto­ries to be told.”

For Sascha, Sho­lay de­fines his life. “Sho­lay means ev­ery­thing to me. I was two-and-a-half when Sho­lay’s film­ing be­gan, and four when it was re­leased and I must have spent al­most all the two years on its sets.”

Sho­lay 3D was re­leased on Jan­uary 3 in In­dia, but the re­ac­tion was not what Sascha had ex­pected.

“What hap­pened was that the Aamir Khan-star­rer Dhoom 3 blocked all the cine­mas,” ex­plains Sascha. “We got a very lim­ited re­lease due to the un­avail­abil­ity of cine­mas. But the same thing hap­pened when

Sho­lay was first re­leased in In­dia in 1975. The first three weeks were pretty dis­mal, but col­lec­tions picked up af­ter that by word-of-mouth pub­lic­ity and it went on to be­come a su­per hit.

“I also have a lot of faith in the over­seas mar­kets. I might even rere­lease it in In­dia.’’

He must be keep­ing his fin­gers crossed as the to­tal cost of the re­mas­ter­ing, in­clud­ing prints and pub­lic­ity, was Rs20 mil­lion. But Sascha is not too wor­ried about re­cov­er­ing the costs. “I think of it as a restora­tion project, if I had thought of it as a com­mer­cial ven­ture I never would have put in all that money, wor­ried about the re­turn on in­vest­ment. I think we’ll cover our costs by the time it is re­leased glob­ally.”

Sascha tells Fri­day that af­ter Dubai, the film will be re­leased in the US, the UK, South Africa and coun­tries in the Far East. China, Korea and Rus­sia will come later. Pak­istan too, be­cause it has never been re­leased there.”

Now, if Sascha has his way, Sho­lay will be show­ing per­ma­nently in Dubai. “When the 3D ver­sion was screened at Mey­dan Imax, I was so im­pressed by the re­ac­tion that we plan to ‘house’ it there per­ma­nently!” he says. “They can do one screen­ing ev­ery weekend on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, be­cause there is an au­di­ence out there for it. Peo­ple keep see­ing it again and again, and seats are never empty.”

Sho­lay means ev­ery­thing to him, Sascha says

Dhar­men­dra, Jagdeep and Amitabh Bachchan

all star in Sho­lay

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