;"An ineluctable part of the collective cinema consciousness." "One of the most influential films of all time." "Film of the millennium."
;;This is just a small sampling of the intense praise given over the years to the 1975 Indian film Sholay. By description alone it would seem unremarkable: Two likable rogues (Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra) help defend a small rural village against a gang of ruthless brigands (headed up by Amjad Khan as a reworked version of real-life bandit Gabbar Singh). Upon its release, Sholay was something of a critical and commercial failure. Deemed overlong and unfulfilling by reviewers and greeted with tepid response by the public, the film's then-record budget meant it was all but doomed to be a money-loser.
;;However, word of mouth among those who were impressed by the film began to spread throughout the country, and soon Sholay was selling out cinemas across India. It would go on to rake in more inflation-adjusted revenue than any other film in the history of Indian cinema. Sholay became so popular that it played at one Bombay theater for more than five years straight. It became, in other words, a legend, as monumental a cultural touchstone as Gone With the Wind, Star Wars and The Sound of Music combined.
;;Given the seemingly disparate elements at play in Sholay, it almost is a combination of Gone With the Wind, Star Wars and The Sound of Music – along with some of The Magnificent Seven, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Godfather and an episode of Hogan's Heroes thrown in for good measure. Now known as the first curry Western, Sholay does occasionally appear to be a South Asian refraction of Sergio Leone's work: the rugged, dusty setting, the gunfighters on horseback, the good guys with dark pasts and the mustachioed bad guy who's evil incarnate. But would musical numbers sung on a motorcycle have fit into The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? Would Leone have fussed with not one, but two love stories? Could you see Clint Eastwood in a Deney Terrio leisure suit doing straight-man comedy with Lee Van Cleef before heading off to a bloody gun battle with El Indio?
;;While it may be disorienting to Western viewers, that very mélange of styles is what marks Sholay as an archetypal Bollywood outing. Giving the people what they want – all of it and lots of it – over the film's three-hour-plus running time, producer G.P. Sippy codified a standard that has been upheld in Indian cinema for the past four decades.
;;So why on earth would anyone dare try to remake it? Any American filmmaker with the stones to attempt a new version of Star Wars would be laughed off the studio lot.
;;Yet when producer Ram Gopal Varma announced in early 2006 that he would film a new Sholay, the project soon became known as the "King of All Remakes." Known for his visceral and violent depictions of India's criminal underworld, Varma is said to have modernized and streamlined the story, focusing on the ruthless tendencies of Gabbar Singh. In a bit of casting derring-do, Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan – who played good guy Jai in the original Sholay – was signed up to portray the gangster.
;;But not everyone was eagerly anticipating this cultural revisionism. The estate of producer Sippy filed an infringement lawsuit against Varma, which it won in July. The ruling forced not only a change in title – from Ram Gopal Varma ki Sholay to Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag – but also an across-the-board renaming of all the characters in the film.
;;Thus, "Indian Cinema's Biggest Villain," Gabbar Singh, is now known as Babban Singh. Whether this new nomenclature has diminished or increased the remake's box-office chances is yet to be decided. While Indian newspapers have amply covered RGV's production and the attendant lawsuit, ensuring that readers of those papers are aware that Aag is a remake of Sholay, the original film's global fan base may not know that the legend is re-emerging.
;;Regardless of the success of Aag, it's all but impossible that it will be seen as anything more than an homage to one of the greatest films of all time, Indian or otherwise.;
;A movie that, more than 30 years after its release, can be recited line for line in a Bombay office, a London pub, a Toronto dorm room or a Tehran tea shop will need a lot more than a slick remake to topple it from its throne of influence.[email protected]