Well, I can see why people (some of them members of the DCIB community…) might prefer this film to Sholay. Sholay is brilliant and tragic and makes you think. But this movie has a helicopter and an alligator pit. The choice is clear.
Let us put our time machines back to 1980. After 5 years, Sholay had just finished it’s first run in theaters and was moving on to traveling shows and second string theaters where it would keep playing until…the world ends? I don’t know, it’s still running somewhere as I write this, I am sure. Anyway, the Sholay crew had a fabulous success on their hands, and also really really liked each other. Picture the happy ending montage at the end of a heist movie, everyone is now rich and famous and fulfilled in every way, happy happy! But they miss each other, and they like working, so they are going to get the gang together for another job, just for funsies. And thus, Shaan! It’s the fun party version of Sholay, the one you make just to have an excuse to hang out with your buddies.
Not everyone came back. Hema was too big to play “just” a heroine role now, and Dharmendra was doing his own action hero thing. And Jaya was home with the babies. And Amjad Khan was the one person in the group who DIDN’T have a fabulous time on the set of Sholay, so he wasn’t coming back. And Sanjeev Kumar was off being a brilliant actor. But everyone else was there! MacMohan, and Salim-Javed, and Amitabh, and Viju Kote, and Helen, and RD Burman, and the same editor and cinematographer, and everyone!
It took 3 years to make this movie, start to finish, but it must have been a super fun 3 years. For one thing, look at whose in it! Bindu is there for no more than a minute of screentime, Johnny Walker was slowing down by this point but he did a full fabulous character for this. Heck, Raakhee didn’t have to volunteer to play the “wife and mother” role instead of the traditional heroine, but she did.
And anyway, it looks fun! Everyone gets awesome costumes, there are sets that feel like amusement rides, the songs are all bouncy and fun to sing, and nothing bad really happens.
That’s why this is the worse, but more fun, move versus Sholay. Sholay was dealing with reality where bad stuff happens and it hurts. In Shaan, bad stuff happens, but it doesn’t really hurt. Smile, be happy, and sing a song, and it all gets better.
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This plot is sooooooooo slight. Sunil Dutt is a noble cop with a noble wife Raakhee and an adorable little girl. His younger brothers Amitabh and Shashi are conmen in Bombay who partner up with Johnny Walker, Parveen Babi, and Bindiya Goswami. Sunil runs afoul of evil smuggler king Kulbhushan Kharbanda and is killed. Amitabh and Shashi partner up with Shatrughan Sinha, a sharpshooter whose wife Kulbhushan killed, to take him down. KK gets angry and kidnaps Raakhee. Amitabh and Shashi and their gang save Raakhee, big fight, kill KK, he blows up his island hide out as he dies, they all escape on a helicopter, HAPPY ENDING.
Okay, I have one burning question after having watched this movie and I need those of you who have also seen it to help me: Are Raakhee and Shatrughan supposed to be starting up a thingy thing at the end?
He’s a widower, she’s a widow, there’s a bit earlier when they are trapped together and he tries to sacrifice himself for her and her daughter, and then at the end-end, they kind of exchange glances in the helicopter. Right? It could be a thing, couldn’t it? Or it could just be a coincidence of actor chemistry that was unintended. What do you think?
I could believe it of this movie because the heroine roles are already so AWESOME. Our hero’s are happily amoral-moral in that 70s kind of way where you can be a conman or a smuggler but still draw the line at Bad Things. But the heroines never get to be amoral like that! They always have to be sad prostitutes or saintly faithful wives or whatever dull thing it is this week. Except in this movie, where they are EXACTLY as cheerfully amoral as the heroes. Shashi meets Bindiya when they overhear her meeting with a mean moneylender Johnny Walker and rescue her by buying her car for cash. Only, turns out Bindiya stole the car, and Johnny Walker was her partner in a solid con set-up. Shashi and Amitabh are thrown in jail, get out and go hunting revenge against Bindiya and Johnny. They end up agreeing to work together and pull off another job, go to a fancy nightclub to steal a diamond necklace from Princess Bindu, necklace is stolen, they all look at each other, who took it? Answer, sexy nightclub singing Parveen Babi who stole the necklace and then passed it to Amitabh to sneak out of the club! So yes, Shashi and Amitabh are smart conmen out to make a fast buck, and Bindiya and Parveen are conwomen who are even less moral and smarter than they are.
They just have fun together! No drippiness about marriage and kids and boring stuff, they are all in for the fun bouncing around Bombay and enjoying this modern life as much as they can. So many wacky disguises, so many cool meetings at hotels, and absolutely NO SARIS.
Raakhee gets alllllllllll the saris. And Sunil Dutt gets alllllllllllll the boring nobility. Poor Sunil, never gets to have fun. And poor Raakhee, never gets to have fun after 1976. Anyway, they are all the boring virtue in one couple. And, hilariously, the film is just as bored with them as the audience is. One cool opening action sequence for Sunil, and then we go off and spend a solid hour watching Shashi and Amitabh and Parveen and Bindiya and Johnny Walker doing a series of cons and goofs around Bombay for NO REASON. Like, no narrative reason. Cut that whole section, and the theoretical “plot” of the film is altered not at all. But it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey. And the journey of watching Shashi and Amitabh dance around in fake Osho robes and rip off tourists is way more fun than the destination of Sunil the Noble Cop and Kulbhushan the Evil Smuggler.
And Bombay is fun! I love how this movie uses the city as a playground. Our glamorous leads sing on public buses, and hang out with the crippled begger/informer, and just generally enjoy the whole city. It’s not about the glamorous hotels, or the gritty depressing parts, but just the general public areas that everyone can see and enjoy. The whole thing makes me want to move to Bombay in the 70s! With Parveen’s wardrobe.
Anyhoo, Kulbhushan kills Sunil, Raakhee is broken, Amitabh and Shashi naturally start thinking revenge, Shatrughan appears to explain that he is the sharpshooter who shot at Sunil because Khulbushan was holding his wife hostage. Shatrughan helps them find Kulbhushan’s smuggling stuff, Kulbhushan gets mad, attacks Raakhee, kidnaps her, Amitabh and Shashi and Parveen and Bindiya and Johnny go undercover as part of a gypsy dance troupe (of course) and rescue her. Blah blah, plot.
Forget plot! Sholay was about building this intricate moral puzzle and ploty plot plot. This movie is about Man-Eating Alligators, and Parveen in a white evening gown with Amitabh in a tuxedo, and Johnny Walker being his delightful Johnny Walker self. And, as I said before, everyone having just the best time ever. MacMohan in full Sholay beard and hair combined with a stunning white three piece suit? It’s pure happiness.