The “Sholay Rocks” - A Trip to Gabbar's Badlands

Shivlingayya is an old man and his age is around 60 years. I met him at a tea stall sipping a cup of tea. Some forty years back he was witness to making of a monument which would ultimately go on to acquire a status of a colossus and nation’s infatuation. Even the person who was creating this monument would not have imagined even in his wildest of the dreams that it will acquire such a cult status cutting across generations.
Well, the monument I am talking about is the movie “Sholay” and the person is director of the movie Mr. Ramesh Sippy.
It is impossible to find any Indian movie fan who would not have watched the most iconic movie of the Indian cine history… the legendary “Sholay”. The movie was made in 1974 and went on to become India’s FIRST movie that celebrated a silver-jubilee in its initial release in over 100 cinema halls across India. The movie racked up record 60 golden jubilees across India… a record which still holds as of date. Recently, the movie was released again in 3D version. SHOLAY also was declared ‘Film of the Millennium‘ by BBC India through internet polls in 1999. This apart the movie has few other distinctions…

• Topped the British Film Institute’s “Top 10 Indian Films” of all time poll of 2002,
• Was voted the greatest Indian movie in a Sky Digital poll of one million British Indians in 2004.
• Was also included in Time Magazine’s “Best of Bollywood” list in 2010, and
• Was in CNN-IBN’s list of the “100 greatest Indian films of all time” in 2013.

I don’t think anyone can forget the many unforgettable & immortal dialogues like “कितने आदमी थे” or “जो डर गया सो मर गया” or “तेरा क्या होगा कालीया” and many more.

On an interesting side note, whenever I think about Sholay, I have never been able to resist the temptation of comparing it with father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi. Both of them are icons even after so many decades of their coming into existence. Mahatma Gandhi’s name is associated with peace universally whereas Sholay is associated with cinema. Ironically, Mahatma Gandhi never won Noble Award despite being the most eligible person for the award on the planet and still considered being so. Similarly, Sholay did not get any contemporary film awards at that point of time be it Filmfare or National Awards… barring one for editing. Sometimes I wonder as to who was the ultimate loser… Mahatma Gandhi & Sholay or Nobel & Filmfare Awards. Personally, I believe it is the Nobel Academy and Filmfare/National Awards committees that were the biggest losers by not recognizing these icons.

This iconic movie of Indian Cinema was mostly shot at a small town called Ramanagaram which is about 40 kms south of Bangalore on Bangalore-Mysore road. The shooting site or the Ramgarh village of the movie is neatly tucked inside the Ramdevarabetta hills…. about 2 kilometers from the highway.

Couple of weeks back I went to see this iconic place along with my friend. After about an hour long drive we reached the hills. We parked the car and looked around so that we can connect the dots with the place around us with the movie. The moment we turned our heads to our right.. it was as if we got catapulted to 1973. The 2 stones that could be seen in the movie at the backyard of Thakur’s haveli, were lying the same way as it was in the movie… even after 40 years withstanding the vagaries of nature. When I had started for the Sholay rocks in the morning, I was expecting to see the place but had never expected that I would be able to see so clear landmarks. The moment I saw these stones, there was no doubt thereafter in my mind about being at the right place. The time froze in front of me the way camera had frozen the shot during the movie.



Apart from that we could make some connect with some other landmarks like lake near haveli, rocks, etc but not much beyond that. We inquired with people standing at the small tea stall over there and one old person who was sipping tea on a road side tea stall volunteered to show the place around. Apparently this person was around at the time when shooting of the movie took place. Initially we thought that he might be boasting but when he told us many trivia items, we came to believe that he indeed would have been around at the time of shooting. His name was Shivlingayya. In a way, I think we were lucky that we bumped into him otherwise it would have been difficult for us to see some more places which were tucked inside trenches like Gabbar’s den.

Inside Gabbar's den - with Shivlingayya

Gabbar’s den has also withstood the vagaries of nature. One can clearly make out even 40 years down the line that this indeed was the place from where Gabbar and his gang ruled the roost.

Our guide also showed the place where the famous bridge was constructed on which Amitabh Bachchan fought his last battle with Gabbar’s gang. Though we could not make any connect with that place as there were no visible signs around of bridge. We spent couple of hours looking around these landmarks and living (not watching) the Sholay moments.

Hill tops where Gabbar's goons would sit

We had wanted to spend more time to climb up the rock where we could see a temple and also the ruins of Ramgarh village but it started raining which soon turned into a downpour. We waited for an hour at a house on the way back to car parking. The family was very kind and offered us tea and snacks. After waiting for an hour, there were no signs of rain slowing and so we decided to head back home. While on the way back, our guide showed us the place where the Ramgarh village was created in the movie. We could not stop as it was still raining heavily.

While on the way back, a gentleman waived at us for a lift. He was fully drenched due to rain. He told us that he had come from Gurgaon to town for a two-day official trip. He had couple of hours extra and he rushed to see the “Sholay Rocks”… though he was not lucky like us as he could not see any visible landmarks that we were able to see thanks to our guide Shivlingayya. The other obvious reason is that there is no signage at the place with which people can connect something. Nonetheless, I was amazed by his passion to visit this icon of Indian films.

Inside Gabbar's den 2
I do intend to go there again soon to look at the remaining landmarks as well as the Ramgarh village. If you are movie buffs, I would suggest that if you happen to be visiting Bengaluru or around, then you shall visit the “Sholay Rocks”. You can do it in six-seven hours and I am sure you will not regret the time spent.

Pond which was shown in the movie also

Before I close I do have some suggestions for the tourism authorities –

1. The place could be declared & developed as a “Place of Tourism Importance”. Film promotion authorities can think setting an Indian Film Museum here, if economics can work out.

2. It could be developed as proper tourist place with a “guided tours” conducted to show people the important points. The ramp and walkways can be made so as not to damage the place.

3. Proper Signage could be installed to highlight the various places around that were used in the movie shooting like Thakur’s Haveli, lake, etc.

4. Authorities can put ticket for the visitors to the place to recover the cost of maintaining the place.I am sure the visitors would not mind paying it.

5. The Ticket money collected could be spent on the various social initiatives around the area like on providing computers to gram panchayat schools, forestation, Anganwadi, medical facility for the poor people of the area, etc.

Last but not the least, one thing I must add here is that when Mr.Ramesh Sippy would have started working on this movie, I don’t think he would have ever imagined even in his wildest dreams that the movie would go on to acquire such a cult status in the history on Indian cinema. Hats off Mr.Sippy for giving us this fabulous movie…. or better if I say that I do not have any words to define the movie.
May be we would have to coin a new word to define this phenomena that hit the Indian filmdom 40 years back.



This post was published by Ajay Sharda

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